SO LOKI is doing things differently. Producer Geoff Millar and rapper Sam Lucia make up the Vancouver-based hip-hop act, each drawing from inspiration attached to their previous musical pursuits. The pair met three years ago through a mutual friend on a video shoot, at a time that they were both focused on solo projects yet were mutually inspired by albums like Kanye West’s Yeezus and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. They were immediately creatively inseparable.
Millar, who is from Burnaby, a suburb nestled directly east of Vancouver, comes from an electronic music grounding, citing artists like Arca and James Blake as influences. He grew up listening to hip-hop and eventually fell into the world of fringe electronic sounds with the discovery of local multidisciplinary arts collective Chapel Sound. Lucia, hailing from Edmonton, moved to Vancouver five years ago in search of better infrastructure and a stronger arts community to thrive in creatively. Prior to SO LOKI, Lucia was making music under his own name, floating between genres like moombahton and alternative electronic. Collectively, they reference rappers like Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar as inspiration, and their different backgrounds allow for the creation of a completely new sound that’s been gracing hip-hop as of late.
Planet Bando sees the duo coming full circle. Lucia explains: “Our first year and a half of making music was finding out how we could fake it until we make it. Now we’re no longer faking it, we are showing what we can all do out here in Vancouver. We are hunting for energy with this project.” More specifically, with this EP, they are trying to challenge their previous musical explorations to focus on creating a new sound. The result is an energetic collection of party anthems, peppered with Lucia’s confident and arresting lyrics alongside Millar’s textured and dynamic productions. The project has been released via SO LOKI’S own label, Owake Records, which promises to provide a platform to artists in their surrounding communities. To complement the music, the pair has released a slew of ethereal videos, which resonate well with the cloud of black magic that looms over their sound, working with visual artists like Chrome Destroyer and Skimchi. “For the song Athlete’s World, we worked with Lucas Hrubizna,” Millar explains. “The video fits with our demonic and cartoonish aesthetic.”
Vancouver doesn’t exactly conjure up big names when it comes to hip-hop, being a city known foremost for its indie rock and bass music. The west coast hip-hop scene is fragmented, suffering from the lack of a cohesive sound linking artists and collectives together. “The scene here is like the wild west,” Lucia explains. “We don’t have rules here yet. There’s not a lot of industry. Because of this, music here is sadder. We’re really making music that’s describing our environment.”
While the city’s hip-hop scene is yet to be defined, SO LOKI are playing an active role in shaping that process. It’s important to the duo that their music helps Vancouver land a spot on the international circuit. “I really see us as the ground floor for what’s about to happen in Vancouver,” Lucia demonstrates. “We see that in other people as well. We are collectively creating culture, whether we know it or not. Seeing the impact that we’ve made and the reactions that we’re getting, people want something to happen. If we don’t do it, no one else is going to.”
Across the board, being an artist in Vancouver does not come without its challenges. High housing costs and displacement place community spaces and DIY venues under constant threat, while creators are forced to focus their energy on making money rather than pursuing their artistic passions first. Yet SO LOKI is feeling hopeful. According to Lucia, “There’s a lot of hope right now. A lot of people are starting to break through. It’s an interesting time out here, people’s eyes are opened.”
Moving forward, SO LOKI hopes to continue to earn Vancouver recognition by fighting the stigma against Canadian hip-hop. And that doesn’t stop at music – they want to be attached to everything in the city. In the meantime, we’ll keep listening to Planet Bando on repeat, which lands as a promising summer prelude that leaves more to be desired.