As he’s built his buzz over the last few years with a constant flow of mixtapes, XV has continuously made cultural references in his lyrics, using the trends of our society as a lens to contextualize his own experiences and his surroundings. He further hones in on that approach with his latest free release, Popular Culture.
At it’s finest points, the project finds Vizzy trekking through deeply personal moments within his own life while swinging swords of sharp similes related to TV and movies. He’s uses pop culture metaphors and references to tell his own story. This is channeled best on songs like the bare bones “Breaking Bad,” where he relates instances from the acclaimed AMC show of the same name to moments in his own life, and later on “The Kick,” where over dark, stretched out production, the Wichita, Kansas native hopes the dream that he’s currently living—making music—doesn’t come to an end (as dreams do with “the kick” in the movie Inception).
Beyond the thematic cohesion within these sorts of songs, and their individual lyrical ingenuity (“Told my team don’t let dollars break us, we change for nothing,” he raps on “Breaking Bad”), it’s their confessionary and autobiographical elements that give them their greatest value. As XV opens up to his listeners with fearless self-affirmations steeped with valuing accepting who you are (“Be There, Be Square”), grapples with maintaining a relationship while on the road (“Her Favorite Song”), and reflects on losing a friend to suicide (“Go On Without Me”), the technical cleverness used to guide the tales are just an added bonus.
Features from ScHoolboy Q and B.o.B (“Aaahh! Real Monsters”), Emilio Rojas (“Wonkavator”) and Irv Da Phenom (“Zombieland Rule 32″) help play off of the tape’s main character, but in the end this is about XV and his ability to continue to build his own narrative with flair and candor. The Awesome Sound lays the majority of the sonic base for Vizzy’s verbal storyboard, as the sounds vary from bubbly to shadowy, but remain reflective of the content of the songs.
For the near-hour of Popular Culture, XV grabs his concept and sees it all the way through. Though the first half of the project is stronger than it’s second act, XV has again shows his talents, making an indirect plea that Warner Bros. gives him the attention he deserves. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)