Al and Omayra sit down with LEX The Lexicon Artist to discuss her unique brand of 'weird smart rap'!
Main Photo Credit: Anthony Bongco
AltWire [Omayra]: So what can you tell me about yourself that you want your future fans to know?
Lex the Lexicon Artist: I’m LEX The Lexicon Artist. I write weird smart rap. I’m from Taipei, Taiwan, and currently live in Oakland, California. I started this project to share my unique perspective on the world as a third-culture in-betweener navigating multiple cultural and social intersections in the US. It’s since become my primary vehicle of writing odd, funny, relatable stories of my life through song.
AltWire [Al Gibson]: Why do you consider it weird? Because its unique? Or honestly because its weird to you as well?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: I’ve been told that I have a unique voice (literally and figuratively) and that my perspective and approach isn’t one that’s very common in music. I personally think it’s weird because I look weird and do weird things on stage. There’s not exactly a way for me to look like a “real rapper” and feel like I’m being authentic, so I’m just true to myself and the things I do and say in all my weird glory. As a kid I never fit into any cliques, so now I want all the oddballs to feel like they belong.
AltWire [Omayra]: Have you dealt with any criticism because of your rap style? If so, how have you handled it?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: Actually and thankfully, I haven’t. I’ve performed in front of many different types of crowds, from rock to “gangsta rap” to conscious hip-hop to even stand-up comedy fans, and I find that my style of rap actually speaks to something in each of those groups. It’s been nice to know that my music transcends genre well and is appealing to a diverse range of tastes. I know it’s coming, though. As an Asian American doing rap, there’s going to be at least one person who thinks I’m culturally appropriating. I’d like to think that I’m not – one of my rules is to never pretend to have had experiences that I’ve never had, or wear or say anything that doesn’t feel authentic. That’s why I don’t wear “hip-hop fashion” or put on an accent. I have respect for the roots of hip-hop, AND I’m using the spoken form of rap to make something that’s true to me, across a variety of sound palettes. Despite that, there will still be people who say I’m a poser, that I’m a joke, that I’m an appropriator, that I’m “not real hip hop”. People can say things. I don’t have to listen.
AltWire [Al]: That is an amazing way to think and I’d like to see more music creators think that way. Especially in these days of uniformity becoming the standard, as opposed to being viewed as ground-breaking because you’re different. Do you feel as if the music industry is taking a turn for the worse? Or are we witnessing a transition time where the best is yet to come?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: Thank you! I don’t think it’s taking a turn for the worse. It never has – trend bubbles like dubstep (2013) and trap (today) always pop, and good music always stays good. As far as musical trends, I think we’re seeing a revival of organic instruments. I opted to work with Klopfenpop because his production incorporates very organic sounds and he has a solid musical background in many live instruments, often playing them for collaborators in live shows. When I do live shows, I do them with a band because it has such a bigger visual and sonic impact and presence. I think people are gradually getting tired of producers spamming 808 hi hats, and they’re turning back to the sounds of live drums and guitars again. It obviously still needs to sound modern, but I think the most successful up-and-coming musicians are the ones who are taking advantage of that trend and combining it effectively with electronic production – one example I can think of would be London’s AKA George.
AltWire [Omayra]: So your song, “artist anthem”, relates to many artists. Was this song based on your personal journey?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: Yeah. It was a weird idea. It stemmed from a conversation with a friend where the conclusion was that I actually had really low self-esteem despite my artist persona saying otherwise. Being an entertainer gives me a lot of anxiety and is certainly not the easiest life to live. But at the end of the day I’d much rather have a shot at success and fulfillment than be “normal” or in a 9-5, which is reflected in the end of the music video.
AltWire [Omayra]: What advice would you give to up and coming artists going through this process?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: Be collaborative, not competitive. People can like both Kanye and Eminem – in fact, most hip-hop fans do. Just because someone’s in your scene and similar to you doesn’t mean they’re “stealing fans from you”. In fact, their fans are even more likely to be your fans. Work with your peers and be a part of different scenes. You’ll have a much wider reach than if you limit yourself to one pool of artists/fans.
Be fun live. Energy is everything. When fans see shows, the biggest thing they’ll remember is how your performance made them feel. Have great lyrics and music, and a killer stage show, and people will be talking about you to their friends after they leave. Making sure you’re reaching new people through the live medium is one of the best ways to build a following as you move forward.
AltWire [Omayra]: That’s great advice! So what are some personal hobbies you enjoy?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: I like to joke that there’s pretty much nothing to my life other than music. It’s about half-true. I’m also a theater fan, so I like seeing plays and musicals. My not-so-secret dream is to be a lead actor in a musical. I like writing, too. That’s where I got my creativity started. I still want to write a best-selling novel and regularly come up with ideas that are very much LEX ideas, but in novel form.
AltWire [Al]: When can we expect to hear more from you? Is there an album in the works?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: Yep. I’m working on my debut self titled LP, The Lexicon Artist. This is the lead single. The album will be done by the summer, probably May, maybe later. Until then, look out for more singles from the album dropping as the date approaches. I’ve also been releasing remix albums of my previous work on LEX is More, and the next one, Glasses, will be out sometime before then, too. I’m looking forward to a productive first half of the year!
AltWire [Omayra]: We all look forward to more music, but before we close do you have a message you’d like to send to your fans and our readers?
LEX The Lexicon Artist: Thank you, Omayra and Al, for having me on. You can find me on every streaming platform, on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram as lextheconartist. Same for Klopfenpop! I’m stoked for everyone to hear what’s coming. And for any fans outside the San Francisco Bay Area – if you want me to come to your city, send me a message and I’d love to make it happen. Thank you again!