Sometimes, dreams really do come true. Just ask Lex Luger, the 19-year-old producer who went from making beats in his basement to producing “H.A.M.”—the lead single to Kanye West and Jay-Z’s upcoming collaborative album, Watch The Throne. Luger’s life changed last year when he produced two street anthems: Rick Ross’ “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard In Da Paint.” Since then, he’s gone on to produce for Fabolous, Ace Hood, Juicy J, Jim Jones, and Snoop Dogg and he’s quickly become the go-to producer for any rapper in need of a street smash. We chopped it up with the in-demand producer to talk about his latest banger, Wiz Khalifa’s “Taylor Gang,” his Rubba Band Business mixtape with Juicy J, and why all his beats sound the same.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
On making Wiz Khalifa’s “Taylor Gang”
“That particular beat is an old beat. That’s probably from ‘07, ‘08. I had Wiz’s e-mail because Wiz has always been kind of like an Internet guy. He’s always been all over the Internet, so when he first was really popping I hollered at him. And then he reached out to me and wanted to do some work with me. I had heard the song about a year ago. It had leaked out, but no one knew it though. And I guess he remastered it and put it out now. Wiz just got back with me recently and let me know that everybody likes it, and that he want to put it out there. And I was like ‘Yeah, go for it.’ But as far as being in the studio together, we haven’t done anything like that yet. That song is going to be on his album, but it’s going to be the iTunes bonus. [I don’t have other songs on his album] because his album is so close. But I talked to him, and he said he’d give me at least three [beats] on the next album.”
On making Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “H.A.M.”
“Kanye reached out to me. He said he and Jay were working on an album, and he told me, ‘Don’t tell nobody.’ [Laughs.] He told me that he had four good records that he liked, that I had produced, and that he was going to drop one of them for the single. I said ‘Okay, cool.’ This all happened when we were in the studio, in New York, doing ‘See Me Now’ just a few months ago. And what took so long was that I had so many beats that I kept sending them the wrong beat. I couldn’t find it because the name of the beat was ‘Six’ and I had to go through [so many] folders. If I’m in Virginia or Atlanta, I’ll name the folder that, and then [name each beat] ‘One,’ ‘Two,’ ‘Three,’ and so forth. And I had like seven folders with ‘Six’ in it, so [I would send it], and he would be like, ‘Nah, nah. That’s not the right one.’ And we were doing that through e-mails, so that was complicated. It took me a good three weeks to find it. That [opera sound on the beat] was Kanye. I liked it because he had built it around the beat I had made. The beat had a choir, but it was a regular trap, hard choir, going up and down. And what he did was, he built it around that, and made it like 600 people were really in there singing that and playing that. He put his own Kanye on it.
“When Kanye [first] called me, he said he wanted to fly me out to New York so I flew out a month later. I didn’t want to fly out there at first. It was coming too fast for me, really. How I go from the basement to Kanye—one of the biggest artists out right now—wanting my sound, wanting me to do his record? I was scared. But I went down there because it felt like an opportunity. He told me he loved my drums. He said with my drums and his sound, it would go perfectly. And I was ready to do it. But at the same time, I had to work. I felt like I wasn’t on Kanye’s level. I went back and I worked for about six months, I didn’t talk to Kanye or nothing. I called Gee Robinson because me and him cool, I sent him some stuff, I sent Kanye some more stuff, just going back and forth. Me and Kanye are still working. Maybe [I’ll have more songs on Watch The Throne.]
"In New York, when I walked in [the studio] Kanye was playing a bunch of Jimi Hendrix records. Playing them real loud off a record—it wasn’t a CD or something off of the Internet. So he came in there, and he had listened to three good records, and he told me, ‘I know you’re wondering why I’m doing this. It’s studying music.’ Back then, a story was told in [the music]. From the instruments to the words to the song, because you could listen to a whole instrumental back then and be satisfied. So he said that’s where he wanted to take his music. I just took that and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that too.’ Because music ain’t supposed to be repetitive, with the same thing over and over. What Kanye does is try to push it to the limit. That’s what I really learned from him: Don’t get stuck in the same sound or the same style. Always keep going, and keep something new.”
CLICK NEXT PAGE TO SEE LEX TALK ABOUT WHY HIS BEATS ALL SOUND THE SAME
On the criticism that all his beats sound the same
“It is [true], in a way. But every interview I do, I try to tell them that it’s a lot more than that [‘B.M.F.’ sound]. When I’m sending out 40 beats a day to one artist, out of those 40 he might pick two just because they sound like ‘B.M.F.’ or ‘Hard In The Paint,’ and he feels like that’s his hit. I think that’s a big problem in music right now. Everybody is like, ‘Oh, he’s hot right now. I’m going to try and get something that sounds like him.’ And that’s what I feel like a lot of artists did to me because Waka was really the biggest thing at one time. So they wanted that ‘Hard In The Paint’ sound. And I was just the man behind that, so they reached out to me. So when I sent them other types of music, they were like ‘What is this?’ I want ‘B.M.F.’ or ‘Hard In The Paint. Don’t send me this.’ So what I try to do now is, I try and hold the ‘B.M.F.’ and ‘Hard In The Paint’ sound to myself. I won’t send that out. I’ll send the pop music or the R&B out to the major artists so they have to do it.”
