Xzibit: The Son Rises

On May 11, 2008 at 4:01 am, Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner welcomed a

newborn son, Xavier Nathaniel Joiner, to the world. The Likwit

Crew member and veteran West Coast Rap artist actually announced the child’s

birth via MySpace on May 24, noting he was writing the message from the

hospital, where he had been since Xavier’s premature birth. A couple of days

later sad news would be delivered, again via MySpace; on May 26 at 3:30 a.m. his

son passed away.

 

“You can have all the

material wealth in the universe but it is NOTHING compared to having your

family,” wrote Xzibit in the May 26th entry, adding that he

obviously needed time to handle his loss. So when in early ‘09 the rapper/actor

is asked if he is looking forward to the year he readily says, “You better

believe it, man,” while adding, “’08 was kind of tough.” Consider Xzibit’s career trajectory a case study on the cliché— made

into a hit by Kanye West—whatever doesn’t kill

you makes you stronger.

 

Xzibit rhymed his way to mainstream prominence via years of

toil in the rap underground, when it meant actually putting in work. That said,

only the unfamiliar doubted Mr. X to the Z would persevere through turbulent

times. Off the strength of his work with L.A. housed rap outfit Tha Alkaholiks, Xzibit secured a

deal with Loud Records, finding himself labelmates

with acts like Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep. Sporting a

rugged delivery smoothed by agile lyricism the House that Steve Rifkind built released his debut, At the Speed of Life, in 1996. 40

Dayz & 40 Nightz,

which spawned the hit “What U See Is What U Get,” would follow a couple of

years later.

 

Xzibit “What U See Is What U Get” Video

 

 

“I mean it was eight years between The

Chronic albums, why y’all trippin’?!”

While his rep for top-notch lyricism was firmly established,

it would be a guest verse on Snoop Dogg’s Dr. Dre produced “Bitch Please” single in 1999 that put the

battery in the back of X’s career. The breakthrough bars meant an alliance with

the good Doctor, who would go on to executive produce two subsequent Xzibit

albums, Restless (2000) and Man Vs. Machine. X would also appear on

Dr. Dre’s opus The

Chronic 2001.

 

Says X, “You get a call like that and then you come in and

blast off…that’s why Dre was f**king with me. I never

been signed to Aftermath [or] Interscope. All my

records have been done across the street, meaning for the competition. For Dr. Dre to do three records, executive produced, production and video…”

 

Speaking of, what’s up with Detox anyway? “Hey man, it’s coming,” says X. “I mean it was eight years

between The Chronic albums, why y’all

trippin’?!

[laughing] Everybody bitches and complains but then

when the s**t comes out it’s, ‘Aww man, that n***a Dre man, he came with that s**t.’ Why you doing it to

yourself? Just sit back and relax.”

 

Alright, okay. But are YOU on the

album? “I know just as much as you do bruh,” he

admits. “All I can do is go to the studio, put my best foot forward and hope

when the artwork come out my name is on it.” [laughing]

 

Snoop Dogg f/ Xzibit “B*tch Please”

 

 

LET’S START THE SHOW

Since breaking into the rap game 14 or so years ago, Xzibit

has kept a non-stop schedule. Six albums to date, along with touring to support

said releases, means constant hustling. In addition to the music is the

respectable acting career Mr. Joiner is carving out for himself. Since

appearing and portraying a blue collar rapper in Eminem’s

8 Mile, Xzibit has had roles in films

ranging from a detention center counselor in Gridiron Gang with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to a FBI Agent in X-Files: I Want to Believe. Hollywood

has been friendly to the X-Man, even if it’s still a shady club.

 

“Hollywood is weird,” begins X. “In Hip-Hop they don’t give

you no rope at all. You gotta fight and scrap for what you get.  But in movies they’ll give you enough

rope to either pull yourself up or hang yourself. I say no to more s**t than I

actually say yes to. It’s important to be selective. It might be obvious to us

that we can do different things as far as portraying characters in films. But

they still see us like, ‘Okay, she’ll be the killer, he’ll be the thug and

he’ll be the drug dealer.’ I say no to that s**t all day long. I’m in a unique

position, why spoil it with doing more of the same?”

 

Then there is also the reality of rappers being stereotyped

as thugs who rhymed their way out the hood. So even when a rapper turned actor

is at the boardroom table, he or she is not necessarily taken

seriously by industry gatekeepers. “Just because I come from Hip-Hop and

I come into a room and I can articulate what I’m trying to say and I’m not

sitting there saying “uh” every two words people are like, ‘Wow, that’s

great’,” says X. “I mean, what did you expect you racist son of a bitch?! It’s a lot of backhanded compliments in Hollywood but I

just take it with a grain of salt. I’m happy with what I’ve done so far.”

