In 2010, a new generation of rap producers, from AraabMuzik to Droop-E, made huge strides both artistically and commercially. But none distinguished themselves more than Lex Luger, the 19-year-old Virginia native behind both Rick Ross’s “B.M.F (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and a good deal of Waka Flocka Flame’s Flockaveli. (Not to mention the new Kanye West/Jay-Z track “H.A.M.”) Lex’s best beats are as evil as anything this side of Shawty Redd, but hit you so hard you barely notice.
Because of the size and similarity of most Luger beats, their effectiveness depends on the emcee. Flocka, who discovered the producer through MySpace in mid-2009, succeeds because his verses are as rough and as powerful as the beats, the raspiness of his voice aligning with the grainy sound quality you’re likely to find on a 128 kbps DatPiff stream. Flockaveli is filled with guests as anonymous as Kebo Gotti and Ice Burgundy, their interchangeability both creating further havoc and emphasizing the marquee rapper’s own dominance. Conversely, Ross stands unfazed at the eye of the storm and lets the drums, bass, and synths swirl around him. And just as Luger’s production pushes these rappers to do their best work, their flows add to the beats a dynamism that might not otherwise be present. Critics have suggested that Luger’s beats are easy to rap over, but in reality, Luger productions present the emcee with a direct challenge: Distinguish yourself or be consumed by the snares and laptop brass. Here are 10 lesser-known tracks featuring lesser-known rappers who gave it a shot; if played at the proper volume, any of these could easily blow out your speakers, eardrums, and anything within range. Including the guy rapping.
Sean Teezy ft. Waka Flocka Flame, Travis Porter, Da Kid and Slim Dunkin, “To Da Max”
Buried within Brick Squad’s rapidly expanding discography, “To Da Max” never got the attention it deserved. It almost goes without saying that Waka kills this one, supporting his raps with the vocal equivalent of a snare roll before jumping into his “ripping ’em, killing ’em, digging ’em” finale.
Tay Don, “Hustle Grind”
For a Luger collaboration to work, a rapper needs enough vocal power to withstand the sonic onslaught and enough lyrical ability to distinguish himself from others who’ve purchased similar beats. Someone like Tay Don, for instance, has the former but rarely the latter — on “Hustle Grind,” his most successful attempt, he finally changes up his otherwise generic flow and rises to the challenge.
OJ da Juiceman, “Early Morning Trapping,” “Kingpin”
One rapper who has repeatedly, surprisingly flourished with Luger’s help is Gucci Mane’s pre-Flocka protégé OJ da Juiceman, whose immediately recognizable voice and irreverent “stupid fruity crazy swag” goofiness set him apart from other rappers — particularly Brick Squad rappers — spitting over virtually identical beats. Frenchie, for instance, would never describe his car as “the same color her armpit” or bless the track with high-pitched Aye‘s, an OJ ad-lib so out of place over Luger strings that it ends up working quite well.
Gorilla Zoe, “Diamonds, Dope, Dimez”
Since Waka Flocka Flame introduced Atlanta to Luger’s work, Gorilla Zoe has collaborated with the Virginian producer as much as almost anyone short of Waka himself. The results have been mixed, and admittedly, Luger carries “Diamond, Dope, Dimez” with his sampled hook and some well-placed snare rolls. But Zoe provides the nihilistic rhymes we’ve come to expect (the song title says it all), and with a beat this menacing, that happens to be enough.
Swazy Baby ft. B.A.M.A., “Strap Up”
With its furious brass-and-drum combo, “Strap Up” is the archetypal Luger beat. But both rappers refuse to back down even the slightest bit here, filling the track out and establishing it as a hidden gem in the Luger catalog.
Wooh da Kid, “No Romance”
While the majority of Wooh da Kid’s Black Out is produced by Luger’s (arguably superior) Brick Squad counterpart Southside, Lex still makes his presence felt on “No Romance,” a brutal track wherein the beat is somehow just as unforgiving as the lyrics.
Juicy J. “Flip That Bitch a Few Times” and “Take My Body Lay Me Down (ft. K. Michelle)
Juicy J’s recent Luger-produced tape Rubba Band Business has more than a few duds, but in between are tracks like “Flip That Bitch a Few Times” and “Take My Body Lay Me Down.” From the Rick Ross hook to the feel-it-in-your-chest bass drum, the former goes harder than anything else the tape has to offer, while the latter finds Luger attempting to expand his sound alongside Memphis r&b singer K. Michelle.
CTC Crazy ft. Bo Deal, “Wild Life”
On “Wild Life,” Luger pushes the drums about as far as they can go, to the point where every snare-roll is so dense it practically buzzes. But then the production becomes something you probably didn’t expect: understated.