In The Lab with Lex Luger

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.41.14 PM

Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

Warning—Lex Luger is locked and loaded. The Virginia-bred producer—best known for early ‘10s bangers like Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in the Paint,” Rick Ross and Styles P’s “B.M.F.,” and Jay Z and Kanye West’s “H.A.M.”—is still hard at work in 2016 pumping out next level joints. And his latest placement, A$AP Ferg’s collabo with ScHoolboy Q “Let It Bang,” is further proof that Lex Luger is an upper echelon beat king poised to push the limits more than ever this year.

For our latest In The Lab, we connected with Lex Luger to discuss what he uses to craft his tracks, what the vibe is like when he’s creating, and what he’s learned over the years about working with artists. Plus, he runs through the making of his most notable songs (including the story behind his Electric Ladyland studio session with Kanye, Jay, and Beyonce), discusses how spending time with guys like Juicy J and A-Trak affected his outlook on beatmaking, and breaks down his new instrumental project, Lex Luger Experience: The Tour, Vol. 1. Roll up peoples, this is a good one.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.44.04 PM

Software/Equipment

Lex Luger: “I work mostly out the crib, then take the idea to a bigger studio so I can hear it louder and get the full effect of it. But it usually starts in the bedroom.

“I pretty much use FruityLoops. I tried Maschine Studio, I tried the MPC Renaissance, and I love it—but FruityLoops is wifey. I always go back to wifey. When I want to get in touch with myself and what I used to make—and get back to the streets—I create that FruityLoops sound.

“I think it’s like my work ethic with it. I’m able to work fast with it, and pump out beat after beat after beat. And the way you can switch up sounds, slow it down—you can do the same thing in Pro Tools, but it’s so much easier in FruityLoops.

“I use outboard keyboards sometimes, like a Virus or some type of Roland. They got all type of synthesisers now. Nova, or I’ll pull out some old school shit. But it still all gets transported to FruityLoops.”

Sounds

“I dig in the crates a little bit. I go on blog sites to find rare samples, and just look for samples and chop up drums and voices and create sounds from there. It’s sound designing.

“I met Hannon [Lane], who’s Timbaland’s soundman. And he showed me the Neko keyboard, which I also use sometimes. And you can go in there and create a sound from nothing, like a tap of a pencil. So we’ve been into that—just creating sounds and going from there.

“We go to record shops, too. We got crates in the studio, and we’ll throw them on the turntable and see what it does, sample it in. And just to get that vinyl feel, too. You know, it got that little scratchy noise. That’s all authentic, and we like that.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.40.31 PM

Daily Routine

“I have two little girls, so I try to do as much as I can for them. It’s a lot sometimes. I have to stop being a producer, and go to soccer practice and stuff like that. Which is all good—it’s all about balance.

“But really, when it’s time to work, I sit around with my homies and talk about issues, where we’ve been, where we wanna end up at. I still hang around the same people I grew up with, so all that inspires us. Then I might just go in from there and make a beat while they’re talking. And then that becomes a record for them, or for whoever else.

“They just like to be around music. We’ve been doing this since high school, so it’s not a big thing. It’s natural, it’s organic. I’m not pressured to go make a beat, or work on this album. It just comes out.”

Delivering Beats to Artists

“We barely email beats anymore. With all the stealing, everything has become much more exclusive. So now it’s more ‘pull up to the studio,’ or, ‘I’ll fly you here.’ Get in the studio, and put it on a flash drive or hard drive. Because people steal so much now, man. It’s hard. It’s changing so fast, but I just maneuver with it.

“DJ A-Trak taught me about this. I’d send him beats, and he’d be like, ‘This is cool, but I could take this whole idea, or anyone could take this whole idea, and then just do whatever with it. So let me fly you out here, and we’ll create from scratch. Then nobody else will have any idea of what’s going on.’ It’s like when Kanye was working on Watch The Throne, he was like in fuckin’ Paris or something. He didn’t want nobody to know where he was at, no studios or nothing.

“Don’t get me wrong. I have certain artists where I can email a session, or send shit through the iPhone or whatever. But other than that, we just fly out and link up face-to-face. Taking it back to the Berry Gordy, Michael Jackson days. We’re all in the studio together, now let’s create. It’s better. You get to feel each other, no rainbow. [Laughs.]”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.43.12 PM

Inspiration/Studio Essentials

“I’m a keep it 100—80 or 90% of the time, I’m making a beat for my satisfaction. I look into myself for my music. From there, I’ll tie everybody else’s flow into it, and go from there.

