Storytelling, arguably the most sought-after skill of wordsmiths and lyricists worldwide. Once the topic is mentioned, many names come to the forefront: Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Andre3000, and possibly even Saba. Yet, it can be confidently said that none of these artists envelop their listeners with a mix of world-building and atmospheric tones like an ill-known U.K. rapper does. The mysterious appearance and abrupt disappearance of one Lausse The Cat–stylized in all caps–marvels many modern-rap under-dwellers; however, his innate skill of effortless storytelling through a combination of ambience-driven production and picture-esque lyrics is the first thing that comes to mind when speaking of the Lord of the Bins, as he dubs himself. 

Lausse the Cat’s magnum opus is found in his lone, independently produced EP entitled The Girl, the Cat, and the Tree. Lausse’s standalone EP is also the first entry into his catalog on most major streaming sites–aside from throwaways found on his SoundCloud. His choice to leave so much yet so little to his fans is poetic in itself, giving them a taste of his musical prowess before disappearing for good and leaving them scrambling for anything more. He never planned to pursue a career as this faceless emcee but rather to put art into the world and allow it to be appreciated by all who stumble across it. Lausse The Cat is an experience and a story, an experience that is found in ten total tracks across his main catalog, serving its purpose and not needing to be soiled by oversaturation. Lausse recognized the importance of keeping his art pure, so he stopped while he was ahead, allowing his art to live on forever as one of the purest forms of storytelling in music. Yet, what exactly is contained in this music, and what allows it to elevate itself among the crowd?

The Girl, the Cat, and the Tree is a fluid tale of eight tracks, containing the melancholic and dreary story of a street cat personified as a low-life, womanizing drunk. Themes of existentialism, self-ruin, karma, and innocence make up the essence of the tale of the lowly cat stumbling through life in the fictional Motor City. The project opens with the track “Motor City”, in which the listener is welcomed by recurring contributor Nix Northwest, who portrays the “Young Wizard” later encountered by this story’s protagonist. This tale is introduced as a “fable”, insinuating that there is a lesson to be derived from hearing its contents. Lausse is presented as a “sad” character, riddled with the guilt of his “past actions”, allowing the listener to get an understanding of who this EP is following. Within the opening verse, Lausse establishes both the character the listener follows as well as the world they find themselves in. The project depicts the life of a cat who finds his virtues in sex and substances but largely shuts himself out from the outside world. Lausse finds true joy in his songwriting but falls into his urges of the dopamine rush found in his life at parties and with women he passes through quickly. The audience is also introduced to the gritty Motor City that takes the role of the setting of this tale. Motor City prioritizes the traditional route of earning a degree and being imprisoned within an office job. There is a purpose behind calling the home of Lausse the Cat “Motor City”, as it expects its citizens to be cogs in a machine, discouraging innovation and straying from the norm. Motor City is built this way to emphasize how Lausse fails to associate with his environment–he does not belong in it. His background further adds to his discontent with life’s lack of sunshine, making its inhabitants succumb more to seasonal depression. It could also be noted that there is a lack of hope for those living in Motor City, finding themselves in a dismal environment with no light at the end of the tunnel. All of this is established in only the first verse of the album, a true testament to Lausse’s story-crafting and world-building. 

Lausse then strolls to his local park, one of the few places he finds comfort, and is approached by a small girl inquiring why he looks so sad. It is here where the theme of innocence that is so prevalent throughout the story gets planted. Initially, this small girl is a source of innocence, being represented through something that has not been corrupted by its environment yet; however, Lausse is also a representation of innocence throughout the story. The main character is not represented as a cat for no reason, as with this form, he appears innocent by strangers, allowing the small girl to come and approach him in the first place. Lausse explains that his effort to fill his heart through the “thrills of a young man” has led him to lose his heart completely. It is here that the wizard atop the hill is introduced to the story, beginning the tale of The Girl, the Cat, and the Tree.

