Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Beat Q & A: Xzibit

Hard to believe it's been 10 years since I first heard of Xzibit on the West Coast underground circuit.

Back then, he was regarded as an up and coming LA MC, down with Tha Alkaholiks crew. Gruff voiced with lyrics to go, his big hit was a song called "Papparrazzi." The video and song were an indictment of fake gangsta posers, and Xzibit took a strong stance against gangsta rappers in general, although he has since backed off of that a bit.

From those lean years as a West Coast backpacker MC to his discovery by Dr. Dre to his current gig as host of the popular MTV series "Pimp My Ride," Xzibit's career has taken numerous turns.

He has a new album out, dubbed "Full Circle." It's his first release under a new distribution deal he has with Koch Records, through his own record label "Open Bar Entertainment." His latest movie, "Grid Iron Gang," debuted at no. 1 in the box office, and new episodes of "Pimp My Ride" are airing on MTV. Xzibit is a full-fledged triple threat, musician, actor, TV host.

Mr. X-to-the-Z took some time to talk to "The Beat" in anticipation of his Wednesday night show at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz. He talked about the new album, his TV gig and the evolution of his career:

First off, thanks for talking to The Beat.
No, thank you. I appreciate it.

I've been a fan since way back, since the Paparazzi days.
Good looking, man.

Just going back to that time, it's been 10 years that you've been in the game
Yeah, a full decade.

That type of longevity in hip-hop is rare. I'm sure you cherish it.
Yeah, I relish it. It's been an amazing race (laughs).

First things first. The thing the readers want to know abut is “Pimp My Ride.” Can you comment on the success of that show and how long you plan on going with it?
Nobody could have told me that the show as going to be what it was. It was amazing to me that the shit I do on that show, people actually find funny (laughs). Because that's what I do around my house and talk to my friends about and what not.

This show came long after my music career started. It feels like a side of my personality that you don't get to see in my music and videos. And (the show) was kind of like that extra step forward as a natural progression in my career, because it's like I was introduced to broader, different audience, but in a whole different way. It just added a whole new dimension to what I'm already trying to do as an artist. It was an avenue that wasn't there for me that all of a sudden was there it, and it came out all over the place

How many seasons have you been doing the show?
This is our seventh season.

Seventh season? That's incredible.
It's (been so long) because we uploaded two seasons so we could (produce) my record and get it out and tour. So those seasons are debuting now. And we just started again to shoot new episodes for January, so I could go to Europe and tour for Full Circle.

That's cool that MTV allows you to do that.
Don't trip, they're making their money (laughs). That's why they're making it so convenient.

With the success of the show, you've reinvented your image. You were this underground MC, got the big break with Dr. Dre and Aftermath, and now you're the nice guy TV show host who does movies on the side. Does that force you to make any changes when you record? How do balance the two, your image as a rapper and your image as a popular TV show host?

That's the thing, because I'm still an underground rapper. Just because I'm more visible, does that mean that my views and opinions have to change as an artist? No.
I think images can be manipulated, images can be boosted, images can be torn down. First of all, my image has never been a fabrication. How I am as a man is how I am in the public. I have a television career, I have a music career and I have a movie career. They all can compliment each other, but they don't have to control each other. Because you see me on TV being able to relate to my fellow man does not mean I am not going to be the same artist that I was when I stepped into the studio 10 years ago.
You shouldn't look for Pimp My Ride in Full Circle and you shouldn't look for Full Circle in Grid Iron Gang. It's three different things. But I think that hip-hop has the stigma that you can only be one dimensional. It's like "Oh man, if you can make me laugh, than you ain't gonna bust no guns." I don't know (laughs) IIII don't know about that.

Was 8 Mile your acting debut?
My acting debut was in an old movie called The Mix. Me and Dub-C (WC from Westside Connection) robbed a liquor store. It's not one of my most shining moments.

8 mile was the one I remember you from.
Well let's start there then (laughs).

You've gone from that point to co-starring with The Rock in Grid Iron Gang. Is that something that you will pursue, being a working actor?
I would love to do more films, but there is a real lack of strong roles for black men in Hollywood. After coming off a film of “Grid Iron Gang's” magnitude, I don't want to jump into something like “Soul Plane 2” or some shit like that. I would rather wait until everything I'm working on sets the tone, so afterward we'll have a better way to pick something that has some girth to it.

What's next in the chamber as far as acting. When can folks expect to see you on the bigs screen?
Right now, I'm just really focused on the music. I haven't accepted any scripts. I'm pretty sure my film agent isn't happy about that (laughs). I'm an MC, man. I feel good. I just got on the (tour) bus and I've been doing what I have to do

Tell me about the new album and your new label situation. Is this the second album on Koch?
No, it's my first one.

Tell me about it.
It's my sixth album, but it's my first independent record. I own the masters. This is an imprint, because it was going through Open Bar Entertainment/Koch, who is doing the distribution.
It feels great. I had to put a lot of my own money where my mouth was in order to get the video done, in order to get the songs done the way I wanted them. But it's mine and why not? After 10 years of being in the industry and knowing the ups and downs, the pitfalls, having a fair amount of knowledge and experience with that, I think it's time to put that to work. That' where this album came from, knowing that the only way to get everything I want to get from this music and make it how I want to make it without no red tape or bullshit filters, that I had to do it this way.

It's a lesson for folks that want to get in the music biz. Sometimes you have to go a different route. Even established artists such as yourself have to switch it up as your career progresses.

Yeah, if you know, because I'll be damned if I sign an other artist deal. In 2006, you kidding? It took me forever to get out of the first one I got, and they held me to that shit like my life was written on a piece of paper. I'll never do that again, ever.

It's that deep?
Yeah, for real. But I hate when artists have trouble in their careers and they make it everybody's business. Like every problem they have in their life, they talk about it. The public isn't for that. The public wants to hear music. Of course, they want to be able to relate when you're going through your hardships. But, fuck, dude, it's like, my struggles , if it don't have to do directly with the crowd, I'm not going to involve the crowd. Too many rappers do it.

You haven't been back to Santa Cruz in a while?
Yeah, I'm coming out there to tear it down.

Anything to say to the locals?
Just come out, be prepared to hear a little bit of the old, a little bit of the new. And we're going to have some fun.

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