XzibitWeapons of Mass Destruction
Usually it's game over when an underground rapper goes mainstream. The lyrics fall off, the albums get padded with needless collaborations and the artist generally gets set adrift on memory's bliss. Every new album is compared with the first, timeless one. In Xzibit's case, all the ingredients are there: an MTV series, TV commercials, couch time with Conan and Jay. Yet, somehow, after nine years and a handful of albums, Xzibit has managed to escape the curse and has produced one of his most commanding efforts to date.
His first CD, 1996's The Speed of Life, made an explosion when it hit the streets, so much so that 2Pac and the Outlawz felt they had to respond on wax. That's the rap equivalent of Michael Jordan feeling your breath on his neck.
In years since, Xzibit's career has gone up and down. He's popped enough bottle with models and eaten enough large steaks on large estates with the likes of Snoop, Eminem and Dre.
That's why it's so surprising that Weapons of Mass Destruction is such a powerful disc. Shed of superstar cameos, the album brings X back to his rawbone roots of simple beats and inventive wordplay. The leadoff track samples George Bush and has him repeating the words "The tyrant is me." And that's just for starters.
"Cold World" shows that Xzibit hasn't forgotten his hard-luck past. Busta Rhymes makes a well-timed guest appearance on "Tough Guy," enhancing both their reputations. And, like his classic first album, where he talked about his mother and his love for women in general, X's song "Scent of a Woman" is a tribute to a faithful lover.
So, while X has gone to Hollywood, Hollywood hasn't gotten to X. He's still the contemplative rhymespitter he was when 'Pac saw him as a threat. There's still plenty of time for X to sell out; the fact he hasn't done so yet gives him added credibility and statesmanship in a rap game dominated by young punks.