In the following track, “Drink With The Leaves”, Lausse visits the tree wizard found on top of a hill located in Motor City. It is vital to recognize that Lausse and the wizard address each other as if they are friends, Lausse referring to the wizard as “tree man” and being answered by name, establishing that this is not the first time these two have crossed paths. Lausse is mentioned to have heavy eyebags due to his lack of sleep, for which he blames the “moon man”, hinting that within their world, they have a multitude of deities. The wizard further supports this when he warns Lausse not to flaunt the wine given to him by the wizard as it could upset “Sun Rah”, the Egyptian god of the sun. While these details are ultimately useless within the overall story, it is a pure example of how intricately woven Lausse the Cat’s storytelling is. It is important to note how effortlessly the two artists take turns on the track, establishing a strong chemistry between the two. When asked if the cat drinks due to his sorrows, he tells the tree that it’s a mechanism to fill the voids in his life and find comfort. He compares this to the use of drugs as well as religions to seek out comfort and relief, a bold statement to make, but it gives a peak into the values and opinions of this character. Lausse tells the tree that he will be back on his feet after heavy indulgence in the many thrills of a young man explored in the previous track, but the tree warns him of this path. The tree then indulges Lausse and the audience in a story of a man who traveled this way of life. He depicts a man who found his pleasures in liquor, women, and drugs to fill a hole he had in his heart. When this hole grew more prominent, he took to more of these vices in hopes of fixing things, only to see that he was poisoning himself all along. He eventually succumbs to his pleasures, only to be resurrected as a tree wizard thinking about the life he flushed away. The wizard is a foil to Lausse, having the wisdom of seeing the worst of this path, working now to warn him before he falls into his own hole. Through the use of direct experience, Lausse is confronted with the real danger of his lifestyle, one in which he lacks any value.

As the project continues, the wizard tasks Lausse to explore himself before his life of substances in “Toy’s Story”. He specifically tells him to think of more “innocent” times, bringing one of the significant themes back into the play. Lausse depicts what a day consisted of in his upbringing, telling the tree about his irresponsible friend group and how they avoided the unfortunate world around them by doing “scummy little things.” Lausse and his posse would regularly skip class to vandalize buildings, get chased by authorities, and partake in the rave scenes in an effort to stay sane while “Seein’ ODs, guns, stabs, and keys to the face.” Lausse is still within his bubble of innocence as a child, fearing only his “dear mother’s pout,” so it would make sense that he would act out to try and distract himself from the grimy world around him. Lausse tells the audience about his group’s main hangout in an abandoned factory, where they would have to avoid stepping on heroin needles for fear of contracting HIV. While out spray painting as they typically would on top of a building, Lausse and his friends were then pursued by a police helicopter. Lausse expertly details their panic as they scramble to escape the aircraft, struggling to find hope in the situation. Lausse proves to be quick on his feet, both figuratively and literally, when in a second to think, he devolves a plan to infiltrate the subways and hope to lose them this way. The listener is dragged through this entire experience, hearing the discourse between Lausse and the subway worker as he avoids paying for a ticket in his rush, as well as the automated voice accompanying the train as Lausse and his gang scramble to climb on. Lausse’s ability to plant a listener directly in a situation and paint out every detail is in its purest form on this track. There is not a single moment where the listener does not have a clear painted picture accompanied by the sounds of Motor City. Every aspect of this song has meaning and takes its listener through an entire journey in only three and a half minutes. 

A small interlude connects “Toy’s Story” and the following track, “Fuccboi Lullaby”, with a substantial string section. The narrator tells the listener that while substances may not fill a man’s heart, a woman can, asking Lausse if he recalls anything. There is a subtle tone switch when the wizard asks Lausse about a woman, implying there may have been foul play at hand or something that the wizard is already aware of. The listener is told that Lausse and his friends leave the train station and find themselves at a house party, beginning the tragic tale behind “Fuccboi Lullaby”. As they enter, Lausse and his crew slowly dissipate from one another, and Lausse finds himself talking to a girl he has become infatuated with. Lausse notes that he took a sleazy approach to her, commenting purely on her appearance and giving his number, but takes a more interesting approach to the situation. He lays out his intentions clearly but coated in a way to appeal to the girl’s own fantasies, being forward and telling her he is only there for sex and will leave soon after. Expecting rejection, he is surprised to be smiled upon, and when asked for his name, he refers to himself as “Lausse the Kitten”. By introducing himself as “kitten” rather than “cat”, the audience understands that he has yet to be corrupted and still holds on to his childhood innocence. By making a point to mention this, the song sets up the corruption of Lausse’s innocence, which is seen at the end of the fling with this girl. Once he finds himself bored with the sex, Lausse attempts to flee the relationship, initially attempting to let her down easily by apologizing and telling her to find another romance to support her; yet, he eventually grows tired of this effort when it does not seem to work. Lausse reacts out of anger and annoyance by telling her to keep from tarnishing his name and claiming she should not be upset by choosing to be with him at all. By this point, the girl is referring to Lausse as “cat”, signaling his transition and loss of innocence after taking advantage of her. Lausse turns back to his friends, looking to go back into his ways of liquor and drugs, but first, he has unfinished business with the girl. He returns to steal the girl’s heart from her chest and eat it, looking to other people to fill the holes in his heart instead of himself. “Fuccboi Lullaby” is a pure depiction of the corruption of Lausse the Cat’s innocence and the void he finds in his heart. Lausse is by no means a good person, but there is evident sorrow and regret found in his voice once retelling the story. 

