Jim Legxacy is an all-rounder, someone who plays with the parametres of hip hop in a formally inventive way. A singer, rapper and producer, he has just put out two singles that are part of his sophomore EP BTO!, the clear-cutting ‘4LeafClover’ and almost duet-like orchestral track ‘PowerTrip!. At 21 years old, the South East London artist has already released a widely-loved EP Dynasty Program, a sonic multiverse that simultaneously combines every day sounds like London buses with the musings of an Alexa-ish virtual assistant who’s in the process of calibrating a system. This is one of the traits that bring such originality to what Legxacy does: his ability to weave the conceptual into magnified tales of his life so far, while at the same time sounding like about four different people in one song.
We meet in London Fields - a place sentimental to him because it’s where he had his first studio session - to discuss his music along with other topics such as structural inequality, and methods of escapism.
Politics is integrated into everything,
even into falling in love
Thinking back on your first releases like ‘Plethora’ to your most recent ones, ‘4LeafClover’ and ‘PowerTrip!’, would you say the vulnerability in your songs has shifted?
With my first project, I was very eighteen, in uni and there was so much going on. I didn’t know how to react to all these intense emotions that were coming. It was raw expression. In my old stuff, I was sad and angry in the same song. With the new music, I’m starting to understand how to distill more, like ‘here is me being angry’ or ‘I understand sorrow, this is me expressing that now’…I’m separating more.
I do think it’s interesting though how you talk about a range of topics all in one, like in ‘Ego V5’ you detail being ‘heartbreak kid’, rappers selling bricks as an example of being trapped in the system before the importance of being careful of the circles around you. It’s this brilliant synthesis.
They all link. Politics is integrated into everything, even into falling in love – like if you fall in love with someone who is upper class there’ll be effects upon you, or with someone of a different race, having to go and meet their parents. With Dynasty [Program] it’s all connected, although it would be like a political song in one place and a love song in another, moving into a song about loneliness, they all told a story of cause and effect. The reason I feel lonely is because of this, do you know what I mean?
Your debut EP Dynasty Program: A Metrical Composition Inspired by the Nights Spent As the Raiider has a really interesting narrative flow. You end it on the line, ‘one last chance to vent before the Dynasty Program is initiated’ which is so powerful. I’ve heard it described as a playlist more than an EP but actually I feel like it’s one big soundscape. How do you view it?
I like that. I think for me, I referred to it as a metrical composition because it speaks to this sense of seeing the patterns between stories – putting stuff together and sellotaping feelings. After I finished it, it was really difficult for me to make stuff because I feel like I spoke about everything. What do I talk about now? I really had to look at myself, and grow up a bit and go outside…go to the zoo - I went to the zoo – and do loads of cool things. When I came back, the music started flowing naturally.
With my latest song ‘PowerTrip!’, it illustrates my relationship with capitalism as a lower class Black man. The chain of exploitation that is inherent to how people get up there. The song is about the anger you get when all you want is a better life for yourself.
I only started listening to rap in 2017. Everything I know about rap is from doing my research
Your production style is so versatile. You have the gospel high almost Kanye choral moments in songs like ‘System Calibrating…’ and then metal-style vocal distortions elsewhere. What influences the way you build your tracks?
Sometimes I listen back to System Cal and think ‘damn, I was really sad’. You can hear it in the vocal tones, singing, and production. That was definitely a lot of Kanye I was listening to. I listen to some songs on repeat even if I hate them if I like an aspect of the song, like the drums. I’ll put the song on my playlist until I work out how to take what I want from the song.
My early stuff is kinda boom bap-y and I used to say a lot of words, I’d rap at you for five minutes without much melody. That’s because of what I was listening to, songs like this 8-minute one from Dot Rotten, ‘Real Talk’, I used to listen to that on my way to school. You can see the transition from that to Bon Iver. One of the main things for me is development, I want to look back at my discography in five years time and dislike some of it but be glad for what it grew into.
