Interview: Breaking Ground with Lex the Radical

Bass thumpin’. Tracks spinnin’. Words flowin’. A throng of patrons gather at the foot of a raised stage, vibing in a dirt-and-gravel parking lot beneath an overcast sky. Feet leave and return to pummel the shoddy earth, kicking up dust on beats 2 and 4 of each track, adding a rousing earthy element to an aerated vibe. It’s twenty past noon, but the head-bopping, primal cadence that permeates the crowd feels as though this can and will last a lifetime. Fists poundin’. Legs kickin’. Feet jumpin’. At the helm of this bestial display of aural satisfaction stands Detroit rapper and hip-hop producer Lex the Radical.

The 41st Dally in the Alley was the first that I had seen of Lex the Radical. It was also a clear indication that this would not be the last time that I saw or heard of Lex the Radical. Nor was it, by any means, an indication of any sort of novelcy and naivete. Lex began writing songs at the age of 10 years old and lists Eminem, Drake, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Jay-Z as his early influences. He became widely known for his contributions as a co-founder of the Captwolf Collective (cited by the Detroit Metro Times as one of the best new bands of 2015) and as the sole producer for Captwolf’s viral single “Yeengotit.” From there, Lex was destined for certain glory: featured performances performances at Dally in the Alley 2018 and No More Parties Detroit; the launch and release of his lifestyle brand Radical Detroit; and a penchant for an audio-visual artistic expression has set Lex on the precipace of everything, just waiting to become anything. 

I had the immense pleasure of chatting for a bit with Lex the Radical about a multitude of topics- his experience as an activist and an artist; on brushes with fate and fleeting moments of chance; and on the choices he’s made on his journey thus far. If ever there was a man who truly knows how to seize the day, it’s Lex the Radical. Enjoy!

OTH!: Hey, Lex! Long time no see! How’s it been for you since we last spoke at Dally In the Alley?

Lex the Radical: Everything has been going good, just been working on new stuff and enjoying life. I can’t complain. I’m glad we get a chance to talk some more. You were super lit during my Dally set and I really appreciated that.

OTH!: Well, Lex, I’m glad we’ve stayed relatively in touch since then- I was so excited to see your promotional breadcrumbs interspersed throughout various social media platforms; I was THRILLED when you notified me of your release of your brand new music video for your single “Choices.” How’d you come to pick “Choices” as the one to make a music video for? Given the socio-political climate I thought for sure I’d see one for “No Breaks” first!

Lex: I felt like “Choices” was a good introduction to me as a solo artist. It was my first music video as a solo act and I really wanted to show people what I bring to the table as a storyteller.

OTH!: …Which begs the question, do you plan on making another one for “No Breaks” sometime in the near future?

Lex: That is definitely a plan for the future! We’re saving that for something special.

OTH!: How did you come to work with the Chicagoans at Honey Jam Records for the production of your video? It was all shot in Detroit, yeah?

Lex: I went to Columbia College Chicago for music business. While I was there I met Rashad, who’s the head guy over at Honey Jam Records. I had been recording there- that’s actually where I recorded “Choices.”They have this great team of creatives over there and I felt that, with the expertise and passion that everyone had for the music, we could bring the song to life. Majority of the video was shot in Detroit; we shot the beginning and ending scenes in Chicago. Shoutout to the crew: Andy, Gary, and Brenden!

OTH!: It’s been nice seeing you garner a bit more attention from a much-deserved hype machine surrounding your work. In a recent article by Lyrical Lemonade, you mentioned that “Choices” is  a part of your personal story, specifically, a story about your “…[life] journey and some of the challenges faced by many young adults trying to cope with anxiety, depression, and growing up.” I was wondering if you could elaborate on some of those challenges and what you do to overcome those in life and in your music?

Lex: Balance and patience I believe are the main challenges that I work to overcome. A lot of that anxiety and depression can stem from a lack of those things. I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for help when I’m feeling like that and I talk to someone I trust that can help me understand those feelings. The music allows me to share my experience with those challenges and things in my life in general.

OTH!: You also mentioned on a Facebook post that “when we’re young we don’t always think about how the decisions we make now can affect us down the road” and expressed immense gratitude for “every lesson that [sic] I’ve learned and everything that [sic] I will learn in the future.” You don’t have to talk about your past here if you don’t wish to, Lex. In fact, I’m more interested in, given that information, where you stand now. What choices are you making now, now that you have more tacit clarity in your life thus far? What directions are you looking toward as you face the future on the precipice of everything?

Lex: The choices that I make have a much greater effect because I’m a father now, and that changes the way I have to make decisions completely. Choosing what to spend my time,  energy, and money on… It all affects someone other than me and it’s an adjustment. The direction I’m looking toward now is to secure a future for my girls and to spend my life doing what I love and providing for them.

Balance and patience… are the main challenges that I work to overcome.”

