There was a time when hip hop was needed, was necessary, when it was utilized as the only form of expression, the only voice, for an all too under appreciated and almost unknown culture. As the strength of its voice grew so did its impact on the rest of the world. A rise in popularity led to a rise in marketability, and once the rise in marketability positively affected the rise in profitability, mainstream Corporate America capitalized on the movement, and in turn the music, the core, the essence of the genre, declined.
The commercialization of hip hop did however, expand the genre’s sound, reach, and influence across the world. Suddenly being a rapper was the “cool” thing to do, and the internet made the ease of access into the game outright dangerous. Trends became overplayed, beats became overworked, and lyricism all but disappeared. The Artist was lost, and pre-packaged, cookie-cutter rappers we’re being exported in bulk. Hip Hop became, and still is, the most influential musical genre in the world, yet the soul it was founded on had become twisted, and lost in translation.
The soul may have been lost on the world, but never on New Orleans born hip hop artist Le$. Blessed, in a manor of speaking, with ADD, he discovered the art, and the all too addicting nature of music early in life. His short attention span caused him to experiment with different instruments, and eventually he found the appeal, and calming effect of beating on anything at arms reach, and creating a beat. By High School Le$ was apart of the biggest High School drum line in the nation, Saint Augustine, but even that couldn’t keep him off the streets, and away from the trappings that come with that lifestyle.
“I started writing as a way to vent my frustration. I picked up a pen and Five Star notebook at 17, and just wrote. For 2 years I wrote without uttering a word. It was just a release. I thought a person trying to be a rapper was the wackest thing in world. I thought they were just fronting and I didn’t wanna be that. I still don’t. I don’t want to be the token N.O. rapper, the token Houston rapper, shit, even the token southern rapper. I’m not that. Outsiders, even we to an extent, act like we can’t be deeper then the candy paint on our cars and now people are starting to see rap in general the same way. We gotta get away from that.”
In true hip hop fashion, yet another trend has recently taken over the airwaves and TV screens, the fascination with “weed rappers.”
“There’s a big difference between being able to smoke while writing and rapping about smoking weed. Almost all a “token” weed rapper talks about is smoking, selling, or blowing weed. I smoke, but I’m not a weed rapper. If I gotta talk about teen pregnancy, then I’m going to address that issue. I address issues period. I might sing on a hook about smoking because I’m trying to zone out, to really take in and get out what I’m rapping about. But the core of the song is deeper then just getting high.”
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The hook is high because the content is heavy. After moving to Houston from Pre-Katrina New Orleans to attend the University of Houston and pursue a degree in Business, Le$ became all too aware of the costs, both financially and personally, of higher education. But as tuition rates rose the business of survival became a much larger and more daunting priority. Katrina hit, his family moved into his dorm with him, and by his junior year Le$ succumbed to the pull of his true destiny, music.
“If I can be in the studio and create, if I can feed my family and friends, and if I can just touch a few souls, I’ve achieved my purpose in this game.”
Call him what you want, just don’t call him a rapper. The ARTIST known as Le$.