Lex Luger’s musical beginnings started at church. He would go from a church drummer to becoming a founding member of the hip hop production team 808 Mafia. Lex Luger would go on to produce for headline acts such as Wacka Flocka Flame, Kanye West, Gucci Mane, Meek Mill and many more. The award-winning producer has gone from strength to strength and is now one of the most in-demand beat-makers in Hip Hop.
With two new, Trap Ain’t Dead packs for BandLab sounds, Lex serves up his signature sound for everyone. We caught up with Lex Leger for a chat about how he got started, his inspirations and how a Playstation game got him started in beat making.
How did you get started making beats?
I actually started playing the drums for my church. I watched the Drumline movie, believe it or not, so shout out Nick Cannon [laughs]. I got super inspired and wanted to be a drummer. My parents got me a drum set so I started drumming in the house, day-after-day, playing Gospel songs, regular songs and then somehow I just wanted to start making beats.
I think Kanye West had come out at the time and he was such a huge inspiration for me. Aside from the rapping, I was drawn to mainly his fashion style and production. I just gravitated more towards making a whole body of art and having someone put words on it and it changes a person’s life, it inspires people you know music is so amazing. So that’s what really made me want to take that step into making beats. In the production he did for Beanie Siegal and Jay Z, you can hear that it’s Kanye.
Who else inspired you?
Of course, Kanye! But there’s Timberland, Swizz (Beatz), Quincy Jones, MF Doom, Shawty Red, Drummer Boy. Shout out to Vibe Beats man! A lot of people name their inspirations and they don’t really show love to Vibe Beats and Superstar O.
One of the first pieces of music that I heard that made me think, “I want to do that”, is Youngbloodz ft. Lil Jon, “If You Don’t Give A Damn”. I don’t know what it was about that record – it just did something to me. All of Lil Jon’s production at the time did something to me from the shit that he did with Trillville, to Lil Scrappy to Ciara’s Goodies. These records were amazing to me. I could go back and really dig deep too and like my Pops telling me about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, or Teddy Riley and the New Jack Swing era. Those beats definitely changed my life. I didn’t really want to make beats at that time but the production really wowed me. The Slick Rick record, “Hey Young World”, I would have to say that It just hypnotizes me, it’s amazing.
What were the first bits of technology that you used to make music with?
The first gear I used to make music was PlayStation MTV Music Generator, I think it was Generator 3 or 2. I’m pretty sure it was on the first PlayStation maybe PS2. Not quite sure – it was so long ago man, I’m 30 years old [laughs]. But, I don’t know, that program was so weird it had about maybe 10 sounds in total. I can’t even remember if it had piano sounds but I do remember you could sample and I love Kanye West and the Heat Makers. If you could go back to question one please put Heat Makers in there because they really did it for me all the Dipset production.
On the PlayStation game, you could sample six seconds. It wasn’t long at all so I would just sample that six seconds from whatever I wanted. I think PlayStation allowed you to open up the disk with the game in there, take the game out, put whatever CD in there, sample six seconds, take it out and put the game back in. So I would do that but I would sample drums, I really loved Pharrell and Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. I loved all the Pharrell tracks because it was just drums.
How did you decide on equipment after that?
I think I might have been Googling it or just looking up stuff on Guitar Center and came across Cakewalk. You know, I was broke at the time, I’m a kid so I’m pretty sure I wanted something else but my dad was like Cakewalk is pretty affordable so let’s get that. Yeah, it was Music Generator then I went to Cakewalk. I tried Reason and I didn’t like that and then my friend from the past introduced me to Fruity Loops [FL Studio] and then it was over from there. But, like I said, I tried everything. I had an MPC2000 I had an ASRX, I didn’t even have the ASR10, I had the ASRX it’s the one with the pads. I tried it all man, but once I got to Fruity Loops, it was just like this is the new era, this is the new way man.
What was the moment when you realized you were going pro and things were changing for you to go full time with music?
I think it was kind of a local thing. I had a rap group and we had CDs that we made and would hand them out in school. People would just come to me and say, “damn, Lex you made these beats? These are dope!” They were really overlooking the entire project, including the rapping, kind of almost glorifying me. acknowledging my production. That was amazing. It was a great feeling.
It gave me a sense of identity. I guess I was doing bad in school. I was cutting up. So it gave me something to look forward to, like a future, an actual future where I could pay bills and get my Mom out of debt and make them happy and, make my Dad proud.
