Illustrations by Brittney Scott
It’s 2094, on a newly terraformed Mars. Our hero, the rapper Lakutis is barricaded behind a force field that is quickly losing power. He has nine minutes to make it to the escape shuttle buried within the planet’s crust or else the whole shit goes up in flames.
He contemplates his existence, which with every flicker of the force field becomes more and more in danger of being stifled by the cybertronic robot-warriors firing lasers at him. He peeks his head around the wall, trying to get a glimpse of his enemies. They issue a volley of gunfire that reverberates into infinity, threatening to melt his face into his skull. Unperturbed, he pulls back. He surveys the rubble around him, caked with the shit of birds long since eliminated by the robots. They have taken over the colony, gaining sentience and overthrowing all life on the planet. Lakutis is the only survivor.
There are but three robots that remain, blocking him from the shuttle. He collects his thoughts, gathering energy from Mum Ra, the ever-living source of evil. His Jesus Piece is his whole body, his enemies are but chickens like Roy Rogers. He licks his arm, tasting his sweat. He checks his utility belt for ammo. One clip left. Fuck it. He is a death shark. He is a blood eagle. He is the dung that is rolled by the sun beetle. He smells horrible, and he loves it. He fears not the robots.
He takes one last breath, cocks his Eradicator Pistol, and makes a run for it.
Photos by Kevin Shea Adams
In the reality that you and I understand to be true, Lakutis, the rapper Despot, Dapwell of the defunct Das Racist, and I are eating soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown. We’re fresh from Lakutis’s appearance on Dap and Despot’s radio show Chillin’ Island where he was promoting his new record 3 Seashells, recently released on Greedhead music. The show finds the three friends goofing off, playing rap they love, and fielding calls from a cadre of weirdos, including a woman who claims to be on house arrest in Reno, and Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend calling in and pretending to be an Italian man. “Wear as much Been Trill as you want, I’m not afraid of you,” Lakutis says on air. The challenge is a joke, but Lakutis is definitely not to be fucked with—he’s spent time in Thailand studying Muay Thai, and he’s quit drinking and doing drugs in order to train again.
“I feel like I rap good, I look good, and I do weird stuff, but in a good way. I’m a nice, fun Jewish boy, ready to marry your daughter,” Lakutis says. Equally a product of hip-hop, punk rock, the immigrant experience, and Saturday morning cartoons’ ability to warp an otherwise normal brain, Lakutis, as well as 3 Seashells, does a better job of encapsulating the soul of New York than perhaps any other rap release of recent memory.
The saga of Lakutis, born Aleksey Weintraub and referred to as Lex by his friends, begins in Russia. “My parents are from Leningrad, and they ran away from communism to Israel.” From there, his parents moved to Woodhaven, Queens. When he was five, he and his mother moved to a one-bedroom apartment in uptown Manhattan.
“I hated school,” Lakutis says. “I spent most of my teenage years in this kid’s house smoking weed, doing very little. It was like a group home in that we were just there all the time and no one would tell us what to do. My friends were all different creeds and races and shit. Mostly what we had in common was we didn’t have dads.”
During that time, making music was the furthest thing from Lex’s mind. “I hung out on Saint Marks when there was still the death throes of a punk scene. The first time I got fucked up was in a squat where they had punk shows and shit.”
His years in the city have gifted him with more stories than you can possibly imagine, like the time he was drunk and thought Kevin Spacey was trying to touch his dick, and then proceeded to save him from getting beaten up.
“I was working at this restaurant in midtown called Hawaiian Tropic Zone at the time. It’s basically an upscale Hooters. One of the owners was this millionaire club guy, and he’s going to the club and having a little pregame party at his house, so they had me go down and be one of the people that served stuff. I start getting totally wrecked, and then he packs everybody in the car and shoves me in. We go to this club in the meatpacking district, go into some VIP section, and I’m drunk as fuck. I see Kevin Spacey, so I’m like ‘OH SHIT!’
“I start talking to him, and then he's getting kinda handsy. I’m like, ‘Aw hell, no.’ I’m trying to talk to him about regular shit, and he’s like, ‘Lemme touch your dick!’ I get away from him, and I start going around VIP and picking up half-finished drinks on the table and drinking them. I find a bottle of Grey Goose sitting there and I pick it up to drink it, and I guess the owner of the bottle who’s trying to stunt or whatever comes over to me. I’m at the level of drunk where I’m just looking at the guy’s face and can see that he’s mad at me, but I’m like, ‘What the hell man, just lemme have some!’ He’s like, ‘What? Hell no!’ So I just smack the shit out of him, and then like three seconds later these gigantic security guys materialize out of nowhere and surround me. The VIP section’s elevated, so it’s this very cinematic showdown, and Kevin Spacey had seen the whole thing. So he yells down to the security guys, ‘No no! He’s good! He’s with me!’ And they all just leave me alone. I was like, ‘Man. This is gonna be a cool story.’”
In space, no one can hear you scream. But Lakutis is screaming anyway, the cathartic sort of caterwaul that comes directly from his prostate, through his spine, and out of his entire body. The energy wall is down, and he’s running for cover, boulder to boulder, his hair flying, popping shots off from the Eradicator like there’s no tomorrow. If he doesn’t make it to the escape shuttle, there won’t be one.
Two of the robots have rushed him, kicking up dust with their mechanical hooves. Lakutis drops one immediately, hitting the cold killing machine square in the chest. It explodes into flaming shrapnel confetti, tripping the other attacker up and giving our hero enough time to take dead aim with his Eradicator. He smokes him.
One attacker remains between Lakutis and freedom. This one’s smarter than the others; he can see it in its eyes. It turns around and starts making a break for the escape shuttle. It knows.
Lakutis tries to fire another shot. He’s empty. He reaches for his knife with his left hand. Only problem is it’s not there anymore. The hand, that is. Or the limb it used to be attached to. The robots, it seems, have literally disarmed him. But he’s still got one left.
When Lex was 15 or so, he befriended a kid by the name of Ashok, who would later take the name Dap and end up being the hype man for the now defunct Das Racist. When DR became successful, Lex says, “I was still hanging out with a lot of my friends who didn’t do anything. I didn’t realize Das Racist was having any level of success, I just started following them around.”
Every kid who grows up in New York fucks with rap, and Lex spat enough freestyles in the studio around Das Racist for them to take him seriously. “I think he was kind of shy in the studio,” Himanshu Suri of the group tells me, “but he was mad talented. I put him on ‘Rapping 2 U’ and ‘Amazing.’” Himanshu offered to manage him, and soon he was on tour with the group. Still, not even Das Racist themselves had notions that Lex was giving rap a shot in earnest. Dap says, “We went to Europe and brought him along, and we hadn’t really heard anything he’d recorded. We had this stretch in Switzerland, and he played the unmastered version of I’m in the Forest, and I was like ‘Oh, this is pretty good.’”
Lex has little to say about his first project, referring to it as “weird,” but noting he still enjoys “Ja Rule,” his pseudo-cover of Ja Rule’s “Put It On Me.” 3 Seashells is a product of two years of practiced insanity, recorded in relative secrecy with a cadre of producers who managed to create sounds that give an accurate reflection of how Lex’s brain works. Clocking in at a scant 24 minutes, 3 Seashells is wholly a product of Lakutis’s deranged psyche, a jumble of tightly-wound raps, absolutely shit-bombed beats, and anti-hooks that suck you in like the unhinged jaws of the Sarlaac from Return of the Jedi. “I think he’s amazing,” Heems says.
Talking to him, he’s less interested about boasting about how he has flows and bars for days. “I’m trying to make pop music, but it’s not working,” he jokes, adding, “I have no idea how to rap or make music.” He’s more impressed with his ability to replicate Lou Bega’s grunts or how he constantly yells “SKELETON!” in a faux-French accent. There’s something special about the record, something that transcends criticism of Lex as simply “Das Racist’s crazy white rapper friend.” 3 Seashells is something you just need to hear to believe. If you come to the record without an ounce of context, you’ll find yourself faced with questions: Who is this guy? Why is he saying this shit? How can he rap so good? Why is he announcing his presence on “Black Swann” by screaming, “FOOOOOD FIIIIIIGHT!”? Why does he call himself Billy Crystals? Is the hook on “Body Scream” jacked from an unreleased Hall & Oates album recorded in Aleister Crowley’s basement? Does he mean a word of what he’s saying? Why does he claim blood gives him an erection? Where is our god now? Which brings up the most important question of them all—is Lakutis a weird rapper rapping great to hide the fact that he’s weird? Or is he a great rapper acting weird to hide the fact that he’s great?
Commenting on Lakutis’s career, Dap says, “I think he’s a mad good rapper and a compelling human being. On top of that, his end is to be a performing rapper who can have money to have an apartment to eat food. This record is tied into his survival.”
With one arm, one gun, and zero bullets to his name, Lakutis charges. This isn’t about him; now, it’s about the survival of the human race. He tackles the robot head on, like a lion taking down a gazelle whose arm happens to have a built-in laser-cannon. They wrestle, punching each other on the harsh terrain. Lakutis can taste his own blood in his mouth; it sends little orgasms down his spine. He was born to kill this robot.
They’re rolling now, towards a cliff that leads to a Martian ravine. As they fall, Lakutis grins. Using his remaining arm, he punches the robot in the face and the life dims from its face. Lakutis is doomed, but humanity is saved. Falling, he embraces death, his true home. His smile shatters upon the cold, unloving ground. At last, he is free.
Drew Millard is the Features Editor of Noisey. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard
Brittney Scott is an artist based in Los Angeles. Follow her or else - @B666S
Kevin Shea Adams takes photos in New York. He tweets - @KevinSheaAdams