Texas Rapper Le$ Has Star Power … So Why Is He Nervous?
Photo: Jay Tovar

Photo: Jay Tovar

Le$, a 27-year-old rapper from Louisiana now living in Texas, is sitting in a wire chair on the backyard patio of a restaurant eyeballing a cat while eating chicken-fajita tacos. He and his tacos are in Houston, the city where he’s lived for the last ten years, and they are accompanied by chips and salsa and lemonade.

The soft sunlight of the early evening pre-sunset is catching the specs of hazel in his irises. His eyes aren’t glowing, but they’re also not not glowing. His shirt matches his shorts (both read “Houston Sippers,” a play on the NBA franchise LA Clippers) and his socks match his Vans sneakers. His watch is a curious gold Timex that can only obliquely be classified as functional accoutrerment, given that he’s flicking his finger at his phone every few minutes. His hat has “Short Texas” written across it in Olde English letters. His hair is neat. And his neck and arms are covered in tattoos. In this specific context (and probably basically every other context, were we to guess), he is casually handsome and aggressively cool. He very much looks like the rap star he’s going to be soon. And he very much looks like the rap star he’s going to be soon in the exact manner in which he’ll get there.

Over the past eighteen months, Le$ has watched his profile grow tenfold, his rising clout tied to the gentle rainstorm of mixtapes he’s released since his breakout project in November 2011, the superheroically lush Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2. While Texas has no shortage of talented and capable rappers, none of them, NONE OF THEM, sound like Le$. He is a meta aesthete, concerned only with creating a very specific sound.

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“This was the first time I stayed away from anyone while I was making a tape,” says Le$. “Like, I was still talking to them, but I was trying to work on it just me so it’d sound exactly like I wanted it to. When it came out, this was the most nervous I’ve ever been about people hearing my music. I didn’t know what they were gonna say.”

His tapes sound like if you’re standing in a container of dayglo paint. His tapes sound like if you liquified a jazz saxophone. His tapes sound like if you drove your car up off of the Earth’s cold terra firma and straightthefuck into a nebula. They’re all one great, big, warm squish of vibrations. There are rarely any awkward moments and NEVER any stilted shifts. They all just sort of bleed into the next, a circularity uncommon in all but the very best in honeyed, sunburnt rap.

And that’s exactly what he looks like sitting in his chair eating his tacos making jokes about a cat and answering interview questions. As such, through more than an hour of a half of talking, only one question and response seems important. Not how he turned a chance encounter with a prominent Texas DJ (Mr. Rogers) into a roster spot on Slim Thug’s Boss Hogg Outlawz. Not how his YouTube views have heedlessly wandered into the six-figure bracket. And not how his most recent tape, E36, earned an XL rating from XXL. Only this:

How? How does one arrive at this sound, this look, this persona all bundled into this existence? What are the things that have to happen in one’s life for said person to arrive here creatively? How is this the noise that comes out of you?

Photo: Jay Tovar

Photo: Jay Tovar

It’s not that much, but it equals up to a whole lot.

“It’s just a combination of all the things I listened to growing up,” says Le$, his voice a medium-level buzz, before running through a list of musicians that ranges from jazz purists (“My dad used to play jazz in the car while he drove around; I liked it”) to regional superheroes (“I’m from Louisiana so of course there was the Hot Boyz and UGK and that”). “I want them all to fit together. I wanna connect them. I wanna make music that I want to hear and sometimes that’s music that nobody else is making yet.”

“It all moved pretty fast,” he says, glancing back at the cat, which has moved several steps closer.

“There’s nothing left,” he says to the cat. “It’s just some chips. Sorry.”

He actually sounds empathetic.

“Man, when I went to go get my drink, when I was coming back I just saw this tail walking by the table,” he says. “And he wasn’t running away. He was just strolling away like, ‘I’ma let you make it’. He doesn’t give a fuck.”

He laughs.

The cat, such an unlikable thing, doesn’t do anything. He just lays there, his tongue falling out of his mouth from laziness.

He doesn’t get it. Cats can’t see color this bright.

Download E36 via LiveMixTapes and stream it below: 

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