There’s a reason they call hip-hop the grind, the game, the hustle. Making music is about much more than just making music. It’s about building a loyal fan base through relentless touring, establishing yourself as a brand and shaking hands until you have an iPhone full of connections. It’s not always fair, but it’s the game. It’s been the game since the beginning of the music industry and it will be the game until the day the industry dies. But if success was solely about making music, if the best rappers were always the most …
DJBooth Album Review
XV may be the best rapper you’ve never heard of – unless of course you’re a DJBooth regular, in which case he’s been in your speakers for months. Hailing from the rarely hailed state of Kansas, XV has been simmering just below the surface of hip-hop stardom ever since the release of his debut album Complex in 2006. XtotheV has spent the last few years honing his craft, establishing his place in the game as an MC to watch out for and building buzz for his forthcoming album, The Kid With the Green Backpack. Enter his new mixalbum, Everybody’s Nobody, a work that will serve as a comprehensive introduction to anyone brand new to the world of XV, and as a compelling teaser to the album for long time fans. America, meet Kansas’ great rapping hope.
One of the consistent criticisms, fair or not, of XV’s early work was his similarity to other major rappers, and there are undeniably elements of Lupe’s dense pop culture references and Kanye’s syncopated delivery in his flow, but on Everybody’s Nobody XV proves that he’s grown into his own man, starting with the title track Everybody’s Nobody. Everybody is XV’s manifesto, a declaration of his rap intentions: “I see my life in versions, from the person in the stands/so when I’m higher than the ceiling, I’m still down with my fans.” In other words, XV’s realized, perhaps the hard way, that while fame is fleeting, fans will be loyal to musicians who truly affect their lives forever. Oh, and he also mentions losing out to A Milli during 2008’s Best of the Booth Awards (no disrespect, but no one was topping A Milli last year, nobody). The same honest insight and dynamic delivery XV displays on Everybody pervades the entire mixalbum, most notably on the introspective Mirror’s Edge, a slowly paced joint XV uses to bring us inside his mind, and on Gobstopper, an up-tempo track full of so many references it takes at least five listens to catch em all. Long story short, if you want a lyricist that doesn’t take himself too seriously, a rapper who can rap but doesn’t always rap about rapping, you want XV.
Despite all his obvious talent and vision, or maybe because of it, XV is still unsigned, so it’s understandable that he uses Everybody’s Nobody as a playground to demonstrate his musical flexibility. Just take Vizzy, Vizzy, Vizzy, a sparsely produced track with a chopped hook and XV at his most swaggeringest – I know that’s not a word, but it is now. Put in contrast to the introspectively soulful Mirror’s Edge the track is night and day, a necessary stylistic switch to ensure XV doesn’t get boxed in and slapped with a backpacker label. Even more adventurous is the electro-edged A.D.D., a bouncing cut with dance energy and a mid-90s rhyme style that while I don’t particularly like, I respect. And I haven’t even gotten into the Ne-Yo assisted Use To yet, the mixalbum’s proof that XV can make radio-ready joints for the ladies. On a full-fledged album this kind of stylistic maneuvering would come across as inconsistent, but on a mixalbum it’s a fitting demonstration of the man’s versatility. It’s why the mixalbum was created.
As good as Everybody’s Nobody is, it’s still only a beginning. XV needs to continue to develop his own style, making sure anyone who hears one of his tracks know it’s an XV joint instantly. XV’s talent and drive holds the promise of a long career. Whether or not that promise is realized is up to him. Because making music is about so much more than just making music.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 07/29/09
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Square Bound Music/Warner Bros.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"U Got It ft. Lil' Wayne" (2008)
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