Exclusive Interview: Lex Luger – “I want Hip-Hop to continue to elevate as a culture.”
Ahead of his set at Outlook Festival, Lex Luger gives us a taste of what to expect with an exclusive interview and RWDmix...
With rattling snares and booming 808s forming the basis for everything from rap and R&B to pop and EDM right now, it’s easy to forget a time that trap music wasn’t as accessible as switching on your radio to hear Rihanna singing over a Mike WiLL Made-It beat, or Drake going back-and-forth with Future over Metro Boomin production. While the roots of the sound can be traced back to the 90’s, there is one producer who’s name is unavoidable when discussing modern trap music. Between the years of 2010-2011, Lex Luger managed to craft over 200 songs, from joint mixtapes with originators like Juicy J to bonafide hit records like Waka Flocka Flame‘s ‘Hard In The Paint’, Rick Ross‘ ‘B.M.F’ and Watch The Throne‘s ‘H.A.M.’ His epic, orchestral style with heavy 808’s, rapid-fire hi-hats and crisp snares made Lex Luger the first trap super-producer, pioneering the sound as we know it today.
After leaving a mark on the game that would go down in history, Luger decided to relocate from Atlanta to be with his daughters back home in Virginia, and to explore other things that could be more creatively stimulating to him. He’s developed a live show that strikes a balance between EDM artists like A-Trak – who he worked with as Low Pros – and putting in work developing underground artists without the constraints of the mainstream music industry (although Wiz Khalifa & Travi$ Scott‘s ‘Bake Sale’ and A$AP Ferg & ScHoolboy Q‘s ‘Let It Bang’ are both reminders that he’s still one of the best in the game). This Summer he intends to shut down the festival season, with his partner KinoBeats, where they will blend the old with the new, playing the biggest hits of Lex‘s career so far alongside custom production with plenty of crowd participation at the forefront.
Ahead of their set at Croatia’s Outlook Festival, we caught up with Lex to discuss what he’s been working on lately, and what to expect from his festival shows. He also did us the honour of putting together the 17th RWDmix which you can stream below…
How was Canada? You were there over the weekend, right?
Yeah. We were there for eight days, man. It was f**king awesome, man. It’s a lot of love out there, man. It’s a lot of different cultures. I loved it. It was my first time out there. It was pretty cold the first two days, but after that it was great.
What were you doing out there? Were you making beats and stuff or just visiting?
We had rented out this house. We had our own little section downstairs where we had our studio set up. We would make beats throughout the day and at night we would go out to party and do club appearances. We had two shows. It was kind of a paid vacation.
Cool. Whereabouts were you staying? Was it Toronto?
No, we were in Quebec.
Cool, and who were you working with?
Really these local cats, Les Anticipateurs. They’re really dope. They’re huge out there, as far as the music scene, just the whole aura, the way they carry themselves, the way they talk. Everybody likes them. They go to the clubs, they can get in, they walk in, don’t have to pay. They’re just the guys in the city.
That’s who we try to link up with, those type of people. They’re very good people and they treat outsiders or whatever you want to call it, they treat us good. We’re from America, so there’s always stereotypes and all that blasé, blasé, but with these guys it’s not like that. We like working with people like that. Skin color doesn’t matter, music doesn’t matter, being American doesn’t matter, it’s just a human being doing business with another human being.
I linked up with High Klassified too. He’s the man out there, so I linked up with him one day. We go back since the Low Pros days, with me and A-Trak. That was pretty cool.
It feels like you’ve been more focused on more underground or niche rising talent in the past few years. Do you think that’s more creatively interesting for you now?
Yeah, it gives me more freedom, make the music I want to do and just raise the bar a little bit, not follow the radio. If a certain sound is in, I’ll stay away from that sound. I’ll try to make something completely different. That’s why I pay attention to the underground scene a lot, and I try to work with those artists and build them up to where they have their own genre, start from the bottom and then end up at the top.
Is it bad for you not having those kind of industry labels and things like that involved too?
Yeah, the industry and the labels, it’s cool. All that stuff comes eventually anyway. When you’re independent and you’re coming up once they see you start doing something, they’re going to holler at you. It’s a lot of ways people do it. The game is so loose now. You can do it on your own, you can do it with the management, you can manage yourself. You don’t need a distributor no more. It’s crazy.
Do you prefer it that way?