OTH!: Furthermore, in thinking about the significance of “Choices,” what made you make some of the directorial decisions and shots for the music video to help convey this snapshot of your story? What made you choose certain shots?

Lex: I wanted to make the story feel as real and as true to what I was feeling at the time. I wanted to shoot in Detroit because I spent a lot of my teenage years there making decisions that could have gone either way for me. I had my dad in the shoot because I know [that] he and my mom can remember some nights when I would come home after hotboxing with my friends, and I wanted that to feel real for the viewer. The last scene in the tub is a representation of drowning in past decisions, but it’s also about being baptized and reborn. The song itself tells shines one side of the coin while the video shines on the other. That’s where you see the “Choices.”

OTH!: Speaking of shots and scenes in the music video, it’s awesome to see you reppin’ your home scene within the video- that U of D Jesuit letterman jacket takes me back! I love how integrated you are in the Detroit scene- not only in music, but also in your community work! I love that you proudly reflect your lifestyle and work ethic in everything that you touch, from your apparel branding of “Radical Detroit” to your lyrical flows, to your community work in promoting Lacrosse amongst people of color in Detroit! How do you balance it all out?

Lex:  I’m not going to lie: it’s hard. But it’s something that I’m learning to balance. It’s funny because whenever I run into people outside of lacrosse they’ll ask me about the sport and the things that we’re doing with our youth teams. Whenever I’m doing things for lacrosse I’ll get asked about music, or some of our players will say they heard my music or saw an interview. And when it comes to the brand I end up talking about everything.  All that to say I feel like I’m getting to a point where everything converges because music, lacrosse, and my brand are extensions of myself as an individual.

Lex the Radical and featured members of Captwolf Collective at Detroit’s 41st Dally in the Alley Festival

OTH!: If I remember right, some of your crew from Captwolf Collective joined you onstage during your Dally 2018 set. Is Captwolf still an ongoing project? Are y’all going to work on more music? Or is the primary focus shifting to Lex the Radical for right now? (I’m aware that you’ve featured Novakain on Lex tracks and that you’ve guest appeared on some of Groovy Armani’s works, too).

Lex: We’re always working on new music even if we’re not announcing stuff on social media. I would tell people to expect all of the above. New Lex, new Groovy, new Kain, new Captwolf period.

OTH!: Honestly, dude, I’m super curious as to your community work in bringing Lacrosse to Detroit Youth via DYL (Detroit Youth Lacrosse). Tell me a little more about this initiative! How did you get your start in the sport and what made you join up with DYL? Is it all, by chance, tied in with the “Choices” you’ve made and the lessons you continue to learn from it all? Or is this some community work and fun that’s not inherently geared toward Lex the Radical’s story?

Lex: Lacrosse is a part of the Lex story because it’s a part of my upbringing. I started playing when my family was living in New Jersey. I lived there from [the time I was] 6 years old up until my freshman year of highschool. My dad wanted me to play a spring sport and I didn’t want to run track, and I didn’t like baseball. At the time I was playing football and basketball, and lacrosse was relatively close to those two, so I chose it. I quickly realized that not a lot of black kids played the sport and I spent the majority of my lacrosse career being the only (or one of two) black players on the team. I always felt like it was important for kids in the city to be exposed to the sport because of the opportunities and experiences it provided me. With that said, my dad (Alex III), Liam McIlroy (Coach Mac), and Yvette Bass, and I came together to start DYL. We want to encourage our players to make positive choices in life by offering mentorship and academic enrichment, and the opportunity to continue to play lacrosse as long as they want. DYL is fun for me because I get to see a glimpse of our next generation of leaders. It’s a part of my story because I want to be able to influence the next generation to do better than mine.

OTH!: So, you’ve witnessed a lot in this year in terms of personal success and growth: from the inception of Lex the Radical, LLC as a brand, to the debut of “No Breaks” on 107.5, to opening the main Alley Stage of Dally in the Alley 2018, and the release of the “Choices” video. As the year comes to a close and 2019 creeps its way around the corner, what is next for Lex?

Lex: That’s a great question. Honestly it’s hard to say. I can say that I have goals that I want to accomplish next year and I have plans to put out new content. My main focus is to build on the foundation I’ve set for my career and create the best experiences I can for new and longtime fans. Whether that’s a pop-up shop, a music video, or an album, I want it to stick with people. I think what’s really next is finding the best mechanism to organize all the ideas in my head. I wish I could tell you what’s been going on with that.

OTH!: Well, Lex, that’s about all the time I have for you! I hate to let you go, but I’m so excited to check back in with you in the near future about all that you’ve been doing! Before I let you go, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Lex: Thank you Katt for doing this interview with me, I really enjoyed this and appreciate you for everything! Also I wanted to shout out my brother JustMyko! He’s making some great music coming out of Memphis, TN- don’t sleep!

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