EBC: I’m here with my man XP who’s on tour with Macklemore in support of the album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. They’re on The Camping Trip Tour right now where they’re hitting all the little small towns in Washington that they don’t usually get to perform in. I happened to catch up with XP in his hometown of Olympia, Washington before his performance tonight.
EBC: Given that you guys are on the road and doing all these big arenas and huge shows all across the world, how does it feel to come back to your hometown in this intimate venue and perform in front of your city tonight?
XP: It feels great man. It’s the homecoming. That was my first time going out and seeing like Europe and Australia and it was beautiful. It was eye opening, it was mind opening. But it’s always good to come back home and show your homies and your family what you learned. Because you know each time I perform I try to learn from that performance. So every time you see me perform hopefully it’s better than the last time. I think I got a lot of experience out there on the road and I’m kind of anxious to show these people that I’m out there for a reason. And you know to kind of stunt on the haters a little bit.
EBC: Hahaha I feel that, I feel that.
XP: But nah man it feels good coming home for sure.
EBC: I’m sure you learned a lot there out on the road, but what were some of the crazier crowds or crazy show situations that you’ve had out there in some of these other countries?
XP: Man…Dublin. Dublin was one of the craziest places I have ever performed.
EBC: The Irish huh?
XP: I mean it’s just crazy. After every song they’re chanting like it’s a soccer game. You know what I’m saying? It’s just way turnt up and lit. Germany is amazing too. Surprisingly Poland, Poland was probably one of my favorite shows I’ve ever done. They just very energetic.
EBC: I know they have crazy Hip-Hop fan bases over there.
XP: And they just like to party and have a good time. I mean they do all over the world, but there’s just certain places that stuck out.
EBC: So we mentioned earlier you being from Olympia and this being your home. So coming from an area this small as opposed to other bigger markets, what were some of the struggles you faced as an artist trying to make it out of this type of environment?
XP: Yeah there’s a lot of struggles that come with it. Trying to get people to pay attention to you is one of the biggest struggles. Trying to get people to recgonize your talent. Especially in a place where everyone has a friend that raps and everybody is a rapper. You kinda gotta separate yourself from that a little bit and go and pave your own lane. Which is one of the reasons I kinda moved away from Olympia.
EBC: Sometimes you gotta go out to get the love back home.
XP: Sometimes you gotta go out you know. Not to preach or nothing but the bible says “A profit will not be loved in his hometown” (laughter)
EBC: Amen, Amen (laughter)
XP: But it’s all good. It’s always good to come back.
EBC: So recently you released two videos, “Not Today” which was produced by Ryan Lewis and “Sugar Coated Bullets” which both are fire by the way. So what’s up next and what can we expect from the full length album that you just announced?
XP: Thank you sir. The full length is so crazy, it’s ridiculous. Those tracks I released, I felt those would be the best as singles to kinda let people know the range I’m dealin’ with. Rapping and singing and then just all singing as well as alternative stuff outside of just rapping. So I tried to show my versatility with both of those songs because the album is actually in 3 parts. There’s a “Turn Up” section. There’s a “XP” section where I’m more serious and getting more spiritual, political views, worldly views. And then the final part of the album is all singing and R&B stuff which is where the “Sugar Coated Bullets” is from. So it’s like a variety album as well as I incorporated some skits that I wrote. I wrote these little skits and it was kind of like screenwriting, like writing a movie almost. I had to make the album cohesive so I put those skits on there and it’s kinda like listening to a movie. If you follow what each track is about it’s kind of like my evolution. It goes from you know me…see I was born in Olympia but my parents divorced when I was like two so I grew up in Gary, Indiana, East Chicago, Detroit. And so I learned different things you know what I’m saying, that I wouldn’t have learned if I grew up here. So this album is like that evolution of me learning what I learned there, incorporating it into music and then becoming aware of what’s going on. Why we’re in that situation. Why there is a ghetto. Why there is drugs in our neighborhood if we didn’t bring them there. Why do we have military issued guns in the hood if we didn’t bring them there? You know what I’m saying?
EBC: Sounds like you’re going to touch on a lot with this project.
XP: Yeah, so when you listen to the album it’s an evolution of me figuring out what’s going on. Then at the same time externally and internally figuring out what’s going on with myself. And then it ends with a R&B section. I don’t wanna give too much away but it’s definitely like an audio movie and I think people will enjoy it.
EBC: I’m excited for that. Now you say you don’t want to give too much away and I was just about to ask you like is there any surprises or any moments that stood out during the creative process of this album. Any moments that we’re special to you?
XP: The skits, the skits were pretty special. How the skits make the album cohesive. It was hard to do ‘cuz I was in the middle of tour and I had to find somebody to do the voice of a character. The album’s called “Chasing Grace”. And so throughout the album I’m having conversations with this girl named Grace. Then there’s like a plot twist towards the end of the album. So that’s one of the things that stand out to me, but I’ll give ya’ll this. My favorite thing about the album is doing a track and having Prince Po of Organized Konfusion and having Aesop Rock on the same track and just bringing those worlds together. I’m friends with Aes and when I told him I had this track with Prince Po, my verse is done and his verse is done, I want you to get on it. And I was like I told Prince Po that you might get on it. Aesop was like, “Prince Po knows who I am?” When Aesop said that I knew the energy of the track was gonna be different than anything that’s out there. It’s on some classic hip-hop shit. A sample and some boom bap and it’s us rapping with a purpose.
EBC: That’s dope man, I’m looking forward to that record. With that said, you’re known for touring and working heavily with Macklemore who’s huge right now. How was it working with him on “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made”? Were there any moments working on the album that stood out or that were special for you.
