Craig S. Lawson, better known by his stage name KLC “The Drum Major,” is a Grammy-nominated music producer from New Orleans. Lawson rose to fame during the 1990s as leader of the No Limit Records in-house production team, Beats by the Pound, serving as a key figure in the creation of the label’s signature sound. Lawson’s discography includes many of No Limit’s biggest hits, including “Make ’Em Say Uhh!” by Master P (1997), “I’m Bout It, Bout It” by Master P and Mia X (1995), and “Down 4 My N’s” by Snoop Dogg and Magic (1998). Lawson is widely considered one of the most influential hip-hop producers of all time.
Lawson was born on July 15, 1969, in New Orleans’s Third Ward. Growing up in the Melpomene Housing Project in a musical family (his father played saxophone), Lawson showed early signs of being a musical prodigy, particularly excelling in percussion. The influence of drum patterns of the city’s high school and college marching bands, New Orleans’s “parade beat” sound, and New Orleans funk were all central to the development of Lawson’s style. Lawson’s mother gave her son broken drumsticks to play with, and he earned the nickname “The Drum Major” before he joined the Samuel J. Green Middle School marching band as a percussionist.
Lawson’s first major successes in music came as a member of 39 Posse, an early and influential New Orleans rap group. While still in his teens, he also cofounded his first record label, Parkway Pumpin’ Records, with friend Dartanian “MC Dart” Stovall. Lawson named the label after the street to which his family had moved years before, and where the label was operated out of the ground floor of his family’s home. Actual recordings were few, notably including 39 Posse’s 39 Automatic (1993) and Soulja Slim’s Dark Side (1994). Yet the caliber of artists and associates of the label was extraordinary, including Soulja Slim, Fiend, Mac, Mystikal, and Mr. Serv-On. Much of rap producer Master P’s initial roster for No Limit, which he relocated to New Orleans from California in 1995, would come from Parkway Pumpin’.
As part of Beats by the Pound, Lawson produced a nearly endless stream of hits for No Limit Records, including Mia X’s Good Girl Gone Bad (1995). The next few years would see Lawson’s masterful production on Master P’s classics Ice Cream Man (1996) and Ghetto D (1997), Mystikal’s Ghetto Fabulous (1998), C-Murder’s Life or Death (1998), Snoop Dogg’s No Limit Top Dogg (1999), and dozens of others. In 2001 Lawson was nominated for two Grammy Awards for his work on Mystikal’s Tarantula and Ludacris’s Word of Mouf. By this time Lawson and Beats by the Pound had split with No Limit, citing gross financial misconduct.
After leaving No Limit, Lawson continued to produce independently for a who’s who of southern rap’s biggest recording artists, including Juvenile, David Banner, B.G., T.I., Bun B, and Scarface. Over the years Lawson’s work has been sampled widely, including by Kanye West, who used Lawson’s classic C-Murder track, “Down 4 My N’s” for his 2013 recording, “Blood on the Leaves.”
Lawson continues to produce both individually and together with the Medicine Men, a new name for the same production team that comprised Beats by the Pound, out of his Baton Rouge studios. Despite boasting a discography of major hits and helping popularize southern rap to global audiences, Lawson is a quiet figure who grants few interviews and rarely speaks about his work to the press.
Cite This Entry
Chicago Manual of Style
Hobbs, Holly. "KLC." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published January 5, 2014. http://www.knowla.org/entry/1961/.
Hobbs, Holly. "KLC." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 5 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.
Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?
Miller, Matt. 2012. Bounce: Rap Music and Local Identity in New Orleans. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.
Sarig, Roni. Third Coast: OutKast, Timbaland, and How Hip-Hop Became a
Southern Thing. New York: Da Capo Press, 2007.
Sublette, Ned. “Whips and Ice.” In The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New
Orleans, 211–227. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill, 2009.
Westhoff, Ben. Dirty South: OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2011.