Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so fans should be excited to get musically acquainted with Xzibit again. For the last six years, X was present on the small screen (MTV’s Pimp My Ride) and the big screen, acting in movies such as Gridiron Gang and The X Files: I Want to Believe, as his last album, Full Circle, dropped in 2006. Now X is back with Napalm, an LP that shows his presence in hip-hop was lost but his talent was not.
Bearing in mind that hip-hop has changed since his last effort, X addresses what the game is like now, as opposed to what he is bringing to it on the opening track “State of Hip Hop vs. Xzibit.” “I’ve been tried and I’m true, reassembled my crew/Carry on tradition, position I’m put here to do/Make movements monumental, I did make some improvements/You can check my credentials, told to never pursue it,” he spits.
He does carry on his tradition of hardcore lyrics that he delivers with his commanding flow and tone of voice, and his crew has been reassembled to a degree, a topic he confronts on the standout “1983.” “Got a call from Paul, told me shit wasn’t working/Exchanged words, told him, tell me that shit in person/He probably told Em, and by the way that he said it, unapologetic, twisted, made it about him/I seen Slim, and he said he didn’t recognize me/Was it that or did he let another man define me?/I don’t know, but now I got to get this all behind me/Follow my calling when I used to follow niggas blindly,” Xzibit reveals on the emotive track. Eminem contributed on X’s earlier projects Restless and Man vs. Machine but not Napalm. Contrarily, Dr. Dre provides an ill instrumental for “Louis XIII,” another one of the album’s high points. As well as Dre, other prominent rap figures who appear on the album include Game and Wiz Khalifa, both providing so-so hooks (Game on the incoherent track “Dos Equis” and Wiz on “Forever a G”) but potent verses, Game living up to his reputation on “Movies” and Wiz on the potential club banger “Enjoy the Night.” Slim the Mobster, E-40 and Crooked I also supply some solid verses while RBX and Prodigy do not.
While there are a good number of features, Xzibit still can hold his own and knows how to switch it up, creating uplifting records like ‘Standing Tall,” street bangers such as “Up Out the Way” and “Everything,” and political ones like “Meaning of Life.” On another partisan song, “Napalm,” X really experiments, channelling his inner Rebirth-Lil Wayne, a track with a dominant rock beat that might be skipped by many hip-hop fans’ but should not be since X distributes dope lyrics on the record. If there are any skip-worthy cuts, it is certainly “Spread It Out.”
At any rate, Napalm is a well-rounded LP full of illustrative and cohesive tracks (“I Came to Kill,” “Killer’s Remorse” and others), while surviving a few average hooks, such as on “Gangsta Gangsta.” However, catchy choruses is not what Xzibit does best despite his popular 2000 single “X.” Xzibit has consistently furnished hard-hearted bars about various subjects, and not much has been lost between X then and now, which he proves in his latest LP. —Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)