XP: A good thing that stood out was working on the song “White Privilege 2” because it wasn’t an easy song for them to create. What they did was brought other peoples insight into the record. For one example, they went to the Black Lives Matters movement, the leaders of the movement and got their two cents on it. Jamila Woods who sings on the end of the song, she just didn’t sing on it. She gave her input on lyrics and what she thought there should be lyrics about as well as I did. That was one of the things that was very dope because I knew that song was gonna be something that could spark a change in the world and most importnantly in America and get a certain conversation going. To be a part of it, it gave me goosebumps. It was like oh we gonna get a conversation started with this shit. Another part was just kickin’ it with the homie. You know I’ve known Ben for 12 or 13 years now. Working on music with him is like back in the day when we would just meet up and come up with ideas, brainstorm and freestyle with each other. Make beats on tables and shit.
EBC: That’s what it’s all about right?
XP: That’s what it’s about. That was the best part. Just kickin’ it with the homie really.
EBC: That’s dope man especially talking about the “White Privilege” track. I remember the morning I woke up and heard it. I was blown away but at the same time I knew it was going to get people talking in a lot of different way whether it be supportive, positive, negative whatever. It’s definitely a special record. So on the hip-hop side of things I always like to ask people’s opinions on all things hip-hop related.
XP: Yes! ‘Cuz I got some fuckin opinions! [Laughter] Can I curse? I’m sorry.
EBC: Say whatever the fuck you wanna say [Laughter] 2016. Two-thirds of the way over. Best album so far?
XP: Malibu by Anderson.Paak.
EBC: Good choice, good choice. I could definitely agree on that.
XP: He got everything.
EBC: What’s crazy about that is when I first heard Anderson.Paak I immediately thought of you. Not so much the style but the soulfulness. A lot of the feelings I get listening to your music, I got the same ones listening to him. Very soulful.
XP: What’s funny is Macklemore knows me a good deal and he’s turned me on to a lot of music. Like I knew who Bilal was but I never thought to go and listen to Bilal as a solo artist. I knew he did “Soul Sister” and the track with Talib, [Sings] “Waiting for the dj to…”, but that’s all I knew, but Mack was like, “No, listen to this solo album”. I think it’s called, Love For Sale. It’s not even on Spotify. I had to find it on YouTube. To me it’s one of the best R&B albums in history. It’s just the writing, the harmonies, everything is so on point. Mack has turned me on to a lot of different artists, you know what I’m saying? I think it was about a year ago, I forget what song it was, but he was like, “Listen to this song” and I was like “This is fucking crazy”. He was talking ‘bout some pimp shit. Then he was talking ‘bout something else. [Laughter] I forget what the song was about. It was Anderson and after that he dropped Malibu. That was the first thing I heard from him and I didn’t turn that shit off. Everybody on tour right now is tired of that album. I know the whole shit by heart. I’m a fan boy of that shit. [Laughter] So I would sing it before our shows and that’s how I would warm up. I’d sing that whole fucking album. They gettin’ tired of it. Mack turns me on to a lot of different artists.
EBC: Yeah he’s dope. I first heard him on Dr. Dre’s album. That’s how I got familiar. Then I heard, Malibu and went back and listened to, Venice and was like Ok this guys for real. He didn’t just pop up. He’s for real.
XP: Then I met him and that was crazy. We were doing festivals over in, I think it was Switzerland. Owuor is the trumpet player for Mack’s band and he was like this is the illest festival of all the festivals. I forgot which one it was, but me and Mack went to watch Ghostface and Anderson was there watching. I didn’t get to see him perform but I got to meet him. Just an all around good dude and just hella chill. I’m like I had to be like bro your album Malibu is fucking crazy. I’ve been bumpin’ it for two months straight. And he was real appreciative of it so that was dope. Love Anderson.Paak.
EBC: So one last question man. What advice would you give someone who thinking about getting in the music game? Someone who knows they have talent and are dope but hasn’t yet started that journey. What would you tell them?
XP: Man I used to have an answer for that, but I’m gonna change it today. Today is the day that I’m gonna change it. You know I’ve been rappin’…in October marks the ten year anniversary of my first album that I ever released. With that I guess comes wisdom. So people ask you questions like that. I get asked that question and now I’m gon’ change it today. Today my answer is to be humble. Normally I would say, “Do as many shows as you can”. “Get in front of peoples face and work on your craft”. Yeah, work on your craft but be humble. Do as many shows as you can but never be like, “I’m the dopest nigga that’s out right now”. Because I just did a show and 30 people came out. I brought 30 friends and we left before the supporting act and headliner even came on. Instead of doing that stick around. See why there’s a headliner. See why the supporting act is going on before the headliner and see why you’re not in that spot. That’s one thing that always bugged me. We used to do shows and there’d be that artist that’ll bring 50 friends and it’s like, “That’s dope” and they all think your dope. Then that artist will leave with his friends because he don’t want them to see somebody that’s doper or something. That’s why there really ain’t no community as far as hip-hop goes anymore. If everybody supported the art form it wouldn’t matter who’s going on. We gon’ stay for this, it’s a hip-hop show. Let’s stay for this hip-hop show ‘cuz it’s a party. And if you leaving before the headliner then you shouldn’t be at the mothafuckin’ show anyway. So that’s what I would say is try to be humble and get in front of faces as many times as you can. Always work on your craft and take everything a learning experience because that’s what it is.
EBC: Man thank you so much for the interview bro and congratulations on your recent platinum plaque.
XP: Yessir. Chasing Grace coming September 30th. Quit playing wit’ me.
“Chasing Grace” is out now on all major digital retailers.
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