Revisionist history hasn’t been kind to Xzibit. Lost in jokes about MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” and internet memes is the fact that for about seven years, Mr. X to the Z had a run in Hip Hop that most emcees could only dream of. After putting in work in the mid-90s with Tha Alkaholiks and the Likwit Crew, X released an acclaimed sophomore in 40 Days & 40 Nightz, and a relationship with Dr. Dre and the Aftermath machine soon followed. Xzibit may have never reached the heights of an Eminem or a Snoop Dogg, but to lump X into the same category as a Hittman, a Bishop Lamont, or soon Slim the Mobster (hey, just playing the percentages here) would be a gross mischaracterization. Xzibit’s latest Napalm proves that he sits somewhere in the middle
“State of Hip-Hop vs. Xzibit” justifies naming the album Napalm, as X comes out swinging over hard-hitting, plodding synths, proclaiming, “we didn’t come here in peace, we came here to take the planet.” “Everything” dips into nostalgic territory, as Xzibit recalls days of drinking underage and working the block. “1985” is Napalm’s standout track. It’s extremely intimate, with X putting on his storytelling hat to touch on being exploited by MTV, family drama, and falling out with Dr. Dre and Eminem’s camps. It’s a perfect illustration of the type of thoughtfulness that always distinguished Xzibit from many of his peers. Contrarily, the tile track is its worst, with a heavy Rock-Rap sound that doesn’t make the mark, even with X’s gruff delivery.
“Up Out the Way” injects a healthy dose of hyphy into the project, with the always-reliable E-40 providing an excellent verse. The song also illustrates that Xzibit is game to flex over just about any type of beat. Dr. Dre laces X with a slinky beat on “Louis XIII.” King Tee and Tha Alkaholiks sound phenomenal on the track, putting on a musical chemistry clinic. David Banner provides an upbeat cut on “Enjoy the Night,” which features apt pinch hitting duties from Banner, Wiz Khalifa, and Brevi. Cuts like “Movies” (featuring Game, Crooked I, Slim the Mobster, and Young De) and “Killer’s Remorse” (featuring Bishop Lamont, Young De, and B-Real), as well as two cuts pleasantly featuring RBX give the album an authentic and almost comforting West Coast sound that’s generally been lacking in recent years.
Xzibit may be a bit conflicted on his first album in six years. Napalm finds X fluctuating between trying to recapture the sound he perfected when he was cavorting with the Aftermath staff, and exploring elder statesmanship a la “Thank You” from 2006’s Full Circle. When he goes too far in pursuit of either extreme, Napalm falters. The truth is, Xzibit belongs somewhere in between. He’s still an outstanding emcee, and he’s got a lot to say. He’ll get mileage out of that for sure, but when Xzibit nails down the appropriate direction for an entire project, then fans will truly see what the West Coast veteran is capable of.