Xzibit: Anchored By Hip-Hop, Flying In Hollywood

Xzibit has a coveted space on "Empire," but don't think he's quite done with Hip-Hop.

(AllHipHop Features) Xzibit has seen some of the highest highs Hip-Hop could possibly offer. That notion is quite literal and as well as metaphorical. During his powerful run in rap, Xzibit used to rocked with inebriated icons such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem as well as underground legends like Tha Liks and King Tee. But, never mistake his affiliations with a lack of ability to stand alone. Lyrically, X to tha Z came forth with a West Coast perspective that was completely unique, chock full of lyrics and hard raps.

His ability to forge ahead without his old running mates is exemplified with his present status. Unlike the lot of them, Xzibit has transitioned nicely into a thespian that has appeared in “The X-Files,” “Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden” and now “Empire.” His role as “Shyne” is a sinister nemesis to Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) has captivated audiences.

AllHipHop chopped it up with the Cali King on his views on Hip-Hop, Hollywood and the great strides he’s made in his career.

AllHipHop: Can you talk about “Empire” a little bit?

Xzibit: Yeah, Shyne is someone who has definitely come into the Lyon’s family as somebody from their past, who has found a way to get a seat at the table. This season, Shyne and Lucious Lyon’s relationship is going to be taken to another level and its going to be a while ride for the audience.

AllHipHop: Obviously, acting isn’t where you started your career. How easy or hard has it been for you to transition?

Xzibit: Its work. Music, I can do in my sleep. I have to work at acting. It’s another form of expression that I enjoy doing. It’s been work and it’s been gratifying. I’ve done some dope films. I’ve done some really dope things in television and its been amazing what I have been able to accomplish here.

AllHipHop: I saw that you’ve been talking retirement from Hip-Hop. Me personally, I’m a big fan of your Hip-Hop work and I’ve listened to really to your most recent stuff, and the album you did with B-Real and the young boy. I can’t call his name off the top...

Xzibit: Young D. Demrick.

AllHipHop: Ah, yeah...Demrick. He’s dope too. Are you really planning to retire or are you maybe transitioning a little bit..still producing music?

Xzibit: I’m never totally going to step away from music, but I do feel as though the amount of albums I do add up to 10. So, I have a play for that. There are so many things to do. I think the touring aspect is the biggest thing. I have family, I have businesses to run and they take time and my presence. I think Hip-Hop is definitely a big piece of that. So, as I’ve been talking about it with my inner circle, everybody says, “Never say never,” but I do have a plan with how I’d like to see things go getting to that place.

AllHipHop: In terms of the game right now, musically. I have strong opinions on the current landscape. I don’t hate, but it has changed a lot. Do you still listen to Hip-Hop and how to you feel things are right now?

Xzibit: Absolutely. It’s just different. When we came out, we had different obstacles and different outlooks on life, different things were available to us. It was just different. I’m not one to bash anybody or tell anybody they are wack. Good music is just good music. And it was wack sh*t then and there’s wack sh*t now. It’s just different. We are living in a time where everything is accessible, information is accessible. The way the music is digested and dispersed is different. You have to be good at what you’re good at. We have accomplished that here on this side. (Laughs) I don’t really have much time to critique other people. I’m too busy working on my sh#t.

AllHipHop: What about West Coast Hip-Hop? I think that West Coast Hip-Hop has managed to preserved the culture in a lot of ways. Its stayed true to its roots and has never sounded old, or dated or wack.

Xzibit: I love the West Coast. I fly the banner. I fly the flag. This is the place that gave me my beginnings and gave me an opportunity to show the world what I’m capable of. I always show respect for the home tuff and this is where it’s at. This is where Xzibit began and where he’s gonna stay.

AllHipHop: With “Empire,” how is it working with people like Taraji, Terrence, Jussie and Yazz?

Xzibit: It’s fantastic. They have created a giant of a show. Shout out to Lee Daniels. Shout out to Fox. I can’t say enough about working with Terrence and Taraji. I just wanted to get in and be able to add to what the cast was doing. They are already doing a phenomenal job and I just wanted to add something to it that I felt was needed. So when we found that character...because originally I was supposed to be Tariq, Lucious’s brother, the FBI agent. And they said they casted it, but if I was interested they could have something for me. And from that read, they built the character of Shyne for me coming into Season 2. And we’ve been rocking every since for the to join the cast and add something to it.

AllHipHop: Do you have any other acting projects that you are planning out?

Xzibit: Right now, I’m taking on a lot of things on the homefront. We got a lot of things we are working on. I’m not at liberty to say at the moment. But, I can’t wait to reveal the things we are working on. I’m betting on myself.

AllHipHop: Right now the comic book genre is pretty big in entertainment period. I think you could play some sort of villain or even superhero. What do you think?

Xzibit: I mean, I take one thing at a time. If that comes to the table, and I feel it’s taking me out of my wheelhouse and taking me from something I would normally be cast in or how how Hollywood sees us. I just like things that challenge me as an actor. So, if something like that came across the table, I’d be more than happy to take a shot at it.

AllHipHop: Musically, what would you say was your favorite time as an emcee?

Xzibit: Man. All of it. Even the bad times. That’s what build character. I think the biggest thing that I can recall off top is being a part of the push for Dr. Dre’s 2001, the Up In Smoke Tour, being part of Eminem’s records, Snoop Dogg’s records. Working with those guys on my records. It was a beautiful time and it’s still coming back to this day. You know?

AllHipHop: Definitely, I maintain that the video for “What U See Is What U Get” is the dopest rap video of all time. I definitely got to salute you on that. Who made that happen conceptually, because I always refer to it.

Xzibit: It was my concept. It was my idea to do it in one single shot. I tried to explain it to all the popular Hip-Hop video directors at the time and nobody could really get it. So actually, a man named Gregory Dark decided to do this with me. And he was a porn director, believe it or not. (Laughs) This was his first Hip-Hop video. And we do that video in 13 shots and cut it together to look like one. The biggest part of the video the car blowing up and Flavor Flav (who is mentioned in the song) just showed up for some reason and he ended up being in the video. I mean, you can’t write this sh#t. It just happened that way. So it ended up being something that...you know again...I’m betting on myself.

These ideas are executed by people that have faith in the vision. Nobody expected that video to do what it did and here we are talking about it 20-something years later. I’ve been proud of that and that’s what started giving me the confidence to do other things. Even “Paparazzi” and “Foundation” - looking at myself in a casket - that was my idea. Those are things that I really had to push creatively and get people to believe in it to get it done. And eventually, I stopped trying to convince people and started doing it myself.

AllHipHop: Last question: how is it being a family man in Hip-Hop or otherwise?

Xzibit: I love it man. I love it. That’s my real supporting cast right there. I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I’m trying to achieve without the support of my family behind me.

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