He’s been hailed as the UK’s answer to Andre 3000. He was recently crowned the 2008 Hugo Urban rules champion and he has more tricks up his sleeve than his computer game alter ego XO Manowar! He is XO Man, the up and coming UK Rapper bursting onto the UK music scene with his eclectic music style, unstoppable energy and phenomenal talent.
Last week the south London rapper performed on stage in front of a jam packed venue at London’s trendy nightclub Cargo. After being officially crowned the champ at the Hugo Urban Rules event he was invited to warm up for headlining act of the night The Sugababes. The south London rapper rocked the crowed with tracks such as Lady Dog and Microwave and raised the roof at the exclusive invite only gig. When asked what they thought of XO Man Sugababes said: ‘XO Man had character to match his height. We loved his track Lady Dog’ and there’s definitely star quality about him.’
XO’s music seems to hold no boundaries, mixing rock with hip hop as well as other music genres. He is a welcomed breath of fresh air on the urban music scene right now. I caught up with the charismatic 6ft 10 rapper to find out just who is XO Man?
What does XO Man stand for?
The name comes from the computer game XO Man and Iron Man. The character I’m named after is called XO Manowar. I just shortened the name down to XO Man he’s like the black version of Iron Man.
You were recently crowned Hugo Urban Rules 2008 Champion. How did that come about?
Well a friend of mine sent of some of my tracks to the organisers and then the next thing I know they were calling me back telling me that I’d got through to the last 15 entrants. Then I just turned up to be honest and performed on the night. I performed two of my tracks Lady Dog and a song called Microwave.
You were invited to warm up for the Sugababes afterwards. How did that go?
That was amazing it was really cool. The place was jam packed and at least 200 people couldn’t get in. There was a cue about 2 hours before the door even opened.
How was the crowd’s response to your tracks?
I don’t know if they’d heard me before but they’ve definitely heard me now. They were singing along with me and I always train my crowd by teaching them the chorus. So they were definitely singing along.
Your music is quite different and you’ve been compared to Andre 3000. How do you feel about that?
I’m cool with that. If I’m being compared to him musically then I’m happy because I think his music is amazing. He’s definitely an innovator in his own right. But on the clothing side of the fence, I can see where people are coming from but I like to say my clothes wear me I don’t wear my clothes I look better naked! (Oh really?)
What were your musical influences when you were younger?
This might sound a bit funny but I was never really into music. I was never a music buyer or someone who would go to HMV and buy music. I just about remember buying Salt n Pepper’s Push it. I bought Ginuwine’s Pony once as well and that was on tape! I’m not even a downloader so everything else I just don’t remember.
When did you start getting into music then?
I got into music around 2001. I listened to everything but in the area I grew up in music was very garage/grime based. That was the sort of stuff I was listening to at the time so I was just writing lyrics and spitting at house parties and stuff like that.
What made you get into music eventually then?
When I started writing lyrics I never really sounded like anybody even if I was doing garage. After a while though, when you grow up and you’re not a child anymore and you don’t succumb to peer pressure you start to realise that there are actually other types of music. Then suddenly it becomes cool to just do you because you’ve got your own style rather than just following the latest trend. As a child that’s just what happened sometimes you know, but as I grew up I realised I could actually incorporate the other stuff that I liked rather than just listen to it. So now when I get a beat I just write whatever comes to me because each beat I get I can work with if the producers good enough.
Who are you working with at the moment?
I do work with my producers and I co-produce everything, I’m working with people who are at the top of their game right now. For example if it’s my guitarist I’ll get him into the studio and we’ll put down something and I’ll work around it, but there’s nobody famous. I mean it’s not like I’m working with Pharrell although he’s been ringing me but I’m too busy.
In terms of genre how would you define your musical style now?
I fit anywhere they decide to put me. I can’t answer that because it’s not like I’m trying to become an innovator of new music or anything but I get beats in my head and I just make them. I don’t really know what to call it. At the moment I just like anything that sounds good. That’s the type of music I listen too, I’m an all rounded artist.
What can we expect from your album then?
You can expect anything because if you hear some of my other stuff you’ll hear I’ve got so many different types of tracks. You can get anything from my album just be prepared to be surprised!
Have you got an album coming out soon?
I’ve got so many tracks at the moment. I’ve got well over a hundred songs so it’s just about picking the right ones. I’ve got enough songs to do an album but I think too many artist jump up and say you know what I’m going to put an album in HMV. You can get in there but where the problem lies is in the promotion. Nobody knows it’s there. I could have the best album in the world but no one knows that it’s there. All that’s going to happen there is me suffering depression because no one will be buying it, but the fact of the matter is they don’t know it’s there. So I’m just holding onto my music, I make future music anyway so it doesn’t really matter when it comes out.
Are you signed to a record label at the moment or in the process of looking for a record deal?
No I’m not signed with anyone at the moment but I’m open to anything. If someone offers me the right deal then by all means I’ll take it. I’m not going to sit down just thinking that I want to be independent and do it all myself. I’d love to be waited on hand and foot who wouldn’t.
Is it easy to get disheartened in the music business?
You can get disheartened very easily. A lot of my friends have said to me, you know what you deserve it you’ve worked very hard. To be honest though I still push myself because I honestly think I haven’t worked hard enough. I’m not ready to celebrate yet; I’m not celebrating until I’m performing in front of so many people it begins to look like water.
Where can people check out some of your tracks?
I’m setting up my website as we speak. At the moment I’ve got a sample CD and a DVD of myself that’s called Your well spoken Menace. Everything gets shipped out from my Myspace though, so a lot of people ask for stuff through there and then I’ll do like a PayPal thing and send it straight to them that way.
What can we expect from you for 2009?
Well I’m renaming it to 2000 and mine so that should explain it all!
Don’t forget to check out some of XO Man’s tunes at MySpace.com/xomanmusic
To see how you can get involved in HUGO URBAN RULES go to: www.hugofragrances.com/urbanrules
By Daina Anderson