Kansas born XV is currently eclipsed in a Hip Hop version of the great flood. Sending cyberspace a wash in new material, XV has undertaken a 40 Days/40 Nights project in which he drops a new song every AM and every PM. Each day XV gives the world new tracks about his love for video games, girls, comics, and how he left earth for the distant Planet Squaria before settling in the Coolniverse. What?!?! If that last part threw you for a bit of a loop, XV’s not surprised in the slightest.
“Esoteric should be my genre of music, because I don’t expect everybody to get it,” he told RubyHornet about his highly conceptual music, which tells the story of a young man finding himself through creative expression. “I still don’t feel like I fit in,” he continues, “because I’m socially outcasted by many of my peers, but I’ve found clarity in who I am.” That clarity is on display and currently getting thumbs up from artists, writers, and fans alike. So much so that XV is plotting a nationwide tour, and currently working on the release of a proper LP, The Kid With The Green Backpack.
In this edition of RH First Look, we turn the microscope on XV. Here the emcee introduces himself, talks about his crazy journey through outerspace, clears up rumors about dissing Charles Hamilton, and talks Lupe Fiasco comparisions. Check it out.
RubyHornet: I know that XV stands for the age at which you started rhyming. What was happening in your life and music-wise that pushed you to start creating songs?
XV: ALOT! See, the main reason behind my super-simple name, “XV”, is that I just turned 15 when I decided to get SERIOUS with pursuing a career in music. But, the inspiration behind that change was that I just lost a close friend of mine to suicide right before I entered high school. It changed me completely as a person, and I was kind of lost in who I was. One part of me was this kid that collects Jakks toy wrestlers, loves Batman The Animated Series, and video games. The other side was this kid that found himself trying to fit in with the older kids from the neighborhood, getting into fights and hanging out on the streets, sometimes not even coming home. Then, I finally just decided that I did’t want to turn into “THAT” person, so I started getting really serious with music. I Saved up enough money to buy my own computer, and the whole summer that I turned 15 I taught myself how to produce, record, and release my own music. I dropped my first album independently a year later. It sucked though, so I ask nicely that nobody tries to dig that album up. Thank you. Hahaha!
RubyHornet: You’re from Kansas. Really, Kansas? What’s the climate like in your neck of the woods a month out from the election?
XV: Hahaha, yes…I am from Smallville, Kansas. I just landed here though, don’t you DARE blame me! Haha. But even though I live in the biggest city in Kansas, it still has a very “small-town” feel to it. You know, sports are a very big thing here, which is one reasons why I was widely ignored by the general public. And not NFL, NBA, NCAA kind of sports, high school sports! Like Varsity Blues or something. It’s not very “country” out here, but nonetheless, we’re still a RED state. We still have our DIE-HARD Fox News republicans. For instance, I just flew to New York City last week, and one of my fellow Kansans on the plane told me and my producer, Seven, to stop cursing. And the last thing I wanted to do was cause a scene on a flight to New York City. So, I just opened my laptop and watched some Richard Pryor stand-up. Without headphones on. Haha!
RubyHornet: You are currently in the midst of 40 Days/40 Nights. For our readers that don’t know, break down the rules real quick. What was your inspiration for this venture, is it a really big nod to Noah? What’s been the hardest part in keeping up?
XV: Well, the REGULAR idea was to drop a new song every day for 40 days, 40 nights. THEN, I thought…wait…wait…what if I dropped a new song EVERY MORNING and EVERY NIGHT for 40 days, playing on the words, “40 DAYS and 40 NIGHTS”. The inspiration behind it was that I just beat “Gears of War” on INSANE mode, Rockband 2 didn’t come out for another month, and I had 2 months before I started recording my album. So, I didn’t have anything better to do. Plus, my horoscope said I was going to embark on a “spiritual concept” that day. Everything just fell into place. And I had a lot of artists that I’ve wanted to work with, but I didn’t want to make another mixtape following, The Square In The Circle, so I figured I would just start recording! The hardest part in keeping up is that I don’t like the concept of sleep, but my body conforms to it. So, I’ll stay up working in the studio until 4 or 5 in the morning, and I’ll sleep until noon, and miss the morning drop. Me and Seven do everything ourselves, so traveling, working, doing interviews and blogging on TheCoolniverse.com (shameless plug) can sometimes run into posting a new track. But, all the music is already done.
RubyHornet: So, as I understand it, you left Earth for Planet Squaria before coming back and heading for the Coolniverse. What was it that made you take off from Earth, and why come back now?
XV: I took off from Earth because I just felt I didn’t belong here. When I say, “I don’t fit in”, I don’t say that rebelliously or trying to be different, or whatever. I really DO NOT fit in. Not only in the music industry, but anywhere. I go to clubs, and people are like, “what is that 12 year old kid doing in here?” because I look mad young! I go to see my old friends from my hood and everybody’s smokin’ and talking about “the spot” last night, and I’m like…”Did anybody catch that Heroes episode?” And Hip-Hop was just getting ridiculous. I needed a break from it all, so I left and headed for Planet Squaria, my home away from home that is actually in my home. I returned because the trip helped me find myself, and my vision, and what I want to bring back musically. I still don’t feel like I fit in, because I’m socially outcasted by many of my peers, but I’ve found clarity in who I am.
