Lex Masters had started life as a small-time rapper on the streets of Queens, New York, before turning his attention to the much wider YouTube crowd. His theatrical look and quickfire ‘off the dome’ freestyles quickly caught the attention of Detroit rap duo Twiztid, who were still in the early days of setting up their Majik Ninja Entertainment record label after leaving Psychopathic Records.
He went on to become the first artist signed to MNE and became known as Lex the Hex Master—The Shadow King. He was soon accepted amongst fans of the theatrical rap sub-genre and continued to release a steady flow of dark and gritty mixtapes, not to mention the EPs and albums featuring guest appearances from some of the biggest names in horrorcore.
We spoke with Lex the Hex Master, after his set at the UK Valentine’s Day Bash in Manchester, back in February 2020. The event, hosted by Beyond Brutal, was unique in that it was setting the scene for other established US horrorcore artists to wet their feet in the British alternative rap arena. As popular as the music is on our small island, it largely goes unnoticed by the American forefathers of horror rap. However, in a first for this country, Manchester-based promoters Beyond Brutal were set to end this drought.
Bringing popular names such as face-painted recording artists Blaze Ya Dead Homie and the R.O.C (once headline acts on Psychopathic Records,) set to join other leaders of the American and British underground on-stage in Manchester for the 10th Annual UK Juggalo Gathering—but then COVID-19 happened.
For the uninitiated, horrorcore is a sub-genre of rap that thrives on bloody theatrics and horror-filled imagery. The lyrics can be brutal, violent and controversial. Legends such as Gravediggaz, Brother Lynch Hung and Esham were pioneers of the style, (although Esham preferred the term acid-rap.) Its biggest stars today are the Insane Clown Posse, who with their label: Psychopathic Records, brought the underground to the mainstream and along with it, the rise of fans known worldwide as Juggalos. Artists such as Eminem, Tech N9ne, Bone Thugs n Harmony and Wu-Tang have all dabbled in horror fused lyrics to great effect, proving its popularity in the mainstream.
We found Lex winding down at the afterparty. Sipping on mineral water, wearing a stab-proof vest (a tongue in cheek accessory from the event organisers) and still wearing his signature face paint, although it was now smeared post-performance. Lex was a focus of attention amongst the revellers and appeared at home surrounded by the legion of face-painted fans. It was here we found him discussing his love for British comedy.
“I love UK television, man,” he began. “We can’t get enough of it over there. I’ve seen nearly every episode of Keeping Up Appearances, Mrs Bucket is the shit, she actually reminds me a lot of an Aunt I have. I love Red Dwarf and Mr Bean, of course. Mr Bean is big everywhere.”
I was surprised to hear how Hyacinth Bucket (allegedly pronounced Bouquet) had transcended the realms of ’90s TV Gold re-runs, to end up on the watchlist of a face painted rapper from NYC. I was also quick to point out that Mrs Bucket and her snobbish social aspirations are not a true reflection of the typical British folk.
“The British people are really friendly and open,” he said amid spits of laughter. “They show mad love for me. I always get a really good response. It’s been dope, I’ll always come back here. With US tours you end up doing the same venues, seeing the same people over and over again, two or three times a year. That’s why ticket sales are dwindling for certain artists back home because they do the same shit over and over. It’s safe. They’re like; ‘we know this show’s gonna sell out, let’s play here again’.”
Lex was already a popular YouTube rapper when he quickly got himself a record deal. Jumping on to the Juggalo culture seemed like an easy win for a rapper like Lex, but it wasn’t an intentional marketing ploy, “Well, I was promoting my own music already, painting my face and shit. I was performing as Lex Masters. I had never really heard much about the Juggalo culture, I never heard of it at all actually.
“But the Juggalos had really started fucking with my music, like hard. They were liking it and sharing it and shit. They started showing me mad love, you know what I’m saying? So eventually, I get a message from Twiztid, from their Twitter page, like ‘Hey! We like your shit; we want to talk to you.’ I messaged them back and we start talking over a couple of weeks and they’re like ‘yeah we wanna fly you to Detroit for a meet and greet; see what you about, see if you like what we doing’.”
It was the first big step in an engrossing career, “I flew out and I was really impressed. They said, ‘we want you to sign with us’ and I was like ‘Fuck yeah man!’,” things were moving quickly for Lex. Soon enough he was being put on record too.
“They gave me a beat and a hook and said, ‘write a verse to that’ So, I did, I sent it back, it was ‘They Call Me Gangsta’ with Blaze and R.O.C. I flew back out to Detroit a few months later to shoot the video.” It was the start of a whirlwind which was about to put Lex into an even bigger spin.
Lex was then asked to be Direct Support on Blaze Ya Dead Homie’s Casket Factory Tour. Admittedly, he didn’t know what that meant. He laughs: “I had never been on tour in my entire life. But I came to find that that it’s important shit, you know what I’m saying? Direct Support means I’m on right before Blaze.”
Life on the road is tough and it needs dedication, something Lex has in spades. “Every night you’re out on stage and hear everybody screaming they love you. They want you to sign shit and take pictures with you. It’s good, but it’s work. You miss home, miss your family. You miss the regular life but it’s a double standard”.
The touring life may be arduous but it does provide one of the cleanest highs in the game, “Every night you’re like ‘I can’t wait to get home and see my family.’ but then when the tour is over and you’re home it’s so quiet, and it’s like you don’t mean shit no more. Your family still sees you as regular old ass you, you’re not a superstar, nobody cares where you were just at, you know”.
As the previously unknown genre of horrorcore becomes more and more important to a wider set of people, is the state of the scene in a healthy place? “It’s all repackaged and rebranded. Other dudes have been doing it for a long time. Esham gets almost no props even though 95% of horrorcore rappers are taking from his formula. Before anybody, he was doing his own thing.”
For Lex though, things are a little bit different. He doesn’t need to bite on any other rappers because, for him, the scene is ingrained in his personality, his attraction to the darker side of life an inevitability. “I have always loved dark music, theatrics, drama, just the look of it all. But now I don’t really listen to nobody. If I listen to rap music, it’s mostly my own music”.
It’s not a process of self-fellatio when Lex listens to his own work, it’s a challenge to better himself. “That’s what I compete with. It’s a constant battle I have with myself. I don’t understand the tempo these kids are rapping to, or the things they talk about.” It seems as though the figures of today are happier being a passive member of the culture, “When I was growing up, being a drug dealer was the fucking thing, now it’s all about being a drug user. I don’t get that shit.”
The new album, Party Castle, is the first of a four-part series and it’s about to get real loose in here, as Lex tries to brighten the mood a little. “This album is about all about having fun. I feel that with all that is going on right now, people need to have more fun. People wanna get out, they wanna party and let off steam. That’s what this four-part series is about: having the time of your fucking life.”
The first of four parts hints that there’s a lot more to come from Lex, “Why am I releasing Four? It’s easier to work that way. Rather than have one album out and be like that’s done. I’d rather work continuously in bringing out new music. Put it out in four parts, keep the momentum going, have fun.”
A simple mantra from one of the most twisted voices in the game.