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To accompany XV’s new mixtape “Zero Heros,” available for free download from Live Mixtapes, we have put together a quick list of why we think XV is the next rapper to look out for. If you disagree then a thousand unicorns will never feel the love of rainbows. And you don’t want that now do you?
So this is my beginning
I look to the sky with a cape on my back
And they tell me the sky is the limit
But I don’t know why, when I finally fly
Wanna show em all, this is my beginning
– XV, “Smallville”
1. Beta Male
You can’t tell Rap Genius™ editors that the world isn’t infatuated with Beta Males across all artistic genres right now. From the recent influx of actors like Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifinakis, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera to musicians like Cee-Lo Green, Childish Gambino and XV, the world has moved on from the Alpha Male rock stars of the 80’s and violent gangsta rappers of the 90’s. Beat males are unassuming, and since they are the physical embodiment of “Friend Zone,” we think they are harmless… until they fuck yo bitch.
2. Embraces Who He Is
XV likes comic books, collects wrestling action figures and says Weezer is his favorite band. A bold declaration in Hip-Hop. An extension of the Beta Male role, embracing one’s nerdiness not only appeals to nerds and hipsters alike, but establishes your identity. Sincerity and “keeping it real” is integral part to being an artist because others will quickly learn you aren’t who you say you are, and will stay away from you. Do you think CyHi Da Prince and Vado read Nemesis Comic Books? Probably not, but I’m sure they respect XV for being who he is. If D.A. Wallach fronted like he wasn’t a Harvard Grad do you think Rozay would’ve had him on “Play Your Part”? Doubtful.
Which one of these is not like the others?
3. From Middle-Of-Nowhere...Literally
XV is from Wichita, KS (also birthplace of Survivor host Jeff Probst). However, the current trend in Hip-Hop is discovering talent outside of the large metro areas of LA, NY, ATL and Houston. Gadsen, Alabama and Meridian, Mississippi… heard of those before Yelawolf and Big K.R.I.T.? Not unless you were born there or your car broken down and you got raped by mountain men there. What’s interesting to note about Yela, K.R.I.T. and XV is the different sound these artists have created. It’s familiar, but unique, which is refreshing to listeners.
Piggybacking off the previous point, XV’s Midwest upbringing has definitely crafted his sound. Who does he sound like? No one. If you were to make a comparison, you would have to say he is a combination of Lupe if Lu actually had a sense of humor and “a-more-lyrical-and-more-bearable-to-listen-to” Big Sean.
Name me one other artist as flat out fun as XV? You can’t, don’t even try. Sure, XV goes to town on introspective tracks like Falling Awake and Famous, but “Awesome,” “All for Me” and “Foreign Exchange Student” are hands-down the best make you feel good and have a good time songs since Cube’s “It Was a Good Day.” XV makes me want to hang out with him. And apparently, he’s the “most down to earth rapper alive”. According to a fan, “Vizzy gave me a comic book from his collection cause he ‘didn’t play my jam.’”
6. Song Writing
Looky Looky, I’ve got a Hooky! — Rufio
Most rapper’s Achilles Heel is crafting a full song. This is not the case for XV. Other than Kendrick Lamar, I can’t name another unsigned artist out now that writes better fully developed songs with well-written/catchy choruses. Examples: Best is Yet To Come, Smallville, All For Me, Awesome, Familiar, When We’re Done and Pictures on My Wall.
Drake & 40, Gang Starr, Madvillain, EPMD, Eric.B & Rakim, Pete Rock & CL Smooth are just a few examples of successful rapper/producer duos. Soon we’ll be adding XV and Seven to that list. When an artist has a dedicated producer who understands their vision and knows the kind of beats they sound best on, that artist has a competitive advantage over other artists. They are able to develop their own recognizable sound. Plus, they don’t have to constantly search for beats or rely on beat submissions by people like this.
Since he has Seven on his side (as well as The Awesome Sound who produced “Famous”), it seems like every other week there is a new song by XV out on the interwebs. Zero Heroes will mark his 16th mixtape since 2006 in addition to one album and one yet-to-be-released album. For those unfamiliar, one of those mixtapes was his “40 days and 40 Nights,” where he released one song every morning and night for 40 days (80 total tracks). That’s a lot of quality music by anyone’s standards.
8. Original Content
Unlike most artists these days, XV does not run out and hop on every newest “Hot Ass Beat Clap” that comes out. Except for a few freebies like “Words I Never Said” and “H.A.M. (Heroes Amongst Men),” most of his content is original production. Plus, even when he goes over someone else’s song he doesn’t just spit a shitty 16 bar verse. Vizzy does a full song complete with a modified/original chorus. XV does not have to be taught to write songs. He’s already had the practice, which is probably why he got a record deal with Warner Brothers. XV doesn’t need to be taught how to write songs or be given pre-packaged singles, he’s been making full songs for years instead of mixtapes with nothing but bars.
10. X Factor
There is something special about him: something intangible, a certain je ne sais quoi that makes him stand out of the crowd (and its not just the green backpack). Heavyweights like Just Blaze, Wiz Khalifa and J. Cole all co-sign XV. Is it his grind? His passion? The fact his Uncle Mario was the producer for Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”?
Not to say that it’s a gimmick, but artists today enjoy adopting a name for their fans, as it creates more of a community feel and gives people something to relate with. Wiz has Taylor Gang, Curren$y has JETS, Chris Webby has Ninjas (though I don’t think there are many of those, but maybe that’s because they’re ninjas and you aren’t supposed to). XV has his Squarians. This collective supports XV and is proud to be square/nerdy/non-cool/nerdy/dweebish/hipster/watchBigBigTheory/whathaveyou.
XV tours constantly. He’s been constantly touring since before his Warner Bros Deal, after his WB deal, on the Travie McCoy Sgt. Shlepper’s Tour. He is currently on his Animal House tour with The Dean’s List and Brenton Duvall. He’s been putting in work and perfecting his craft.
13. Live Performance
If you haven’t seen XV perform live then you should eat a big bowl of hair because you are a dummy. He is energetic and doesn’t need to rock the stage with two other dudes with mics while rapping over his own lyrics. Do yourself a favor. Check the tour dates and go see him. He even impresses aforementioned musician D.A. Wallach:
14. Not an XXL Freshmen
2008’s XXL Freshmen class was pretty much null and void. This trend has continued across the 2009 XXL Freshmen and 2010 XXL Freshmen class sans Wiz Khalifa and one or two other artists out of 30. We’ll be liberal and say 5 out of 30 artists were successful in blowing up after their cover. That’s 16.66666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666667%, which is not exactly wowzers. To be fair, this year’s class looks poised to make the rap game better; Let’s hope Kendrick Lamar’s “Section .80” does for him what Kush and OJ did for Wiz, and Lil Twist and Diggy Simmons die of meningitis.
15. Roman Numerals
Roman Numerals are dope. Disagree? Then may a goat rape you.
Check out all of XV’s songs explained on the XV artist page, including these tracks from Zero Heroes: