In the interest of transparency, I have to confess: I was a little nervous doing this. My first interview with a West Coast rapper was to be with the iconic Xzibit. A man who has just about worked with every rap supreme – Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, 50 Cent, and is even good friends with Dr. Dre. The heavyweight rhymester returns with his boisterous vocals accompanied by a star-studded line-up of guests, including Akon, Game, Wiz Khalifa and others on his new album ‘Napalm’.
The veteran rapper and actor is also famed for hosting the popular ‘Pimp My Ride’ TV series. He has faced a number of ups and downs in his lengthy career, but despite the downs, he refreshingly remains optimistic. On the heels of his album release, we spoke exclusively with Mr. X to the Z. He talks about becoming the first ever rapper to perform in Baghdad, as well as dishing some fatherhood advice to Wiz Khalifa and why he thinks aliens and ghosts don’t like black people.
How does this album ‘Napalm’ differ from your previous albums?
I mean it’s different to what I’ve learnt from the first album to now. It’s definitely a lot different. The way I perform, the way I record, and you should always be ready to expect something different.
The album gives the impression that’s its very personal to you. It features your late mother as well as experiences that you’ve encountered over the years…
It’s what happens naturally. I always try to include a piece of myself into my music because I know I’m not unique in my struggles, everybody goes through bulls*it. If I can put myself out there in a vulnerable way to let people know that there are ups and there are downs, I feel like I did my job. I don’t really pull punches to get dramatic effect. It’s just what I’ve gone through and how I felt about it.
You’ve reunited with your old skool partner-in-rhyme Dr Dre. What’s you’re working relationship like?
I consider Dr. Dre a mentor and a close personal friend. We hang out all the time, so I don’t really look at it like a working relationship or whatever. I mean that’s my n*gga right there…[Laughs]
You recently became the first rapper to do a show in Baghdad. Can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, who else you know performed in downtown Baghdad?
I presume not many people…
[Laughs]…Of course, it weren’t like a regular concert. I mean it’s a war zone I don’t know how to explain it, but it was pretty surreal to be on the ground because at any second or moment, anything could have happened. I’ve never done a show where there were over 50 loaded AR-15s in a crowd.
You’ve got a few huge collaborations on this album. How did you go about selecting whom to involve?
The music dictated that. I like the music to be organic. I like to let the music tell me the direction to go. I heard a certain person and was like you know what, I’ve got to get this guy, and this other guy on it. I believe as an artist the music should tell you who’s supposed to be on it.
It seems like you enjoyed working on this album?
Yeah, I did. [Laughs] I didn’t have any kind of distractions or anybody in my face telling me their opinions about what beats and sh*t, I should pick. I did this sh*t myself. This is my sh*t and this is what I wanted to do.
Before you met Wiz Khalifa, did you have any preconceptions about him and what was he like once you started working with him?
I think that’s a character flaw of today’s generation, you know that mentality like I have the right to say anything I want to anybody I want? I think that’s a new sh*t! You can’t tell me sh*t about anybody until I meet them, but I mean Wiz was cool and humble. He’s made a real good name for himself. He’s very positive, and he kills his music. I fu*k with Wiz he’s my dude. He’s on my album twice, and he handled his sh*t.
Any fatherly advice to Wiz who’s about to become a Dad?
My advice is to enjoy it and at the same time embrace it. It’s one of the most exciting and fulfilling things that will ever happen in his life, I’m speaking from experience.
You are considered a legend in hip-hop. You’ve been around a long time. A lot of new rappers look up to you, but do you feel like you’ve reached your peak?
No, no, I have not… [Laughs] It’s just a matter, of how I feel about the music so if I ever start feeling like I don’t want to do this anymore, then I won’t disrespect myself or the fans by continuing to do it. I still love what I do and I can still smoke 98% of the motherf**ker that I’ve got here, you know what I’m saying? I can’t stop doing this but until I lose the passion then I’ll know I’ve reached my peak.
What does Xzibit do in his downtime? Are his not at work activities slightly different than in, say, 1999?
I do a lot of deep-sea ocean fishing and smoke a lot of weed. That’s what I do in my downtime… [Laughs]
I read somewhere that you said you’ve always wanted a role in one of the Die Hard franchise. Anything you’d like to say to Bruce Willis?
[Pause] No, man! I don’t want to say anything to Bruce Willis. Like come on man, is this Journalism or what?
Years from now when the testament is written about Xzibit and what kind of man he was, what do you want people to say about you?
I don’t care what people say about me. I’m doing my sh*t the way I want to do it, so I don’t care what people say, or if they remember me. As long as my children respect and love me, and my family knows that I love them. Who gives the fu*k about the rest of you guys?
You said back in 2008, during an interview: “I don’t believe in aliens. I don’t think aliens or ghosts like black people. We never get abducted.” Is this still you’re thinking or have you experienced any ghostly occurrence since then?
Till this day, I still ain’t seen no damn ghost or alien. [Laughs]
Xzibit’s new album ‘Napalm’ is out now.