Last week I had a very in depth conversation with one of hip-hops coldest, Lex Luger. For those who don’t know, Lex hails from Norfolk, Virginia. He hit the hip-hop scene back in the Myspace days and has continued to bless us ever since. Lex has fed us heat from the beat of “Oh Lets Do It” to “Bake Sale”; and still hasn’t stopped. We wanted to pry his mind a little on how he continues to reign. Check out the exclusive interview below.
Kemet High: What is music like for you in Virginia?
Lex Luger: It’s like a collage; it’s everything. It’s up north, down south, out west, we got it mixed. We don’t have a southern sound, it’s in the middle; that’s how I describe it. It’s not a genre. Early in my career my sound was Atlanta, but since I’ve done H.A.M, See Me Now, and Champion, you wouldn’t expect that from me. My beat might barely have an 88, snare, or the hi-hat. I’m trying to reinvent myself every year, every month because the game changes so fast. There are rappers dropping from nowhere, and they have these different sounds. The game is just really different now. I focus on my music and what I got going on in life.
KH: What’s the key to a long lasting beat?
LL: Being original. Reinventing something that has been lost. Say like New Jack swing, Teddy Riley, Bobby Brown; like that type of stuff, if someone was to come and reinvent that now. Or like The Weeknd, nobody has that sound like The Weeknd. Really just keeping that secret because once people hear it they want to copy it. It’s natural. It comes right back out; they want to regurgitate it. That causes problems because it gets drowned out. I make music, I want to compose.
KH: How have you been able to keep doing it? What really keeps you up and driven as a producer?
LL: Music is forever. I’ve been doing me but before you called I was on Worldstar looking up music because I feel like Patrick Star; like I’m under a rock. I feel old. Hard in the Paint came out 5 years ago. I have to sit down and put my music to the side and listen. I’m 25 and I have to see what that sound is. That’s how you stay relevant. I always feel like I can do more. I want to be at that Dre and Pharrell status. Production wise and business wise. Like Pharrell has NASA, BBC, shows, etc. His brand is huge. Timberland has his own keyboard. We’ll hit the studio and he’ll have new headphones people sent him just because people respect him. I want my children to see people respect me like that. When my kids meet certain people like Waka that’s huge in our culture. I want to build an empire. My dad nor mom were in the industry so I feel like I’m that ticket, that gateway into the industry. Those guys are set and they’re still doing it.
KH: Alright now you have to bring me in a little bit. Name your top 5 beats. You can give me more than 5 if you feel.
LL: Aahh man that’s hard.
1.) Hard in The Paint by Waka.
2.) Hustle Hard by Ace Hood for sure because on that beat, a regular beat would go: 1,2,3,4 boom, bass, snare. But in Hustle Hard its: 1,2,3 skip the bass, snare, then bass. It was just something different, I was proud of that.
3.) Karma by Waka Flocka Flame.
4.) No English by Juicy J ft. Travis Scott; I love that.
5.) H.A.M for Jay and Kanye. And definitely something you don’t expect:
6.) That Way by Wale ft. Jeremih & Rick Ross. I had to switch it up and show people that I’m not one dimension. I got some soul to my shit.
KH: When a song pops, how quick does it come back to you? In other words, when an artist drops a song, they’re automatically associated with that hit. What’s the reception like from in front of the mic?
LL: When I jumped into the game, I wanted to be a behind the scenes kind of guy. I didn’t want be all in the limelight. That was my whole plan from the beginning but that’s not how it goes to make the money that I wanted to make. When I DJ, I play those records, like “Bake Sale”, I play it as if I was Travis or Wiz; I jump around and spin the records.
It’s crazy how much love producers get. It’s like we’re artists now. I might be riding around and see someone at the gas station, and they’ll be like, “what’s going Lex? I fuck with your beats. What’s going on with you now?” I’m not mad if they don’t know, I’m happy now. I’ve been through the bull and the ups and downs. This is a job and my job is what I love. I don’t treat it like a lifestyle. People get caught in that; it’s easy to suck it up.
KH: You know I have to ask. You dropped out of high school to do music. I really want to know what your parents said to you and how you even came to that decision.
LL: I hung out with older kids. I was taller and quieter so I just hung out with older crowds. The kids in my hood were older so we chilled a lot, balled a lot. Once the seniors got older I would start leaving early with them around 12 but I would go to my house and make beats. They got hip to what I was doing and started rapping and producing. I was focused the first couple years but once I figured I could go from sound to sound, I knew I was good at everything. Everyone looks for that; something you’re good at and can make money doing. I got what I needed to know so I started to ditch school. My mom was like, “are you gonna do it or not; my mom is straight up, both of my parents are straight up. She said “We can’t give you a bottle” I made my choice. I guess the outcome is me talking to you. I’m 25 now, and school is necessary as far as being social and learning how to move in society. It’s just the age were in, it’s a new age. Teachers don’t really give a shit. It is what it is so I made my decision to make music and from my music, gain my knowledge. Being able to experience, not writing on a paper or taking a test. You know, the bigger picture. I wanted to be on a boat or a yacht or something. At peace.
KH: Damn that’s real. So what exactly is a Lex Luger beat? What is your specific process?