 

Besides thriving in Hollywood, X also made a mark on your

television screen. While reality TV nowadays is as ubiquitous as angry

Republicans, when MTV debuted Pimp My

Ride in 2004 with Xzibit serving as host, no one imagined the phenomenon a

show that turned hoopties into fly whip autos would

become. “What I was doing for most of my career before the show was a sharp

contrast. And that’s why it worked,” says says X of Pimp My Ride, which would air for six

seasons (over three years). “As long as the show was on TV…it did a lot of good

for me and made a lot of people happy, so that part I’m definitely proud of.”

 Pimp My Ride

Nevertheless, Xzibit is fully aware that he received some

hate for the very contrast he just mentioned. He says, “I hear people like, ‘Ahh, he shouldn’t have did Pimp My Ride cause now I can’t listen to his music.’ I can’t really

get mad at people for their opinion. I think that what I did on the show was

just an extension of how I treat my friends and family. I just joke a lot. I

didn’t feel as though I was selling myself out in order to get popularity. I

didn’t know that show was going to do what it did, nobody did. My time could

have been spent a little differently but my dedication to the music was always

there.”

 

Xzibit’s devotion to his music

meant keeping a non-stop recording pace. Even throughout the film and TV

successes he was still releasing albums (Weapons

of Mass Destruction (2004), Full

Circle (2006)) while continually performing to support the new music. “When

I was filming Pimp My Ride I didn’t

have time to actually go tour, so that hurt me a lot,” admits X. “Usually I put

out a record every two years, I tour for the whole summer or however many

months I need to go out. and then I come back and work on another record.

That’s been my whole m.o. for like ten years.” Xzibit “Front 2 Back” Video

 

But the death of his son, along with the additional perspective it gave him,

brought all that to a halt. “I spent the last decade doing stuff in the name of

being Xzibit and hustling and grinding for my family,” he says. “It wasn’t

until that happened where it was like, ‘None of this is more important than the

time I can spend with [family].’”

 

Spending time with family is tantamount, no doubt, but so is

providing for them. So what made X get back in career mode? “Well, my agents

was like, ‘Man you gotta go

to f**king work,” he admits with a hearty chuckle. He also adds that the

unfortunate situation his family experienced made him take note of who was

really riding with him out of friendship, or convenience. “I was in the hospital,

me and my lady, for close to two months.,” reveals X. “Didn’t

none of my so called n****s come visit me while I was there. When it’s time to

smoke a blunt, pop the bottles and chase the bitches, them n****s is deeper

than the Wu-Tang. A lot of people defined who and what they are to me over the

last few years, and I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem

with is people taking lightly when I come back and say something like that and

then you know, it’s just taken with a grain of salt. I

know exactly how to put them into context now.”

 

The resulting insight surrounding friends and family,

and life in general will have an immediate impact on his music, according to X.

“It definitely fuels me creatively,” he asserts. “I communicate best in my

music. I feel accomplished the most in music. It’s gonna effect it to the point where I not only have

some more to say but I gotta be serious. If I got a

voice that people listen to, then I might as well say something that I feel

that I’m going to be able to listen to ten years from now and say I’m glad I

said that because no one else did.”

 

Broaching substantial topics in rhymes has long been an

Xzibit staple. Tracks like the haunting treatise on fickle rappers that is

“Paparazzi,” the resolute “What U See is What U Get” or the fan appreciative

tune “Thank You” prove the artist plies his trade seriously. Surely more multifaceted

music can be expected from his upcoming work as well. “We got enough

advertising rap,” he says. “N****s is just rapping about their clothes and

their shoes, we got that. Even if I come out and say something that I feel is

important to me, hopefully somebody else can relate to it. But I’m not going to

follow the leader. I’m not going to follow the trends, that ain’t it. I just got some real s**t to say, as usual.”

 Xzibit “Thank You” Video

Xzibit has begun working on his seventh album, which is as yet

untitled. He doesn’t even have a recording home for the project just yet, but has

crept onto some guest spots recently (“Don’t Ya Dare

Laugh (Remix)” with B-Real & Young De). He also has long embrace the power of the Internet by keeping fans updated on dealing through his MySpace page and yes, that is him on Twitter.  In the early summer, prior to his

proper album, he will be releasing a digital EP with a prominent West Coast

producer [note: X’s handlers refused to divulge who this producer is]. The

acting career is in full effect as well, with roles in upcoming movies

including The Bad Lieutenant with

Nicholas Cage (directed by Verner Herzoff)

and American Violet with Alfre Woodard. But X insists his focus is squarely on his

music.

 

“The three headed monster is warming up, getting ready to

come back out,” says X, who will again be on the road staring May, touring

throughout Europe. “I done wrote songs with Doc. I’m excited about warming up

and coming out with the camp that I usually come out with. Who knows if it’s

ever going to happen again.”