At the time we had this older cat kind of like trying to push our music. You know, he saw the vision that we had and saw the potential. He was getting us in clubs, getting us gigs, open mics, beat battles and everything like that. I just noticed many people were just older cats who had been doing it for a long time locally. They would just come up and show so much love. That’s when I went full time and I love it. Even if I didn’t get that love, I probably would still go full time with it.
Wake up, drink water, jog. I know that sounds cliche, but most of us don’t do it. We need to clear out heads and be positive human beings. Help others and it’ll come through your music. If not, you’re not going to receive the love or attention that you seek.
Any lessons you learned about the career, about a career in the music biz you can pass on to our community?
Own your publishing, own your work. Invest.
I know you love making music. You want to do it for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t work like that, for some people it does. But invest, get a car wash, get a barbershop or something else you love, some other hobby, a gym or something.
At one point I didn’t know my words because I didn’t think I was worth it. Mental health is a real thing. So, everybody, if you got some messed up stuff you got going on your head, get it checked out and get some help.
Save your money, stay true to who you are and no matter what the label says, take it, listen to it, you know, use it in your way. Wake up, drink water, jog. I know that sounds cliche, but most of us don’t do it. We need to clear out heads and be positive human beings. Help others and it’ll come through your music. If not, you’re not going to receive the love or attention that you seek. You may receive some attention, but it won’t be good. In my personal opinion, try to stay original, sample in school. We all recycle music. That’s just the way it is. Groups are cool but just be original and just tweak it.
Now, by the same token, some music and most music that comes out mainstream is like that. So if the balance is right, play it around your nieces and nephews or kids, and see if they love it. If they love it, it’s a go.
What were some mistakes you made?
Wow, definitely with the paperwork. Just look over, have somebody else look over it and then have somebody else look over it again and then you look over it again. Get it revised and try to make sure you know your worth.
At one point I didn’t know my words because I didn’t think I was worth it. Mental health is a real thing. So, everybody, if you got some messed up stuff you got going on your head, get it checked out and get some help. I wish I did that a long time ago because the music business and the industry is cutthroat. And it’s a tough cookie. Know what you’re saying and know who you’re dealing with.
Watch the samples and please watch the sampling. Get it approved. Get your manager to reach out to the people who you need to get your samples cleared. Make sure you get paid first. Make sure you get paid in general. I’ll say my main mistake I made was just trying to make everybody happy. At the end of the day, just make sure you sleep good at night. You wake up happy in the morning.
Tell us about the awesome new pack for BandLab Sounds
This is probably one of my favorite sample kits, I’m not going to lie.
I created it by basically taking some of the best sounds that I have used in the past. I start with those and kind of tweak them again and stack them. I recorded everything like water drippings and all this other stuff from outside and put it into the drums. I used crazy plug-ins, just to make them sound insane, but still have that trap sound. This is probably one of my favorite sample kits, I’m not going to lie.
What about the studio gear you used to make the pack?
When you use these sounds, man, do not just put them in there and use them, tweak them a little more. Add the edge, the magic touch to them.
The gear that I used to make this back was Native Instruments Maschine just to play with the drums a little better. I went into Pro Tools a little bit to produce too. Uh, I have some keyboards but I’m not going to name those [laughs]. And, that’s kind of it. Oh, I use a microphone, the Blue Snowball microphone,
I hope young cats get this pack and they just become millionaires. They start empires, change the game. When you use these sounds, man, do not just put them in there and use them, tweak them a little more. Add the edge, the magic touch to them.
What do you think makes for a great collaboration?
It has to be a friendship at first, probably based on the music. It has to be some form of real friendship before a musical relationship. You’ve got to have a common ground and a common love for something – that’s what makes the best musical relationships, you know?
So how do you avoid creative clashes and make collaboration smooth?
Sometimes you’ve just got to walk away. Or you just sit there and bump it out. It’s going to happen. Creative clashes happen. But it’s just a part of it. It’s just ups and downs. It’s part of the balance.
OK, the proudest moment in your career so far and why?
As of lately, it’ll be just getting my publishing back and seeing my business right. This is probably the best year, 2021. I was a kid at first but I had a good time then too. I was just reckless. And I wish I would have had my head kind of screwed on a little tighter back then. But yeah, right now probably is my proudest moment. I will say one other proud moment was in 2011 when I accepted my BMI Urban Producer of the Year award.
If you’re inspired by the samples and Loops created by Lex Luger, you can download them and use them for free, for both personal and commercial use. Tap the button below to explore Lex Luger’s sample pack and more.