Miltown Beatdown champ Lex Luther keeps on beating down
The brash DJ isn't about to give anything away for free (except attitude)
This year’s Miltown Beatdown champ, Alex Vazquez, a.k.a. Lex Luther, didn’t exactly come into the city’s biggest annual DJ competition with a huge pedigree: The 21-year-old has fewer than 800 hits on his MySpace page, and lives with his parents in Franklin. Vazquez might be young and suburban, but he’s not a rookie. This year was his third Beatdown, and his workmanlike approach to the competition played a huge part in the victory. As expected, Vazquez is all business off the stage as well. The Beatdown’s newest champion isn’t planning on giving away anything—beats or otherwise—to anybody. The A.V. Club talked to Vazquez about his discontent with the Milwaukee rap game, and his plan to make it big as a beat-maker beyond city limits.
The A.V. Club: How did you win the Miltown Beat Down?
Alex Vazquez: Do you know the phrase, “They didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves”? That’s essentially what [runner-up] 40 MIL did. He’s got such an extensive catalogue and he just picked the wrong shit to play on the wrong day.
AVC: You’re a relatively new face on the Milwaukee hip-hop scene. Besides the beat battle material that’s on your MySpace, what else is on your résumé?
AV: I have two songs I’m trying to do with Yo-Dot that I gotta finish up. I did a song with A.P.R.I.M.E. a while back that I’m gonna try and tighten up. Frankie Flowers wants beats from me. Pretty much the whole Umbrella Music crew I’m down with giving beats to them. I did a track with Stricklin, who has a plug to Masta Ace and all them. That’s the direction I’m trying to go; I love Milwaukee, but if I could expand my sound and my clientele, I’d love for that to happen.
AVC: Are you finding it frustrating to sell your work in Milwaukee?
AV: Yeah, absolutely. It’s hard because everybody’s on a different agenda. Put it this way: If you’ve been getting something for free for so long from your best friends, and all of a sudden you want something new from someone you’ve never met, and you still expect it to be free, well, you got a problem. The thing is that you can only make so many beats. And if a big act comes into town and wants to work, I want to be ready. So if I give away my best beats for a mix-tape for somebody that gets swept under the rug, I’m gonna feel salty as hell.
AVC: You’re living in Franklin, not exactly the crossroads of hip-hop. Does suburban life affect your approach to making beats?
AV: Actually, I’m from the south side. I grew up on Ninth and Mitchell. When I was 11 we moved out here, because, you know, you don’t want to live in the ’hood your whole life. If you got the tools to enjoy living in a suburb—a car, some money, you’re 21—it’s cool. But as far as me growing up, living the last 10 years here, it sucks. You’re in this new environment, you’re supposed to make friends, and you have nothing with to associate with them.
AVC: This was your third Beatdown. Last year you placed second behind Adlib in the live portion of the battle.
AV: Yeah, Adlib needs to get it straight, though. He wrote on his page that he’s the 2009 Miltown Beatdown champion when he’s not. He’s just the live battle champ, not the overall champ. Just letting you know. After the battle, he asked if he could use my beats for his EP. Then I was like, do I give you all my best shit for your EP? Really? What if Sean Price comes to town, or Jay Electronica comes with Nas? Why can’t I give them a CD with all my best shit versus you just putting it on an EP and forgetting it in six months?
AVC: Some people might say that a young artist should come up by working with older, more established people.
AV: That’s bullshit. Any other establishment—a restaurant for example—they’re not gonna give you anything for free. I can’t go into Pick 'N Save and be, “Hey man, let me get this gallon of water and bag of chips for free because you love working and doing what you do.” They’re gonna tell me to go fuck myself. My dad used to own a business, he was a mechanic, and he told me he had the same problem. People wanted him to take an hour out of his day to check on their car for free. He’d have to tell them to go jump in the lake.
AVC: Who are the top three people you’d like to work with in the city?
AV: What, like rappers? That’s not fair. There aren’t three rappers here I’d like to work with.
AVC: Wow, really?
AV: Come on, man. Do you honestly think there are any dope-ass rappers in this town?
AVC: You don’t?
AV: [Groans] I like Prophetic, I like Stricklin. Everybody else falls into the “whatever” category for me. From a producer standpoint it’s different; I’d like to pick J. Todd’s brain for a little bit. He’s not on the same frequency as these other cats around here.