State-of-the-art crossover hip-hop - and that includes griping...
Xzibit is a man who has travelled far, but has still managed to stay in the same place. In the last two years, thanks to the Anger Management tour, he’s journeyed all over the US with Eminem and Papa Roach in hot pursuit of the crossover market – but though you can take the man from the West Coast, you evidently can’t take the West Coast out of the man.
Although ‘Man Vs Machine’ is reported to be X‘s ‘concept’ album – about the struggles a rapper must endure in his quest for fame – it’s unlikely anyone will find it a concept particularly tricky to compute. Having noted the ladies, (the needlessly parenthesised ‘Choke Me, Spank Me (Pull My Hair)’) and the money (‘Multiply’), we find ourselves back in Long Beach, California, 1993.
As if to make the point explicit, Dre’s on here (the brilliant, funny ‘Symphony In X Major’), as well as the Doggs (Snoop and Nate). But what brings the album bang up to the minute is how it reflects the fact that as much as hip-hop loves talking about the life, the girls and the Hennessey, its current preoccupation is with moaning. “The game is ten per cent skill” he grumbles, dad-like, “and 90 per cent Hollywood”. Once the rapper most likely to be found in a video full of strippers, here we find X on the cover with a gasmask, opening his album with a thing about leaving jail. Is it all really that bad?
Well, maybe not. The issue here is how to write an album about what it’s like crossing over, while selling enough records to cross over still further. If this means a lot of griping, it also means tunes – ‘Heart Of Man’ compares the hip-hop business to selling drugs, backed by Toto’s ‘Africa’, while ‘My Name’ is a decent Eminem cameo, which continues the pair’s dissing of Jermaine Dupri.
All as you might expect, then. But even if this is business as usual for Xzibit, then at least business is good.