ARTS

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October 20, 2006

Xzibit's struggle to gain fame comes Full Circle

Most people probably know Xzibit as the host of MTV’s popular show Pimp My Ride, a program devoted to the idea that makeovers are not just for people. Cars need them too. Perhaps it’s because of the show’s vast popularity and Xzibit’s ability to effortlessly play the role of the entertaining host that people have forgotten why he became famous in the first place.

Xzibit made his name on the West Coast rap scene, appearing as a guest on several popular tracks headed by established artists like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. He released his first album, At the Speed of Light, which garnered critical appreciation, if not strong record sales. Although Xzibit has never been a popular enough artist to rival, say, a Jay-Z or an Eminem, his albums are consistent in quality, largely due to the well crafted beats that accompanied his tough-sounding vocal delivery.

His new album, Full Circle, is his first album released on an independent label. Perhaps he thought to garner some street credibility, as if that’s all that’s needed to make an album sell. On this album, he finds himself stuck creatively, unable to distinguish himself from the multitude of other unsigned rappers who are vocalizing the very same braggadocio and self-promotion that have become the tropes of hip-hop. It’s disappointing that unlike his other albums, Full Circle seems too stale, too uninteresting to demand a large audience. Even Xzibit’s delivery, which is usually appealing, becomes monotonous as track after track seems to sound the same.

The album’s failure is not due to a lack of ambition. A lot like other socially conscious rappers (and what rapper isn’t to some extent conscious of his own environment?), he devotes poignant tracks like “Family Values” and “Human Being” to taking aim at the rappers who encourage kids to follow in their criminal footsteps, while at the same time dropping tracks about his “baby girl.” None of these tracks are bad, per se, what makes them detrimental to the album’s mood as a whole is that somehow it’s hard to imagine Xzibit in love when his rap delivery is so dependent upon his angry flow. Perhaps it’s because Xzibit hasn’t mastered the ability to switch up his flow depending on the song’s overall message and the accompanying beat’s mood, like ’Pac and Biggie could, and so his album still sounds boring and uninspiring.

The album’s beats, however, do deserve commendation for the variety of catchy, pop-friendly hooks that will probably send its singles to the top of the charts. Xzibit brings along with him outstanding producers who provide him with just enough good samples to ensure that even if you don’t like Xzibit’s voice, you can still rely on a good beat in the background. His collaborators on the album, like Too Short, Kurupt, and The Game (all fellow West Coast rappers), provide a nice contrast to his style, adding their own lyrical signatures to the songs’ tracks. It’s always fun to hear how rappers integrate themselves with one another and whether they can challenge each other to come up with something better or more original than they could have done alone. The guest artists on this album don’t seem to be doing their best work. It feels like all of them, including Xzibit, are coasting on the same repetitious topics, ranging from self-aggrandizement to social ills, that have been done already and have been done far better.

Full Circle ultimately fails because, despite its ambitions, it’s not willing to explain why we should care about what it has to say in the first place. Xzibit is not the first rapper to worry about the kids; ’Pac did too. Nor is he the first to acknowledge the pernicious effects that rappers have as role models. What he should have done is to make it sound interesting, eclectic, and original. If he won’t—or can’t—then he should quit this rapping game and just continue to pimp rides.