RubyHornet: In terms of Planet Squaria, the Coolniverse etc…all of that is very conceptual and so is your music. Do you feel that by having so many concepts that you are painting yourself as esoteric in a way, and some people just won’t give your music a chance based on all the other stuff?
XV: Definitely! I like the way you used that word. Esoteric should be my genre of music, because I don’t expect everybody to get it. I only want to appeal to the people that want to get it, that want to expand their horizons, and travel to other parts of the universe, haha. I don’t expect everybody to relate to my love for video games, comic books, toys, and concepts of space, but I appreciate those that appreciate the fact that I’m really being myself! I’ll perform, and jump up and down on stage, do jump kicks, and everything and even though the person in the crowd wouldn’t dare to act so ridiculous, I appreciate those that appreciate that I am comfortable enough to do that. But, some people just have their own ways of thinking and I can’t knock that.
RubyHornet: RubyHornet is located in Chicago, and when I first played some of your tracks for my people out here, a lot of them compared you to Lupe Fiasco. Do you get that a lot, and if so, how is it weighing on you?
XV: I have definitely gotten that a lot. Especially with the hyper and higher toned voice that we both share, I have heard that from a few people. It doesn’t bother me as much as it would if somebody said I sound like the next Shawty Lo, Hahaha. But, I’m comfortable enough creatively to know there are similarities and differences between me and Lupe. If you’re familiar with the DC Comic universe, I guess I would be more like “Bizarro Lupe”, hahaha, just not as clumsy. Haha!
RubyHornet: I’ve heard rumors that you’re working on a mixtape with Charles Hamilton, and I’ve also heard rumors that you threw a little diss at him. For the record, set the rumors straight on RubyHornet.com.
XV: Both are true and false. I’m working on a mixtape featuring Charles Hamilton but not with Charles Hamilton. It will be like a mix of both of our records back to back, as if we’re facing off like Sonic VS. Mario, since he represents Sonic and I’m a Nintendo head. But the whole mixtape and concept was going to be created by me and probably released before his mixtape, Sonic The Hamilton, since he has told me that SONIC WILL WIN. I doubt that. Hahaha. And yeah, I threw a little jab at him on my record, “Control”, but it wasn’t directed towards Charles Hamilton, the rapper, more like Charles Hamilton, the Sonic. I said, “Ni**az think they sonic, honestly I cannot tails.” And, this was just to spark the beginning of Sonic VS. Mario. Even he took it out of context, even though I only talked about video games the entire song. That’s that esoteric XV again though, so, can’t blame him. It’s all love at the end of the day though.
RubyHornet: In your mind, what does it mean to be “square”? On the flipside, what does it mean to be “cool”?
XV: If you were to ask Huey Lewis and The News that…well…you know how that goes. Haha. But a “square” is somebody who doesn’t get what is “cool.” Not in the form of non-conforming, but really doesn’t understand what is cool. A lot of times my little brothers will show me something that people think is dope and I’ll be like, “Really!? This is cool!?” And I just don’t understand it. So, a square just goes on doing what they think is cool, but ends up being the exact opposite. A square will play Harry Potter on the XBOX the same day that GTA IV comes out. Hahaha. To be “cool” is like being something that everybody agrees is awesome. Like……..Lil’ Wayne! hahahahaha! That’s the best answer for that. Haha.
RubyHornet: You have an interesting title for your next LP, clue our readers into it, what’s the story behind that?
XV: The title is, The Kid With The Green Backpack, and it comes from a name that kids called me when I was in middle school. I was in this “smart kid” program in middle school, which was very low in numbers of black kids. I wasn’t the coolest of the coolest, so I wore this green backpack, and I guess I walked around always clutching the straps of my backpack tightly. Since the kids that weren’t in the program didn’t know my name they just called me, The Kid With The Green Backpack. I found this out later in high school when one of those girls that didn’t know my name handed me her phone number. Schwing!!!!
So the album is a concept album based around my life as a nobody in school, which actually parallels my life as a nobody in the music industry. And as the album progresses, I go through a bunch of events that change me and help me find myself to become a name in school, and become a face in the music industry. It’s like the album John Hughes would make if he became a rapper. LOL.
RubyHornet: For some of our readers, this is their first introduction to you. What are three things that you want people to know about XV when listening to your music?
XV: One, I’m actually not as awesome as I try to make myself out to be. Second, I put my all into my lyrics and concepts, so please don’t pass the opportunity to catch something that the average listener wouldn’t catch. I always try to put something special in there. And third, my music is real! And I don’t mean that in the sense of Plies’s definition of “real”. I mean, like, I say I love video games, add me on XBOX LIVE (Gamertag:XtotheV) and I’ll get online and play. I say I’m an avid comic-reader, hit up my blog and let’s talk comics. Everything I talk about is a part of me and my life, it’s not a gimmick or a sales pitch. I figure that no matter how unique I try to think I am, there has to be some other squarians out there like me, so I just hope to bring some together. And then we can have a lock-in at the rec center! Cool!
Visit XV at the Coolniverse.