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The main reason I decided to review Napalm was that I have been pleasantly surprised by recent releases from some of hip hop’s elder statesman. Nas’s Life is Good was a surprisingly consistent album, with only a clutch of filler. E-40’s trilogy The Block Brochure reinforced the street idiom that an old dog can still show hunger and ambition in the rap game. Could Xzibit also return with a vengeance?
I first became aware of X to the Z after he featured on Sway and King Tech’s legendary posse cut ‘The Anthem’. In truth, I was a major Eminem fan at the time (for my sins), and stumbled upon the track during a period when I would listen to anything from Slim Shady. I digested Xzibit in small doses, taking in his 16 bars on ‘Bitch Please II’, and when he appeared with Eminem on Dr Dre’s ‘What’s the Difference’. The track’s amazing use of Charles Aznavour’s ‘Parce Que Tu Crois’ (later used on the Blu Cantrell’s smash hit ‘Breathe’) was a stroke of sampling genius.
I left Xzibit after his 2002 single ‘Multiply’, and never checked out any of his subsequent releases... until now. His futuristic West Coast sound in the early noughties at the time seemed quite progressive, and though he was never the wittiest rhymesmith, his flow carried a trademark punchy attitude.
Xzibit’s stock further rose when he presented MTV’s Pimp My Ride. His affable and enthusiastic interaction with neglectful used car owners killed his ‘gangster’ persona. He was softer than the fluffy dice that hang from the interior mirror of a souped-up Chevy Impala. Inevitably when the show got cancelled, and further opportunities on screen dried up, Xzibit decided to go back to rap.
Within a couple of minutes of the opening track any hopes I had for Napalm were tempered. Despite the monster truck beats, and the sheer bombast of the audio assault, Xzibit’s trite rap about living a decadent lifestyle seem at odds with a man struggling to pay his taxes. Although later we begin to see that he is reflecting upon his glory days, times where he would smoke endless joints and ‘bang’ models, on ‘Dos Equis’ prominent chants of “let's see some titties” reveal him to be a breast man.
Truth is, this album could be perceived as misogynist rot; on ‘Something More’ X makes mention of “butt naked bitches having sexual relations”. How do you refute such claims of being a sexist? Well, why not bring along your dead momma to appear on ‘1983’, a track which is candid to say the least, and includes the irrefutable fact that despite having all the rhyme skills of a illiterate chimney sweep from the Victorian age, he has sold millions and millions of albums?
Napalm is a long ass 18 track slog, and the pointless thug boasts scattered throughout the album, and more prominently on ‘Gangster Gangster’ and ‘Forever A G’ seem irrelevant, even on a metaphorical level. The only two tracks with any redeeming qualities are ‘Up Out the Way’ and ‘Spread it Out’, both are dumb enough party joints that are not to be taken seriously.
I think Xzibit is a clueless recording ‘artist’, oblivious to what’s currently hot, and what made people love him in the first place. He is playing to an imagined audience, an audience that has long since deserted him. Never is this more obvious than on the embarrassingly sincere ‘Meaning of Life’ which opens with a few words from a Staff Sergeant from the US Military who survived an IED blast, before X states “What’s the meaning of Life? Man, I don’t know”. It is such uncertainty which renders this release borderline unlistenable.