“My friends are my inspiration, first off. I like anime cartoons, like Dragon Ball Z, and watching that type of shit. But if I’m riding to the studio, I don’t wanna hear shit. I don’t wanna hear no music until I get to the studio. That’s my thing. And that’s about it. If I don’t have a blunt rolled up, I can’t really work either. Good weed, preferably from California, and some fruit. [Laughs.]

“But everything else is cool. I don’t really need shit except my music.”

“Hard In The Paint”

“I remember making that beat in my mom’s house. I was a youngin’, I was like 17 years old. I remember making that beat and blasting the fuck out of it to the point where the neighbors called. I almost blew my speakers. It was a sound I was looking for, and I finally found it. Once I found that sound, and ‘B.M.F.’—I remember those moments, because you can feel it. But I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I still have that feeling, and then nobody picks that beat. [Laughs.]

“I wasn’t there for the vocals recording, I was still living in Virginia. But he did the song and sent me the record, and was like, ‘I think this is gonna be my next single, so I’m gonna fly you out here.’”

“B.M.F.”

“SPIFF TV hit me up, and he was like, ‘I need the ‘Hard In The Paint’ instrumental, because Ross wants to do a freestyle.’ I was like, ‘That’s cool, but I got some more shit.’ I sent him like 40 beats. And out of those 40 beats, he automatically picked that and ‘MC Hammer’ back to back.

“A week later, I woke up—I was staying at Waka’s house—and everybody in the house was like, ‘Yo, you heard ‘B.M.F.?!?’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I’m just waking up.’ I looked on the Internet, and he had just dropped it. And that shit went crazy, bananas. Then he called my phone and was like, ‘I wanna fly you out here for the video shoot.’ He cut me the check and boom. It was done. Fast.

“We vibed at the video shoot, so he flew me out to Miami after the video shoot, and I stayed at his crib for like a week. We worked on a bunch of shit that eventually came out later. Like ‘Off The Boat’ and shit like that.”

Working with Kanye West on “H.A.M.” and “See Me Now”

“I’ll never forget that shit. He flew me out to New York. I went with my boy Big D. So we go to the studio, and the guy tells me it’s Jimi Hendrix’s studio [Electric Ladyland], where he recorded. The studio was fucking epic, it blew my mind and inspired the shit out of me.

“We get in there, and Kanye’s in this huge room, with a big rug and acoustics everywhere. He’s wearing a tuxedo with some crazy Louis Vuitton shoes and shit with no socks on. He’s fresh as a motherfucker. He had a Black Hennessy bottle—no glass, just the bottle. [Laughs.]

“He’s like, ‘You brought your shit?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ So he was like, ‘I’m gonna put you in a room downstairs, and I want you to put your sounds on this MPC.’ I used to use an MPC. So he’s like, ‘I’m gonna finish this record I’m working on. Can you go downstairs and finish this other record?’ So I went downstairs, and it took me like ten minutes, and I put some drums on the other record. And that was ‘See Me Now.’

“I took it back upstairs, and he was like, ‘Nah. I want you.’ Because, I was young. So I went in there like, ‘Kanye picked me, so I’m gonna try to do some Kanye shit.’ So I tried to step into his lane. But that’s not what he wanted me to do. He wanted me to be myself. So he sent me right back downstairs. [Laughs.] So I went back down there for like an hour or two and worked. Then I came back up, and he was like, ‘That’s perfect.’

“He played it like maybe ten times in a row. We added some snare rolls and some other shit. And then he was like, ‘We still working. Can you play some beats?’ So I played a couple beats. And I played that ‘H.A.M.’ beat, and he was like, ‘Stop.’ And he put that up, and a couple more.

“I dipped out, and he was like, ‘You gonna be here tomorrow?’ And I just had my second daughter, so I had to get back. Then he called me later, and he was like, ‘We finished the record, and I think it’s gonna be a big record. I can’t send it to you, but it’s gonna come out on the 1st.

“I waited on that record forever, dude. I hit up everybody he knew, trying to hear a snippet of it or something. But I didn’t even hear it until it came out.”

Playing Beats for Beyonce

“It was Kanye, Beyonce, and Jay Z in there. They were just chillin’, drinkin’ and shit. When I came in, I dapped Kanye up, and dapped up Jay Z, and I didn’t know what the fuck to do to Beyonce. And Jay was like, ‘Nah, you can give her a hug, my nigga.’ [Laughs.] And he was like, ‘Play her some beats. She’s from Houston, she likes that ghetto shit.’ So I played her some beats, and she was rockin’ with it.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.50.30 PM

Working with Juicy J

“That’s my fuckin’ brother. I’ll be around him for like five, six hours and I’ll learn so much shit. I feel like I’m in school. First of all, the guy’s been in the game since the ‘90s. And the music really stays the same, but it changes. So it’s how to reinvent the same shit. Recycling. Staying relevant. Getting in movies, and shit like that.

