Juicy J’s two Rubba Band Business tapes have gotten a lot of blogger attention, and both have a scattered bunch of great songs on them. I think they epitomize the strengths & weaknesses of Lex Luger’s approach; there’s no question he single-handedly changed the sound of hip-hop in 2010; listening to late-night rap radio in Chicago was all thunderous bass kick edifice beats. There was a tipping point where everyone was no longer simply biting Lex Luger; enough people had imitated him that his beats had become rap music lingua franca, where if you wanted to get radio play in a DJ Pharris set, you had to be able to fit into the Luger blueprint. Lex Luger’s sound became what the breakbeat was to ’92 New York rap, the way the James Brown sample was in ’88. It wasn’t a producer’s sound, it was hip-hop’s sound. Of course, this meant there were an awful lot of indistinct Luger-ish tracks out there (both his and from imitators like Lil Lody). With “600 Benz” and “Gettin Money Part 2” some producers even managed to shift the sound into new & unexpected contexts (pop radio & New York rap radio respectively).
Luger’s twist on the Shawty Redd/Drumma Boy Jeezy trap sound from which he came, I think, has a key rhythmic component; each bass hit seems to let the rest of the music swirl around it, pushing the arrival of the kick drum to the forefront of the listener’s attention. The kick really seems to lead the way, giving the beat a massive, towering feel; it stands out against the sound of a producer like Drumma Boy — who by all measurements is a more skilled, versatile producer — by dwarfing his sound with that hypnotic intensity.
“Smoke That Bitch” is my favorite Luger beat on any of Juicy J’s releases, although “Who Da Neighbors” might be a more memorable song. The background melody actually sounds like Luger trying to capture that tense, minor-key Three-6 production vibe (cf “Sippin on Syrup”). VABP’s verse, meanwhile, has to be an example of the increased reach of Meek Mill shout flow (described with great accuracy by So Many Shrimp contributor Jordan Sargent in his Pitchfork review, although I think he lowballed that score). On a sidenote, I’m also convinced that SMKA’s “Str8 Slammin” off of Freddie Gibbs’ new record is totally Three-6 inspired, with those gothic string-pluck noises going on in the background.
And in case you missed it, here’s my interview with Juicy J for Complex on his 25 essential songs.