It’s hard for me lately to find a conscious rapper that makes music on a beat that I like, I want to find more of that blend in my sound between delivering a complex message that you can listen to casually and something that has a beautiful sound. With metal, I don’t listen to that much anymore but I do love it and it has influenced me. I only started listening to rap in 2017. Everything I know about rap is from doing my research, and then I started to rap. I worked back and became the student, Nas…Mos Def. I’ve been trying to expand and listen to other stuff like Kate Bush. The women of hip hop are about to run the whole thing. So many I could name, right now I'm listening to a lot of Flo Milli.
How do you feel the industry affects the music that artists make?
I think rap is getting gentrified. I’m cautious of how the industry is geared towards making music for the white male gaze. I don’t necessarily think it represents Black people higher up the apparatus.
'4LeafClover' and 'PowerTrip!' are part of your sophomore EP, BTO! – could you tell me what the writing process for the project was like?
BTO! was made around a time when I was working night shifts, at university full-time, and making music. One of the main objectives that I wanted to delve into slightly was Afropessimism (something I’ll be exploring even more in my next project). Sonically, I was trying to merge elements of indie music and trap together. In the song ‘Despite Pain’ there’s an indie drum loop that one of my boys put together for me. The project in itself is very short, very straight to the point. The tonality of the whole thing is a lot more fierce. Lyrically, I was trying to touch on different things like '4LeafClover' touched on my relationship with escapism, while ‘Despite Pain’ looks at pain through the lens of racial struggles and politics. Overall, I was specifically looking at anger, rage, and frustration with this project.
Could you share on some of the vision that you mention in your music, in songs like ‘Raiider’?
Overall, I want to provide safe spaces for people who don’t have those. Not just in my music but beyond. I know what it’s like to not be in a safe space. That’s the goal. Rap is the gateway to that, right? It tends to be for a lot of people that look like me which is upsetting sometimes – but at the end of the day I’m enjoying myself on this journey. So yeah, creating lots of cool stuff for people who don’t have cool stuff.
You touch on childhood a lot in your music, and struggling in childhood. How do you find it going back to those topics in your work?
Music has helped me adjust to the fact of things that aren’t okay in childhood. I think adulthood is taking off those rose-tinted glasses we had as children that we wore and said, ‘this is okay, I’m going to play with my toys’ but as you get older those glasses come off and you start to remember certain things for what they are.
Your music often uses the imagery of comics, superheroes and the Doctor Dooms of the world. Does that come from a place of escapism?
100%. There are so many characters I grew up with – Spiderman, Justice League, Power Rangers…It was ultimate escapism for me. That’s why I love MF DOOM so much. He’s someone who it seems those things served as escapism and justification for his message. Being able to take those characters and see yourself inside them is so powerful. That’s why I am less and less inspired by real artists nowadays, whereas fictional characters and the people I’m close to in my every day inspire me much more. You get to see their flaws. With fictional characters you can dissect them, and with people that you’re close to, you can see the bad and the good. I still am inspired by loads of artists and I will give my flowers but nowadays I’m transitioning out of being a superfan. I prefer looking for experiences elsewhere, even in depictions of fictional characters growing up.
With songs such as 'Despitepain!' you are delving deeper into racial inequality and systemic injustice. How does this relate to your writing on Afropessimism?
Yeah 'Despitepain!' definitely confronts these issues and I think the constant shift in the vocals tries to emphasise volatility of experiences can come about based on how u look. But I am definitely going to be exploring more on 'Afropessimism' in my next EP.
You've mentioned in passing that you spent a particularly long time on the production for 'PowerTrip!'. What were your main priorities with getting the sound right for the whole project?
Honestly for the whole project, I wanted to have my production in the forefront, that was the main priority. I spent so long trying to advance my abilities as a producer overall, and working with Jay Mooncie and Wayward allowed me to experiment with new sounds and learn loads too.
––– Follow Jim Legxacy on his socials and listen to his latest single 'PowerTrip!' here: