Few artists have had the opportunity to work with heavy-hitting music camps like Curren$y’s Jet Life, or Slim Thug’s Boss Hogg Outlawz. The experiences Houston rapper Le$ soaked up while riding with these independent imprints would give him what he needed to spearhead something on his own, DIOS.
Le$ found agency in his music, which later informed his successful entrepreneurial efforts, like his current clothing and apparel venture.
With his name pronounced “Les," or “L. E. Dolla,” the rapper found his musicality through his deep Southern roots. The H-town repping emcee grew up in New Orleans, but has lived in Texas for a large portion of his life. His Gulf Coast upbringing allowed him to bear witness to the Southern ingenuity that is the Houston hip-hop industry, where rappers are known for opting to remain independent over signing to a label.
He first started to gain notice during the blog-era, which is roughly defined by the mixtapes and albums released around 2009 to roughly 2013. But Le$ is unlike his peers from that pivotal time, his bars aren’t vivid views of street life like Maxo Kream’s, or as gritty as an early Kirko Bangz. No, the music Le$ continually puts out has a way of weaving itself into your mind, leaving the listener with a relaxed feeling, like taking a late-night car cruise around the city. Le$' love for cars has informed a sound unique to him, which draws in a laid-back, west coast aesthetic that you hear in his music to this day.
The fact that he has sustained a career this long as an independent artist, makes Le$’ success even more meaningful. The flagship brand and music label DIOS, an acronym for “Did It Ourselves,” is the perfect symbol of his progression within the music industry.
"We called it Did It Ourselves, but of course, we did it as a unit," Le$ says about his self-sustaining imprint. "It feels good, and I’m proud of it honestly because, in the beginning, it was tough."
Recalling his tenure working with two well-known Southern rap stars (Slim Thug and Curren$y), Le$, 36, says the experiences helped "shape who he is today," and provided him with the necessary tools to truly understand the music business.
Over 10 solo projects later, Le$ -- born Lester Matthews -- is regarded alongside some of Houston’s legendary rap pioneers. Following the release of his Distant EP, a collaboration project with Bun B, the rapper closed out 2021 with the release of his latest effort, a 12-track LP called E30.
The new project, like most of his discography, is influenced by the rapper’s love for regional car culture, and video games. You can readily hear it in the lyricism, and see it in the artwork, and it's where he gets album names like Top Down, E36 and Gran Turismo 2.
His infatuation with cars began long before his rap career, citing the start of the infamous Fast & Furious film franchise, and his time spent reading car magazines in high school.
While Houston’s car customs are most famous for slabs, Le$ found himself enamored with foreign cars. He says that as much as he loved slabs, his roots were in fast imports.
In fact, the inspiration for his latest album came from his comrade and fellow musician DJ Mr. Rogers, who gifted him a BMW E30 in May 2021. Correlating their friendship with the 2002 gangster film Paid in Full, Le$ recalls feeling like “Mitch when Ace surprised him with the beamer,” referencing his new red 1991 325 BMW.
Lyrically, on E30, Le$ stays in his lifestyle rap lane, with relaxed bars and an emphasis on making it on your own. Similar to his heavily streamed Midnight Club (2017), he has high hopes E30 will garner comparable attention. He feels it's his best work in the last 10 years.
The project leans on stellar production from Tavaras Jordan on tracks like "Full Tank," "Chrome Lips," and "Diamonds & Leather." It also has a heavy-hitting roster of features from the likes of Larry June, Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, and Houston’s own bilingual rapper, Bo Bundy.
E30 strengthens the ties between the south and the west through an appreciation for custom cars, something that undoubtedly extends his fan base far beyond Texas.
"My dad was really into cars. I would read magazines like Import Tuner and I grew up seeing Lamborghinis and Ferraris, but that wasn’t really attainable," Le$ tells Houstonia from his Midtown office. "When import culture came out, and you could soup up your Honda Civic or your BMW, that was obtainable, I could do that."