For our music feature this week, we spoke with Xzibit, the Los Angeles-via-Detroit rapper whose hard-core yet introspective albums have earned him a place in the pantheon as one of the greatest West Coast rappers. He's collaborated with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Eminem, and later served as the host of the MTV wish fulfillment program, Pimp My Ride.
From his Chatsworth studio, Xzibit spoke to us about his new album, Napalm and his experiences over a decade and a half in the industry. Here are some outtakes that didn't make the story.
On his early years in the L.A. hip-hop scene:
I was running around, doing a lot of freestyle shit, a lot of Unity shows, and freestyling with the Alkaholics. I was bouncing from show to show, and just trying to get on wherever I could. But that was the live aspect. We didn't really do mixtapes and all of that shit. I think there's something to be said about being able to rip a live show, and be in a live environment. That's where my breeding ground was.
Pharcyde was huge at the time, there was a lot of independent underground stuff coming out of Los Angeles, so I just fit right in the mix of all of that. It was a real vibrant hip-hop scene.
On working with Dr. Dre:
He pushes you. He just does not accept the normal. He does not accept the average. It's about not leaning on people merely liking you, you have to impress them. That's where the push comes from. You have to be driven, but to be driven creatively in order to bring the best out of yourself comes with hours and hours of just putting yourself through the ringer and really seeing what your limits are. What are you prepared to do? And he poses that question to you, it's nothing magical that he does. It's not a magic wand or a button that he pushes.
But before you can get the frequencies right, the product has to be right. So I think that that's what he does. That's what he did for me in order to just not accept the first thing that comes up.
On his father's banning hip-hop in the household when he was growing up:
My parents were very religious. They really didn't approve of the vulgarity of the music. But what they didn't understand was that the messages were for me to decipher. I read a lot as a kid and I definitely knew what I was listening to. But it wasn't warping my thought process, it just spoke to me. So I was like, alright, cool. I'll listen to it when I can. So my brother brought pieces here and there, I would get it at school. I sought it out. When you want something you gotta seek it out. So that's what I did.
Chuck D, Rakim, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, I listened to a lot of them. Also, DJ Magic Mike out of Florida and 2 Live Crew.
On the story behind his song “Shroomz“:
That was a true story. I never did that shit again. No actually I'm lying. I did it once more in Amsterdam. I wrote my name 6,000 times on the hotel room walls, the air conditioner, the sofa, and and had to pay for it. It cost me like $10,000. It was like a scary horror movie type thing. I was gone…trippin.
On how he ended up as the host of Pimp My Ride:
The producers came to me because they saw me at the West Coast Customs Garage. At the time, it was over by the airport, and they asked me if I wanted to host a show. I said 'no,' and then they were like, 'c'mon, let's do a pilot episode.' I didn't know much about cars at the time. I just bought them. I didn't really know how to fix them or do any of that. I hired a mechanic for that.
On the similarities and differences between acting and rapping:
With film, you have to use more than just your voice to communicate. You have your body language, you have your facial expressions, you have your voice, there are so many other options you have. With music, you have to tell the story, tell the feeling, create the scene, everything with the sound of your voice, with the help of the music.
On staying stylistically true to himself:
I'm not trying to keep up with the fads. I'm not trying to fit in. You don't see me in the skinny jeans and the sunglasses on inside. No vest, no bow tie, none of that shit.
Never have I created a record listening to what else was going on in the climate of music. I've never done that. I've always been on some, 'This is my shit, this is how I wanna do it.'
On how Chicago rapper Rhymefest Inspired the making of Napalm:
Out of the blue, Rhymefest called me and was like, “I wrote this this morning, what did you write?” I was like 'man, it's fucking nine in the morning. I'm not writing raps homie, I'm fucking chillin. But that conversation sparked into a friendship, sparked into a working relationship where I flew him out and he would vibe in the studio with me, and he actually put the battery in my back and reminded me of the presence of music in my life.
And so that's what the album started from. It feels good, it feels like a very powerful representation of who I am right now and the artist that I have become.