“The guy loves music. He rented out a mansion in Tampa for like two weeks. We took two, three days, and we’d listen to an Isaac Hayes album, or a Marvin Gaye album, and just listen to the whole shit. He’d be like, ‘We should take this, and flip that.’ Or, ‘We should try this.’ We’d sit there for hours.”

circlehouse-studios

Favorite Studios

“The Electric Ladyland shit was crazy. Then there’s this spot Circle House Studios in Miami. It’s fucking dope. It’s like a house, you got a pool back there. They got people that cook for you and shit. I worked with Sean Garrett out there. The Renegades. The Runners work out of there.

“There’s a studio in Manhattan by a strip club, the same one they locked Bobby Shmurda up in, that Pac got shot at. Quad Studios. That’s my shit. I love that view. It just puts me in a different zone.”

Live Shows/Beatmaking Process

“Once I started doing the shows with A-Trak, I felt like my beats were boring. I needed more bridges and breakdowns and snare rolls. But I learned that some artists have a hard time dealing with that [when they’re choosing beats]. So I keep a simple beat at first for the artist to pick from, because simplicity is key. Then I go in and add the extra shit that they probably wouldn’t have been able to understand at first. All the transitions and shit.”

“Let It Bang”

“A$AP Ferg came out to VA. He hit up my boy Highdefrazjah, who made the intro for Ferg’s first album—he linked me up. So we went to the studio, and I played him some beats. He heard that first beat, and said, ‘Load it up.’ He knocked it out in like two hours. He laid the hook out, then the verse, and left a verse. And that’s when ScHoolboy came in. And boom, now it’s on iTunes. [Laughs.]

“When I made that beat, there was a Prince sample* in that beat. But clearing samples from Prince is impossible. So I just completely took it out. [Laughs.] But if I was to put it out with the sample, that shit is so powerful. I’m gonna maybe drop the instrumental for free.

“But he really wanted the beat. When he picked it, I was like, ‘That’s a Prince sample.’ And he was like, ‘Ah, fuck.’ [Laughs.] But when he heard it without the sample, he was like, ‘Me and you know it’s not the same, but the fans are gonna love it.’ And ScHoolboy fucking murdered that shit, too.”

*Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before Prince’s passing.

Instrumental Album

“That’s opening the door for up-and-coming rappers to not hit up my email all the time or look for my manager. You know, they can get the instrumental tape and freestyle in the car or whatever. And the producers can sit and listen to how I break my beats down without hearing a rapper on them. And also, to keep people up to date on the sounds I’ve been making. Because I always feel like my sound is next level, two or three years ahead of time. And I’m really just waiting for that right artist to pick up on it, which Ferg did.

“I like people that respect my vision, because I respect theirs. I’m not just a producer, I’m an artist, too. I like to put shit together, I’m a composer.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.51.42 PM

What’s Next

“I’m back home in Virginia, working with a group called VAVP. They’re these young cats out of Virginia, each one of them have their own little style and lingo. I’m trying to put them out kind of like a GBE.

“I’m also steady touring. I think I’m going to China in September, but until then I’m just doing shows in the states. Travis Scott and Diplo are coming to Virginia very soon, I’m performing with them.

“And then, just getting placements. I was just looking at my BMI, and singles are cool. I’ve made a lot of money off them. But I wanna place some timeless music. That record I did for A$AP Ferg is timeless.”

Pics via Lex Luger’s Instagram.

Previously:

In The Lab with Papoose
In The Lab with Large Professor
In The Lab with Yelawolf
In The Lab with Mick Jenkins
In The Lab with Boi-1da
In The Lab with Meyhem Lauren and Buckwild
In The Lab with Vince Staples
In The Lab: Blu on the Making of Good To Be Home
In The Lab with Sean C & LV
In The Lab with Harry Fraud
In The Lab with RATKING
In The Lab with The Alchemist and Evidence (Step Brothers)
In The Lab with Thelonious Martin
In The Lab with Troy Ave
In The Lab with Marco Polo
In The Lab with Black Milk
In The Lab with Oddisee
In The Lab with Pete Rock
In The Lab with Party Supplies
In The Lab with Mac Miller
In The Lab with Roc Marciano


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

One Response to “In The Lab with Lex Luger”

  1. Ramon Says:

    The most influential producer today

Leave a Reply