“But certain artists just want ‘Hard In The Paint’ and ‘B.M.F.’ The thing that kills me is it’s the big artists that have five and six albums already out, asking me for what I made a year ago. I was at the airport, someone was calling me, and I didn’t know who it was, so I picked it up like, ‘Yeah, what’s up? This is Lex Luger.’ And they was like, ‘Yeah, this is Chingy.’ I was like, ‘Who? Chingy?’ I couldn’t believe that man. [Laughs.] He called me like, ‘I need some beats man. I want to go back in.’ And I wasn’t like, ‘Nah. Chingy, I don’t want to work with you.’ I was like, ‘Alright, cool.’ He was like, ‘I want that ‘Hard In The Paint.’ Give me something just like ‘Hard In The Paint.’’ I was like, ‘Bruh, I can’t do it.’ A lot of people like that call me though. I get that all the time. Busta Rhymes called me the other day. Sean Garrett said he wanted a hit for the club. They’ll call me and be like, ‘I need that hit to bring me back.’”
On Rubba Band Business, his mixtape with Juicy J
“I grew up on Juicy J and I always loved his beats and his sound. He was on WorldStar dropping stuff every other week, he had something going on on the Internet. So I hit him up like, ‘Yo, I love your sound, I grew up on you, and I want to work with you.’ And he told me he loved my sound. I didn’t even know he knew who I was! So he said, ‘Let’s do a whole mixtape together.’ So I sent him about 30 beats one day, the next day I sent about another 30, and the next day 20. He called me a week later like, ‘I’m done.’ I was like, ‘Let’s do it. Lex Luger x Juicy J mixtape.’ I figured that’ll keep my name and his name buzzing, it’ll give us both the credibility we both need right now. It’s crazy because everybody that’s influenced me, I’m starting to work with.
“I never met Juicy, but we talk on the phone every day. He been in the game a long time and I like to take advice from him. He told me about the way the labels are, the way you should go about starting your own—basically the business part of the music. I know how to do the music, but I’m only 19 and I can’t do all them numbers, I can’t get through the court and the lawyers. So he really took me through that so I won’t make the mistakes he did. He made the same mistake I did, just being so hungry and going for anything when you’re first coming up and be willing to sign any contract that isn’t all that good. When the label hands you that, that’s good but not in the long run.
“When me and Waka first started talking a lot of people was in my ear like, ‘Yeah, I wanna manage you. You can be under my management.’ And it wasn’t people off the street; it was Spiff [of SpiffTV], another guy who manges MIMS, and others. I did certain things and I didn’t do certain things. It’s still certain situations that I’m in right now that I can’t get out right now that I would like to get out of. I can’t venture out and have my own artist, I can’t do that right now because of contracts that I’m in. Really, I want to be my own boss and make my own decisions. But right now, I can move how I want to move, but I can’t really do that without being under such and such because I’m under them. I’m under Mizay Entertainment and Auntie Deb trying to get me out of those situations. I got two kids, I got a family. That’s why I’m in the position I’m in, I got to get out here and do what I got to do. When you got contracts, court fees, and lawyer fees, that’s the dark side of the music industry, and that’s what Juicy J has been trying to show me.
On his upcoming projects with Waka Flocka Flame, Curren$y, & Yelawolf
Of course me and Waka are working. Yelawolf’s manager hit me up. He said Yelawolf likes my sound. He sent me Yela’s ‘B.M.F.’ freestyle and I loved it, but I really wanted to hear what his sound really was. And his sound wasn’t like a regular sound. So I went in and I didn’t make the regular Lex Luger sound. When I used to make beats, I used to just make beats. But now I treat it like a job. When an artist calls me, I go in with that in my mind. Not their sound. Like if you gotta make some beats for Jeezy, they’ll go make some beats that sound like Jeezy. I’ll go make the opposite. [The stuff I gave Yela was] really uptempo, kinda pop-ish, but has that hard club feel. Curren$y hit me up on Twitter, and said he wanted some beats, because he had done a ‘Hard In The Paint’ freestyle. [Laughs.] The Internet was going crazy with ‘Hard In The Paint’ and ‘B.M.F.’ freestyles, so everyone wanted to join in. But I ain’t send them the ‘Hard In The Paint’ or the ‘B.M.F.’ sound. Curren$y and Yelawolf, they didn’t want that.