First off let me apologize to Andrew for getting this in a week late. The past 168 hours—at the time of writing this—were cannibalized by work, the woman, and of course Kendrick (and to a lesser extent Bodega Bamz’ tape). Secondly, let’s get straight to the point; Mr. X-to-the-Z’s seventh studio album Napalm (and first in six years) is surprisingly good.
In the late ’90s, Xzibit was one of the most promising rappers to emerge out of the West Coast underground scene that was equal parts NWA gangsterisms and Good Life-lyrical-miracle thoughtfulness. Therefore, many of us gave Xzibit a HUGE side eye for signing with Dre back in ’99, only to later call him a sell out for his Pimp My Ride exploits while secretly loving the show in the quiet of our homes. Feeling he had compromised his artistic vision and integrity, outside his movie roles, many of us haven’t been checking for Xzibit in years.
Xzibit has always encompassed the best of rap’s exaggerated dichotomies: street, but insightful; hard, but lyrical. In the first part of his career he released two high quality albums with five of the best songs (and one of the best videos) found anywhere in that era: one, two, three, four, five, and the video. Napalm quickly reminds us why we all rode for Xzibit 15 years ago. “State of Hip Hop vs. Xzibit” is face-crunching trash compactor synths and kick to the nuts drums that allows Xzibit to firmly spit his gruff baritone vivid as a young Tarantino.
Right after the opener, Rick Rock gives the album that West Coast bliss and celebration music on “Everything”, as Xzibit admits to his career missteps and reflects on how he came up in the streets of L.A. The high-energy momentum continues on the RBX and Game-assisted “Dos Equis”. But one of the more unique moments is the Saukrates-produced “Something More”, which is strangely catchy. Xzibit and Prodigy spit their norm, but it occurs over experimental sounds equal parts disjointed and smooth. It gives their voices a vitality and youthful-edge that gets lost in their more traditional beat choices.
Now everything ain’t kush-n-Ciroc. The album becomes very radio friendly-introspective toward the middle, and hitting skip is not beyond reason. Later on the album there are also some misfires. While Xzibit becomes very transparent about his trials and tribulations, we don’t come to him for that. We need that raw. And, thankfully, “Spread It Out” gets things back in order. Then the unfuckwitable E-40 comes through on “Up Out The Way” for the ratchetness to get turnt up to ten over Rick Rock’s future-world slapper.
Yup, you like me assumed Napalm would but numbingly boring, out of place amongst the new booties, and full of old timer clichés, but not so. The album is virile, sounds contemporary without pandering (too much), and Xzibit is putting on a rap clinic. Even guest like Bishop Lamont, B Real, and Crooked I sound rejuvenated and kill shit. Simply put, this is the best work Xzibit has released in ten years. And for those wondering, yes, The Liks and King Tee come through over a nice Dre beat to make us feel like its ‘98 all over again. Salute.