Beats for US rap stars and ambient solo projects: a conversation with Alex Lustig

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A bedroom producer’s dream is to get credits for major rap artists. Alex Lustig gone there, did that, and now it’s time to go solo.

You might have never heard from Alex Lustig yet, and we don’t blame you. The 25-year-old Antwerp-native favours the studio over the spotlights, making beats for some of the world’s biggest hip hop stars, like French Montana ('Too Much'), Machine Gun Kelly ('Glass House', '5:3666', 'Burning Memories') and Baka Not Nice ('Live Up To My Name'). Recently though, he’s been taking matters into his own hands, demonstrating his abilities as a solo artist. As a classically trained pianist, Lustig has a unique take on hip hop and dance, never straying far away from his first love: ambient music. A brand new release is coming up tomorrow, which will be followed by fresh monthly drops from there on out.

Let’s start by asking how the hell you got credits for rap icons like French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly and Young Thug.

“Those credits came from working and building with different people for years. I had to build my online network with producers, A&R’s and artists with countless messages and emails. It’s about creating the right beats at the right time and having the right people present them to the right artists. It takes a lot of work, planning and a bit of good fortune, but it’s key to make all the pieces fall together”.

How open or closed are artists like these on working with relatively small players like yourself?

“It depends from person to person. Some are open, some more a bit more reserved. So far, though, I’ve had great experiences with everyone I worked with. The vibe and quality you bring is more important than any statistic”.

I was making a lot of different beats I liked, and none of those would get picked by rappers as they were too weird.

Do you prefer the spotlights or are you comfortable as a producer for other artists?

“I don't care much for spotlights, to be honest. I love producing for different artists, and I've enjoyed starting my own projects and releasing stuff on my own. It’s good to be able to be both be a producer and an artist”.

What made you decide to step forward as a solo artist?

“I was making a lot of different beats I liked, and none of those would get picked by rappers as they were too weird. Some artists did try, though, but they couldn’t make it work. That’s why I decided to drop them myself and start exploring that side of myself a little bit more. As soon as I did that, I started getting more inspired. I felt like I had something to show for on my own without having others involved”. 

Ambient music helped me recover from my anxiety.

You are a classically trained pianist. How did your education impact the music you’re making now?

“It definitely impacted my music production, consciously or subconsciously. I can easily create chord progressions and start ideas relatively quickly based on just melodies. Inspiration and creativity are great, but you have to be able to transform them into actual sounds and compositions”.

As a teenager, you suffered from panic attacks - and ambient music helped you get through those. Can you tell us a little more about that?

“I still have anxiety and depersonalization from time to time. But when I was a teenager, it took over my whole life. However, it also opened a whole new way of seeing life around me, and it impacted my music very strongly. In a way, the Room for Thought EP reflects those feelings. It became clear that I had to accept those emotions to progress both as an artist and as a person. There is a way to cope and get through anxiety. Learning more about my condition, meditation and ambient music helped me recover”.

Any other big names you’re going to work with soon? Or what else is in the pipeline?

"I can't say who, unfortunately! But something is coming out very soon that I’m really excited about. Other than that, I’m working on multiple projects in the upcoming months, both solo material and stuff for others. 2020 will be about dropping more music consistently and creating a different kind of collaborations”.