Alright, let me back up a bit, so I don't seem biased.
Lex Rush is a young woman from Queens who, simply put, has bars. She started rapping at 13, influenced, like many of us at the time, by artists such as Jay-Z, DMX, Nas, and late-1990s/early-2000s Cash Money Records. At 16, she was dropping freestyles with some of the best out in NYC, becoming a regular at End of the Weak open mic night events. My first contact with her came when we both attended UMD. During one of my first Juke Joint performances (spoiler: I bombed, but this isn't about me), I came across the former Undergrounduates president who was more calm and ferocious than many of her male counterparts. It was then that I knew that she was "special." On the eve of her upcoming Unbridled Enthusiasm EP (and thanks to Arteest), I had the chance to sit down and speak with her on her influences, her style, what we should expect out of the new project and more. So without further ado...
Lex Rush: Going to UMD and being a Terp shaped my music so much! First off, there was and still is the Undergrounduates, an incredible hip-hop collective that meets every week and just holds these ciphers for like three hours. Totally awesome and being a part of that really helped me up my freestyle game. Campus also put on the occasional battle, and I started signing up for those after I got proficient in freestyling through being a part of Undergrounduates.
There were also opportunities to freestyle on the campus radio show, DMV Live Radio, take part in open work with students who are up and coming producers with great ideas and looking to collaborate, plus see awesome shows both on and off campus. In addition, there were a social activist movements to get involved with that influenced my lyrics, like Community Roots, as well as progressive professors that educated us about the prison industrial complex, systemic oppression, turned me on to the works of Noam Chomsky, etc.
SOTB: Did you have a “guru” to guide you along the ropes of being a hip-hop artist in college? I know, for me, DK aka Wayne Watts was one of those first to say something to me. Him and Black Ice, who performed at UMD about eight years ago during Juke Joint.
LR: DK was the absolute man when we were at UMD! And he is still very talented and doing great things as a hip-hop artist. I always aspired to freestyle like DK. Plus, he is also one of the nicest, most supportive people you will ever meet. So yes, DK. And not sure if he’ll remember me but this producer/engineer Kyle Carson engineered some great recordings for free for me and was a pretty inspiring Community Roots leader.
SOTB: Do you still keep in contact with some of those earlier influences?
LR: I chat with DK occasionally, happy to say.
SOTB: Alright, enough nostalgia. What’s up with your new project? What should listeners expect to hear from you?
LR: The Unbridled Enthusiasm EP drops for free on my Bandcamp page on November 16th! It's a compilation of brand new tracks and a few ones I've had in my back pocket for a while, but that haven't been mixed and mastered. I consider it real New York hip-hop mixed with a modern, independent woman's perspective on just trying to get by these days. But male heads should be able to relate and appreciate too of course.
SOTB: What were some of your personal favorites off the new EP?
LR: I’m not trying to feel myself too much but I like all the tracks (laughs). Every lyric is there for a reason, the tracks were sequenced in that order for a reason. But, if you are looking for a fun jam, "Money Part 2" is great, especially thanks to a hook by this super talented group Lady. Yes, I stole the beat and their hook, got my collaborator Manny Arora to chop it up for me so I can lay down my verses. Ever since I heard that track last year I wished I were on it so I just decided to make it happen, ha. Hooked on Heron is probably the most personal song on the album, I wrote that while taking a super long walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan one gorgeous spring day last year. And "Bomb Shit" and "Nasty" are just straight boom-bap bangers.
SOTB: Favorite producer to work with?
LR: Lars Viola is like a young Pete Rock to me and he really laced me with the beat for Bomb Shit. And my longtime friend and collaborator Andrew Satz came through for me with that dirty dirty beat for "Nasty."
SOTB: Dream producer to work with—besides me, of course (laughs). I mean, I've gotta get a shameless plug out there somewhere
LR: Well, if I can’t say you, I have to go with Premier. Runners-up are Ski Beatz, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder and Madlib, which is why I jacked Madlib’s beat off the amazing Pinata album to make the track “Road Trip”. Though of course, who wouldn’t be thrilled to work with Kanye? I’d have to say him too.
SOTB: Favorite artists? I know, cliché. But, it’s one of those “it’s gotta be asked” questions.
