Lex One on Starting a Label, Evading the Law and His Favorite Black Jews
If you know one thing about South Florida rapper/producer Lex One it probably has to do with his penchant for donning wizard costumes and rapping to high energy electro beats. If you know two things it’s probably that this dude never stops hustling for a second — that and the wizard thing. But prior to his international success with wand-wielding, dance-rap outfit Wizard Sleeve, Lex One was sleeping in a snuggie, sustaining solely off Utz Party Mix and running from law enforcement.
Back in 2009, after closing Hi Top Studios, his beloved streetwear boutique/recording studio, breaking up with his girlfriend and dissolving his current rap group Major League, Lex was on some get-to-NY-by-any-means-necessary type shit. “I pulled a bunch of shady shit to move to New York,” Lex explains. “I rounded up a bunch of money before I left and thought I could save on the trip if I did a local-only rental on a minivan for 3 days and had a friend drive it back down”. (Said friend’s name is Edward Cocaine, birth name.) Long story short, somewhere between some speeding tickets, breaking down in a heavily trafficked tunnel and crashing into a guard rail Budget Car Rental got wise to the scheme and they soon found themselves being pursued by Virginia State trooper for the crime of grand theft auto.
Not wanting to fully elaborate on the events that transpired next, Lex keeps it brief: “Then all that bad karma from before I left hit me. When I finally got to NY I had nothing, no money, no anything. Just a dirty room full of mice and roaches, a snuggie and a gallon of Utz Party Mix.” For a guy who once put up his sneaker collection as collateral for a sizable loan to release a record, you could see why this would be somewhat of a culture shock. Miserable, depressed and unemployed, Lex did what any good musician would do — he catalyzed his misfortunes into a personal musical renaissance spending the following two weeks, day and night, cranking out 35 new songs with life-long friend and collaborator Verbal Kush.
The project which came to be known as Black Jew — named apparently for Verbal’s blackness and Lex’s jewishness — was then whittled down to 10 tracks that in succession can only be described as a labor of love and utter madness. What Lex is hesitant to rehash in person about the experience, he and Kush rap about in intimate detail on album. Recurring themes of lost, doubt, and personal reflection blanket the tablets of Black Jew but it’s their unshakable sense of optimism in the face of adversity that keep the album ringing on a high note while treading such dark waters. The album closer “6th Floor” (named for the locale of his shitty apartment) seems to be the most direct line to understanding the introspective motivators that spawned the record.
Feel free to download and listen to Black Jew in its entirety before continuing on to the conclusion of this bizarre story.
Had things proceeded as normal, you would have been reading this review in late 2009. But as fate would have it Lex’s adult themed dance-rap side project Wizard Sleeve (with Mike Beats) struck U.K. club scene gold (or better yet, platinum) in the form of a collaboration with Dutch electro-house producer Sidney Samson. The single, known as “Riverside (Let’s Go)” soared to the top of the UK charts and Lex and company soared across the Atlantic to tour in support of the record and revel in their new found popularity. As a result of their rapid departure plans to commercially release Black Jew were shelved along with the album itself.
Flash forward three years to 2012, and Lex is back making moves in South Florida. Black Jew is finally seeing the light of day as a soft release for a newly founded record label with Mike Beats called GTPS Records. An acronym for Get That Paper Son, GTPS is a vehicle for pooling the collective efforts of their entire crew into a stronger, more cohesive movement than they’d be capable of as stand alone artists. The line-up includes locals like Brian Breach, The Benchwarmers Clique and Haviken Hayes along with internationals like the UK’s DJ Snips and Uruguay’s DJ Kill Will.
Lex explains the motivations behind the name as more than just a mantra for getting rich: “If you think about it everything in life starts and revolves around getting paper. You’re born you get a birth certificate, you finish school you get a diploma, you make a resume to get a job and make paper, you get married you get a paper, you get divorced or buy a house more paper. You even get a paper when you die and then they give all your paper to the next person.”
Stay tuned to GTPS in 2012, as Lex promises many big moves for the label in the new year on their quest to get paper.
And just for the sake of satiating New Times fetish for useless lists, here’s Lex One’s top five favorite black jews with my own personal critique.
5. Oprah Winfrey – I don’t know much about Oprah but I’m pretty sure she’s not Jewish although there’s gotta be a conspiracy website out there somewhere that claims otherwise so well let it ride.
4. Whoopi Goldberg – An obligatory inclusion but a good one despite her posing as a nun in Sister Act and Sister Act 2.
3. Sammy Davis Jr. – Now we’re talking. perhaps the greatest black Jewish performer of all time. Pure class.
2. Drake – Personally, this guy would not make it onto my list of favorite anything, but to each his own.
1. Jesus Christ – Although historically debatable he was definitely Jewish, had some righteous dreadlocks and had to be a hell of a lot darker than they painted him.
(Tags: Black, Jew, Music)