 

BRING THE DRAMA

 

Xzibit’s last proper album, Full Circle, was released on his Open

Bar label via Koch Records. It was a one off deal and the album was recorded in

two months, between Pimp My Ride

seasons. “In hindsight I should have took more time on it,” admits X. “People

don’t understand the dynamics of what’s going on out here in the day to day in Xzibit’s life. It’s not up to me to be explaining that,

it’s up to me to put out good music. Full

Circle gave people a false sense of where I was musically.  So now I feel like, ya

know, you never want to backtrack and leave people with a question mark. Like

huh? That ain’t it.” “

 

No matter the missteps, an example and testament to Xzibit’s steadfast perseverance in the Rap game is that whatever

he publicly says usually gets plenty attention. Recently when audio of Xzibit discussing

a night out with Diddy and Superhead

(truthfully, already enough ammo for plenty of jokes) hit the

the Internets, it was quickly spun into a

tabloid ready, X Calls Diddy Homo headline.  To his credit, X quickly quelled any notions of him throwing

Combs under the closet homosexual bus with this statement.

Then there is the mild drama surrounding his alleged rift

with the Likwit Crew. “I never had a problem with the

Alkaholik dudes,” says X. “Even when J-Ro put out the

‘Ex-Homies’ song and n****s was saying f**k this and

f**k that and all that, you never heard me say anything derogatory towards my

brothers.  How could I? They gave

me an opportunity to shine when nobody else was even thinking about it.”

“The way Talib and Corey Smith came at it,

it was kind of underhanded bruh. I have one

conversation and they offered me $200,000 to sign Strong Arm Steady to

Blacksmith. I said, ‘N***a my car cost $200,000. What

the f**k we going to do with some

s**t like that?’”

 

More recently, a couple of years ago X was rolling heavy with

long renowned Cali MC’s Krondon, Phil Da Agony &

Mitchy Slick, uniting all together as Strong Arm Steady (S.A.S.). After

dropping some searing mixtapes, an official project from this Fearsome Foursome

was to be expected. But when S.A.S. signed to Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith Records label, Xzibit was conspicuously

absent.

 

“They just made a poor business decision, and I couldn’t be

a part of that,” says X candidly. “I got a lot of love for Krondon, Phil and

Mitch. But the way Talib and Corey Smith came at it,

it was kind of underhanded bruh. I have one

conversation and they offered me $200,000 to sign Strong Arm Steady to

Blacksmith. I said, ‘N***a my car cost $200,000. What

the f**k we going to do with some

s**t like that?’ If you really want to put out Strong Arm Steady, the group,

and give them a chance you gotta

give us at least half a million.

 

“I was like, ‘What you talking about?’,”

is what X says he asked Kweli “I don’t care how

critically acclaimed you are n***a, you still ain’t

sold more records than me. Business is business, and you ain’t done better business than me. So why the f**k

would I sign to somebody that hasn’t done at least the same amount of business

that I have done? By the time everyone takes advances it’s going to be nothing

there. That was the last time I talked to them. Next time I talked to Strong

Arm Steady they told me they walked into the Warner Bros. building and signed

to that deal, without me.”

 

According to Xzibit he didn’t press the situation further

(“I am never the one to sit in front of another man and listen to him tell me

that I’m holding him back.”). But considering that S.A.S. has yet to release

their now four years in the making Arms

& Hammers project, X’s bluster at the deal wasn’t purely ego posturing.

Nevertheless there is still a genuine bond with his old running mates. 

 

“Xzibit gave me the blueprint to a successful work ethic,”

says Krondon while noting that the much delayed S.A.S.

debut, Arms & Hammers, will be

released August 4th via Blacksmith/Warner Bros. Records. “He has one

of the most consistent, accomplished and proven work ethics next to a Dr Dre, DJ Quik, Snoop Dogg…Xzibit. You gotta throw him

in that mix from what he’s been able to accomplish.”

 

“For him to be put on by the Alkaholiks,

he’s put so many other n****s on,” continues Krondon. “Despite whatever people say

about him or things that have been said about him, that’s what you gotta always look at. That’s what’s important.”

 

Just like Krondon notes, Xzibit, who is quick to point out

he’s closer to the West Coast new jacks he’s recently collaborated with in age

than other West Coast vets, readily embraces upcoming talents, lending wisdom

if requested. “If they can learn from my wins and my losses then so be it. I’ma give them that game,”

he says.

 

That wisdom X readily dispenses—culled from his up and

downs in the music business and successes, as well as personal tragedies—is

certainly invaluable. But when it comes time to drop his next project, Xzibit

will be lending an ear himself. “The game will tell me when they want to hear

me,” he says. “I still feel like I got some important records to make, I still

feel like I got some important things to say through Hip-Hop. The game will let

me know when they ready. You can’t force that s**t.”

Related Stories