LR: I actually love this question because I’m constantly debating and making lists about that sort of stuff in my head! In terms of my top five emcees of all time, for very personal reasons, I’d have to say Jay-Z, Nas, Black Though, Talib Kweli and Buckshot. But over the years I’ve been influenced by so many artists – Mos Def, Jean Grae, Kanye, A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, KRS One, Biggie, Wu-Tang, the list goes on.
And right now, I’m really digging Freddie Gibbs, Run the Jewels, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Rapsody, Kendrick of course, just to name a handful. There is a lot of great hip-hop that exists outside of those 8 songs played over and over on the radio (ed. note: this is sheer and utter truth).
SOTB: In doing some searching (read: I somewhat Google/Facebook stalked, for reasons unknown; I mean, I could’ve just asked), I found that you have done some freestyle battles in a sort of game show format. What was that like?
|Lex at Freestyle Mondays|
SOTB: What inspired you to come back to the music? I know I personally step back more times than Steve Kerr about to chuck up a three, then come back like…Pippen.
LR: Love the Bulls reference, especially because I hope to get paper longer than Pippen's arms, but I never really left. It’s just that at some points in my life, I’ve spent more time on it than others. But, I’ve been involved in hip-hop for more than a decade. So, I reached the point where I said to myself I absolutely need to put out at least one cohesive, professionally mixed and mastered project. Just to really solidify for myself what I have been doing all this time.
SOTB: Oh, definitely. I mean, I can do nothing but agree--for a couple reasons. Switching gears, what are some of your thoughts on the world today? With mid-term elections now in the books, where do you see our society headed in the years to come?
LR: Hm, I'm no Nostradamus but what I do try to address is issues like how stagnant, greedy and useless Congress seems to be, plus a lot of women's issues, from crazy right-wingers trying to restrict our right to abortion and birth control to domestic violence. There needs to be more of that in hip-hop. However, I'm no Immortal Technique. I love that guy but I'm not one to sound extremely aggressive and militant when talking about issues. Nothing wrong with that style, that's just not my style. I'm more chill and humorous in the way I try to address these issues, like a hip-hop Jon Stewart or Action Bronson with a bit of Chuck D mixed in. On my best day of course; those guys are incredible!
SOTB: What are some things that irk you when people find your music/ask about you?
LR: I can’t say anything has irked me – I’m just still psyched when people are curious and want to check out what I’ve been working on. Most people I’ve come in contact with have been really supportive -- I’m very grateful for that.
SOTB: If you could name three things you couldn’t do without, what would they be?
LR: It can be music, internet, what have you. These questions are always tough for me. It’s gotta be hip-hop music, dessert and can my friends and family count as one thing. Though technically they aren’t things ha, so in place of them I’ll say the TV show Seinfeld.
SOTB: To keep this from sounding like an OKCupid questionnaire, outside of hip-hop, what are you up to these days?
LR: I'm a journalist by trade but I work full time in restaurant PR. Other than that, a big runner and overall sports fan. Though I also enjoy eating and drinking far too much.
SOTB: Where can we find you on the interwebs?
LR: On Sunday, November 16th the Unbridled Enthusiasm EP drops for free on https://lexrush13.bandcamp.com. You can also check out and stream rough cuts on my youtube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/LexRush13. And visit my Facebook page, LexRushHipHop!
SOTB: Any thoughts for the children? Y’know, stuff like “if you want to do music, do ‘XYZ’ or ‘don’t do crystal meth and then start selling the stuff.”
Well aside from never get high off your own supply, if you want to do something, just fucking go out and do it. Plain and simple (laughs).
SOTB: Any last shoutouts you want to give?
LR: Yes! Everyone that helped me with this EP, from the contributers to my crowd-sourcing campaign to the producers and engineers that worked on it with me (Lars Viola, Andrew Satz, Willie Green, Hydro and Manny Aurora), the extremely talented singer Corina Corina for her advice and mentorship, Suz Paulinksi, a wonderful artist consultant who put together my press materials, and all the homies from UMD, SLC and of course Queens. And if you are looking for a great photographer, reach out to Adam Morganstern. He did my photos and is the best of the best.
As a bonus, check out "Hooked on Heron," a Gil-Scott Heron tribute Lex did a while ago.