It’s more work. I would say it’s more work, it’s more groundwork to go out there and present your music without a co-sign from Def Jam or Young Jeezy, any rapper or label. It’s harder to build that name up, and then move around from America to Canada to Paris or wherever it may be. People actually care about who you are and what you do. It’s a little bit harder, but at the end of the day I think it’s worth more than just having a label behind you and you’re gone in a few years.
We had Trinidad James. Trinidad James is my homie. I got his number, I can call him right now. He had ‘All Gold Everything’, and then that was pretty much it. I feel like when the labels step in, it kind of saturates everything, because dude really has talent. I went in the studio with him and we built the song from scratch, because he’s really from Trinidad. We did this all from scratch, we played the bassline. He’s very talented. Once the labels and the industry, these old people come into play, it gets kind of old and played out, man.
How was doing the Lex Luger Experience: The Tour, Vol. 1 album for you?
Oh yeah, we got a good response from that. KinoBeats and Adrian kind of put that together. Mostly it was their idea. We just put out something for artists and producers who want to learn how my snare might hit, or how this hi-hat goes or this bassline goes, without a vocal over top of it. Then it gives a chance for rappers to get a Lex Luger beat without trying to break their neck to get to my management or emailing all these emails or hitting these fake Lex Luger pages up. Get the CD and get exclusive beats that nobody has. It was just fun. It was fun. It’s fun for the people.
Are you kind of promoting for people to rap over those, and have you heard a lot of people splitting on those beats?
I have, actually. Especially on Vine and Instagram. There’s a couple seconds of them freestyling off the beat. I’ve been getting those in my email, which is dope. I’ve been getting a lot of response back from it, and it’s just more, really. They want more of the album. They want more of me, I guess, or just more projects, more shows.
What was it that made you decide that now was the right time to finally drop your first instrumental project?
I was really doing shows. I wasn’t really working on production that much. I set aside some time and really focused on my production. That’s what made me hop back into it. We had made two or three beats in one night after the club, and the vibe was so different, and rappers didn’t really know how to hit. It was like, man, all these beats we could just put them on iTunes, and the rappers who can approach them and that are hungry, can attack these beats and potentially get something out of it. Producers too, man, they could chop up a snare, they could take a loop from my loop and reverse it.
Was the album also influenced by doing more live sets? And if so, how?
Yes, it’s like a crossover into the performance world through making instrumentals songs.
I read that seeing Lil Jon DJing inspired you to want to do stuff live too. Can you remember that moment, and in what was it about that, that made you want to do it too?
I seen him DJ at the BMI awards and I had no idea it was him. He rocked it and it clicked. The instant gratification for your work from the studio. I figured if Lil Jon can go from the ‘Headbussas’ and the other hood anthems to start working with Steve Aoki and other big names I felt it was possible for me to do the same.
How did your relationship with A-Trak begin?
Twitter. A-Trak Dm’ed me, we exchanged numbers we linked up face to face and have been working ever since.
And how did working with him take your live show to the next level?
It opened up another part of my mind as far as sonics, building bridges and watching how the pitches change affects the audience. Even down to the new record I produced for A$AP Ferg ‘Let It Bang’ I take the production in different sonics and sounds to capture live audience.
How busy is the festival season about to be for you? And what should people expect from your sets?
Taking a lot of time to get back in the studio. Working on a lot of projects lot of people albums this year so just building sounds. As for the shows, expect the most TURNT experience you’ve ever witnessed. Me and my DJ partner KinoBeats we play thru my biggest hits that I produced, we play custom production we create for live sets and also the hottest EDM/hip-hop records and just have a good time with the crowd. Crowd interaction is the number one thing to us. We always make sure every city we touch we leave them talking about the show months after.
You’ve made a huge mark on the game that will go down in history books, but what do you want to see more of in music now?
Just a bunch of different s**t. Different sounds different perspectives Just want to see the younger generation coming up to keep on pushing the envelope. I Just want the future to realise it’s their time and to keep Hip-Hop alive by keep on creating and stay true. I want it to be legendary like Pink Floyd, keep documenting it and continue to elevate as a culture.
What does success look like to you?
Success is when I can walk up to my mother or father and can show them anything or give them anything and get that “I’m proud of you smile” from them. That really makes me feel like I made it. Me and Kino just did a run in Canada and I was able to get something as small as little kid flags for my daughters to play with. Watching their eyes get big and them get excited and want to learn more is success to me.
Lex Luger plays Outlook Festival in August, for more info head here…
Interview by Grant Brydon