Karma catches up to Lausse as the project enters “A Cat’s Demise”, where the story reaches its climax. In a spoken intro between the wizard and Lausse, it is revealed the aforementioned girl was the wizard’s daughter, Lucy. The tone grows sinister as Lausse is confronted for directly betraying the tree, who demands that Lausse explain himself. Lausse delves into his numb soul and the undying sense of emptiness he finds in himself; he acts to protect himself, even when he understands how dark his actions are. He can not find anything to fill this void apart from preying on the hearts of women, claiming he finds no guilt in this; however, where Lausse commits these acts to protect the hole in his soul, he puts up this facade to protect his ego, the one thing he still has. The tree does not take kindly to his response, using his vines to remove Lausse’s heart, leaving him truly heartless after his actions. Lausse continues to hold his protective mask as he is mocked by the townsfolk for his actions, further separating him from Motor City. The removal of Lausse’s heart works as a parallel not only to the theft of women’s hearts but also to the tale told by the tree. By failing to separate himself from his self-deprecating lifestyle it cost him his heart just as it cost the tree his mortal life. 

The story concludes with the two tracks “Kenny’s Kind Words” and “Belle Bouteille”, the first of which acts as a small interlude. “Kenny’s Kind Words” displays the lack of support surrounding Lausse, as Kenny fails to get much of the details correct when attempting to comfort Lausse. He tells Lausse that he’ll be able to get over the girl who stole his heart if they get a beer and smoke, having Lausse retire directly back into his old ways. Interestingly, Kenny’s vocals are hushed on this track, possibly hinting that he lacks Lausse’s actual attention as he struggles to give any comfort. As the tale reaches its conclusion, Lausse finds himself right back at the start of his problems, indulging in the Motor City nightlife, filling his veins with expensive wines. The line depicting red wine running through his veins after the removal of his heart could be a way of saying he’s filling his spirit with spirits. He then runs into another victim of the tree wizard, whom Lausse offers to take a walk on the wild side of life. We begin the story with Lausse telling the small girl in the park that he had lost his heart, and in the end, he finds himself indulging in the same vices that led to the loss of his heart. There are multiple ways to interpret the progression of the story. Lausse could have figuratively lost his heart at the beginning, and the listener follows a linear narrative as the album progresses; however, it is also possible that when the girl asks how he lost his heart, he tells her the tale of his encounter with the wizard and his descent back into his old ways. Lausse’s demise is a never-ending cycle of self-deprecation, selfishness, and losing his heart. He recognizes that he is on the wrong path, yet he fails to search for other methods of filling his heart outside of sex and substances. 

Lausse the Cat is not only a masterful lyricist, he is a world-class storyteller by any standard, even outside of music. The Girl, the Cat, and the Tree is an intricately and gently crafted story that he was somehow able to put into a melody with complex rhyme schemes. Even more impressively, at no point is the music sacrificed for the story. Many times, artists fail to walk the line of a story and a well-crafted song, but this is never a problem within this project. While the lyrics have had the spotlight for most of the analysis, sonically, the album is just as impressive, as it controls the tone of the entire narrative from start to finish. Subtle moments like the instrumental change after the introduction of a new setting in the park and hearing the bumbling life of Motor City while on the run from the police give so much life behind the lyrics. Much of this is accomplished thanks to Lausse’s complete production control over the project, dictating every detail of his story. The use of several different instruments adds layers and flesh to the project, making it great music outside of the story. Each song–outside of the interludes–can be reasonably enjoyed entirely outside of the context of the album, something that is hard to say about all concept records. 

Words can only do this project so much justice. I cannot suggest this EP enough, as it is impossible to listen to it genuinely and not become entirely engrossed in its story. Sit in nature, go for a walk, drive around your town, stare at your ceiling; whatever way you choose to take in your music, treat The Girl, the Cat, and the Tree the same way and feel yourself get thrown into the grimy streets of Motor City.