LL: Its weird man… I go to the mall and watch people to see what they consume, see what this world is all about. I go to the city or my house and then I start to work on some stuff. I use a lot of stuff now; it’s not just my computer and Fruity Loops. I try stuff. Whatever it is that I’m using that day, I find something I saw that day, the emotions that I felt that day or at that time. And it comes out. I find the pad and pain, and then find a melody. Then instantly I find an artist or a flow. I try to incorporate all of these flows. I always start with the melody, never the drums. The melody is coming from my soul. I’m coming from church; it’s from my soul. From the artist, I go to the drums. For example I might pick out some drake drums and put my sauce on it; my tweak. From there I create something unheard of. It’s completely different from when I was 20 or 19; I just listen and create, reverse them, and find unidentifiable sounds. I go into a whole new world now. I don’t make a beat in 15 minutes anymore, it takes days. Let It Bang took me a day to like that melody just because it felt basic. I’ll pick a melody and keep going through sounds. Once I found that sound, it just clicks. It just flows out of you. If I feel it, it keeps coming. Whether I’m at the mall or watching a movie, I find inspiration. It’s all about vibes. I don’t care about what I’m using. It’s about whatever I’m feeling at the time, I’ll put it out. I don’t want anybody to ever say I switched up cause it’s always going to be that talk.
KH: Of course, always. So now I’m curious… How hard is it to work on a beat with multiple people?
LL: If I’m under the influence… If I’m in my zone, don’t fuck with me. I’m open minded. That try this, try that, is cool. That’s one thing I could say about Southside… I always respected him. We were literally like training each other. It was like a competition thing but not a competition at all. We would it in the studio all day and go beat by beat until we made like 15 beats. As he was making the beat I was right there and vice versa. It opened my mind to new sounds but we don’t say anything while we make the beats. The control freaks want to add a lot. With us it’s organic; you don’t have to sound like this guy because it’s on the radio. Let everything flow and come out, just let it come out…
KH: In the sense of unity, is everyone together in Virginia like they are in Atlanta or is everybody just looking out for their own?
LL: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. As far as being creative, the talent, the love… Like I was just down there with A-track and Thug came through with no problem. We did Low Pros a while ago and Thug has been out for a minute, since “Lifestyle”. I hadn’t seen him in 3 years and he was different, by the way he was talking. He still remembered the lyrics from the track we did years ago, that’s how focused he is. We went out to T.I.’s studio and he mentored Young Thug. Where I’m from niggas don’t do that; we’re different type of people here. They wouldn’t be able to do it anyway. In Atlanta everybody was cool, doing songs together, rooting for each other… It’s like we were a team, like we all play for the Lakers right now. You have to stay on point because there are different genres of music you have to compete with now.
KH: So how do you think music has evolved in Atlanta?
LL: It’s really levels, like Meek Mill said. Atlanta music has evolved in so many different ways. From Outkast to what Future is doing now…, 21 Savage… It’s a whole new wave, I love it. The way that people see that and move to start something is amazing. They can create and feel like they’re from Atlanta too. That’s how deep it gets.
KH: What about the evolution in Virginia?
LL: We have something here in Virginia, there are some artists here as well but it’s been too long. We need to have that same wave that Atlanta, L.A., and NY has always had. I’m here right now trying to build that. I’ve been taking a lot of trips, taking the music to those places. I’m focused on home. It takes a village to raise a child; the music is the child. We went to a showcase not too long ago in Virginia and I had to get up there, pull my dad hat back, and rock with everyone’s song. I want Virginia to be on a level where the FADER and Vice will have no choice but to bring their camera down here. That’s all it takes, there is no hate. That’s the number 1 reason people leave quickly is because of the hatred here. When it gets to that point, that’s a problem. To avoid that problem, create the unity first.
KH: As you should. That’s so important for a city to capitalize. Not too long ago you dropped ‘Lex Luger Experience: Vol. 1’.What was making an album like?
LL: It’s amazing; its freedom. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like running for president and you’re picked to do the job. I have a job to do and people are waiting on it. Everybody wants to be somebody .I have a project that millions are waiting to hear; that fills me with a lot of adrenaline. Going in, making a soft beat, traveling, working with other rappers… its fun. Bringing up old stuff too. You can bring up projects you’ve done when you were 19 years old and re-invent that. Its freedom of creativity. That’s music I get to go crazy and have fun. I get to make money and it changes people’s lives. It inspires them, the next generation. It’s a blessing because you influence them to not go to on the block and sell a product. It’s a blessing.
KH: If you could make an album with any artist of all time, who would it be?
LL: I swear to god Kanye west, hands down. I would learn so much shit. It would be a dope fucking album. I would let it go naturally but literally incorporate TLOP. I would incorporate all of those albums and samples to create this last masterpiece. It would be huge man; he’s a genius. It’s the influence, that guy has a huge influence on the culture. I do too as far as making music and having a new visions in life. Just living.
KH: Living is what we do. Lastly, what’s one thing you want to say to the people?
LL: I want tell the people that I’m good. I love the fans, every last person, even if you’re a hater, you’re paying attention. The whole world either hates me or loves me. A lot of these lyrics, these sounds, are changing; it’s powerful, I appreciate that the fans still support me throughout the process.
Follow Lex on Twitter @SmokedOutLuger and download the Lex Luger Experience: The Tour, Vol. 1, right now via Apple Music or Spotify.
By K. High