Xzibit is arguably one of the most underappreciated hip-hop artists today. Having begun his career in rap in the mid-‘90s, X (as he is affectionately known as by his fanbase) has ostensibly found more mainstream notoriety with his MTV television show Pimp My Ride and several appearances in major motion pictures and video games than with his music. A pity, considering the current state of hip-hop is mired neck-deep in overpowering drum machines and little else in the way of substance. Xzibit’s musical take on Full Circle is a welcome change of pace.
Although Xzibit began his recording career in 1996 with the release of his first album, At the Speed of Life, it wasn’t until hip-hop impresario Dr. Dre took notice of the young rapper and invited him to guest on his 2001 album that Xzibit’s career really took off. Dre produced several of Xzibit’s subsequent albums, linking him with the West Coast collective of hip-hop artists comprised of the likes of Snoop and Eminem. Full Circle is the first release through Xzibit’s own label, Open Bar Entertainment, in conjunction with Koch Records, the largest independent music distributor in North America today.
On this album, Xzibit’s sound remains consistently fresh and introduces new sound configurations. Enhanced by guest appearances by such hip-hop notables as the Game, Kurupt, and the seemingly omnipresent T-Pain, the former Alvin Joiner’s style shines on a disc heavy on both the beats and unexpected instrumentation.
The disc’s opener, “Invade My Space” features a cameo by singer/producer Jelly Roll. Heavy on the R&B, the track boasts a piano riff straight out of a Chicago speakeasy. Jelly Roll makes his presence felt again on “Rollin’”, which fluidly segues from the first track yet manages to create a soundscape all its own. X’s lyrics slam like a yo’ mama joke backed by punishing drums and a plunking bass line that sounds like the strings are unraveling.
Xzibit’s musical experimentation continues with “Say It to My Face” and its leanings towards a New Jack Swing-style sound. On Full Circle‘s wisely-chosen lead single, “Concentrate”, Xzibit meditates on life itself and its many distractions from staying on a productive course to achieve goals. The primal drumbeats, finger-cymbals, and rhythmic chanting create a winding groove that neatly ties all elements of the song together, from the dance floor to the yoga mat.
Beyond the complexity of the bulk of Full Circle‘s song arrangements, Xzibit tackles some heady subject matter with a sense of humor and frank honesty. While it could be argued that Xzibit’s point of view may not espouse the most popular or politically correct code of reflection, it is the blatant conviction and candor with which he expounds upon his beliefs that make the lyrics on Full Circle interesting, memorable, and thought-provoking.
“The Donnell Rawlings Show” serves as an intro to “Scandalous Bitches”. Including a smattering of skits on any given album has become a staple of the rap genre, but unlike the majority of offenders, Xzibit sparingly uses these interludes. Beyond that, they actually serve a purpose and kick in with a much-needed dose of (sometimes self-deprecating) humor sorely missing in most of hip-hop’s current artists. On one hand, the duo of songs serves as a commentary on the dubious morals and multi-manned “extracurriculars” of many a Maury Povich Show support-seeking guest. On the other, the two tracks manage to clear up a beef with R&B crooner Usher stemming from Xzibit’s public insinuations regarding Usher’s sexuality and Usher ultimately dating—and dumping—Xzibit’s former fiancé.
X continues with social commentary directed towards women on “Family Values”. While musically it’s one of the disc’s weaker tracks, rampant with beats similar to those on every other lesser hip-hop album, Xzibit’s lyrics more than compensate. Although critics could dismiss the track as taking a misogynistic view towards the fairer sex, it can be argued that Xzibit only takes issue with women who choose to live beyond their means and expect the men in their lives to pick up the tab. With his wit firmly in place, Xzibit points an accusatory finger with lyrics like “Do you have anything to offer me beside some ass / You think you high class / The upper echelon / But spend all your rent money in the hair salon”.
Taking a page from the book of his mentor Dr. Dre, Xzibit hails the Los Angeles Police Department as “the biggest gang in L.A.” on “Ram Part Division”. A dark, stomping ode to corrupt cops and the judicial system, the track is told from the perspective of a corrupt cop and features distorted vocals that conjure images of Jabba the Hutt with a badge. While it may not be a big hit with the boys in blue, it is easily one of the standout pieces on the album.
The album’s closer leaves the listener on a poignant note with the autobiographical “Thank You”. Xzibit rips away the curtain of fame and addresses his fans directly on a myriad of milestones in his life, ranging from his troubled youth, his rise to notoriety, and burying his friend and D-12 rapper Proof. Sincerity is a lost art in nearly any form of music, but Xzibit nails it with “Two little words / Ya’ll never get to hear enough”.
While many of the subjects addressed on Full Circle aren’t groundbreaking, Xzibit broaches them in a way that cleverly combines humor, theatrics, and innovative arrangements. With any luck, this is the album that jettisons him to the forefront of hip-hop, and Xzibit will be known as a solid artist in his own right, instead of just “that guy from Pimp My Ride.”
// Notes from the Road
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