Thursday, June 2, 2011

Electric Relaxation: XLUSIVE "Just in Time"

"Xlusive's the name, always does things his way. They say that he got him a vision. Xlusive has came. Oh, is that what they say. They say that he got the ambition." - "X Is The Name"

That quote comes from the hook on the first song of XLUSIVE's debut album "Just in Time" and it sums up how I feel about this cat since I met him on Twitter about a year and a half ago talking about hoops. Seeing that he was one of my few followers that actually lived in L.A., we hit it off real cool as he told me he was a rapper but didn't try to promote his music right away.

When you see his picture, he reminds you of Evidence from Dilated Peoples but on wax he sounds like a mix of Rakim's cool and AZ's clarity. He's Russian by birth but was raised on New York hip hop and studied the genre like a class he'd be taking at Cal Poly Pomona. He's released two mixtapes so far and now he's ready to take it a step further with this album.

But like most rappers today, he's also about branding himself and making this a career, not just making hits or quick money. Along with his manager Francisco Garcia, he's studied various marketing techniques and knows not just how to deliver a great product, but how to make it last beyond the moment. At 23, his business mind is sharper than folks 10 years older and it's shown in several conversations I've had with him.

His vision is starting with "Just in Time", which is available for free at his website until July 1 (also available at his artist page). The 13-track album is his formal introduction to the LA rap scene and is entirely produced by Loopz, another member of XLUSIVE's team.

The biggest draw is X's voice. He raps with charisma and precision but it doesn't sound forced or showy. His breath control is solid as he shows on "I'm Back" where he switches flows effortlessly without letting the beat get away from him. The same applies to the title track where he delivers boasts with a swagger of a veteran.

"So Cal" is a piano-heavy, West Coast banger that's perfect for cars and features a solid verse from Charm, whose aggressive flow nearly steals the show. But throughout the album, XLUSIVE's versatility shines as he uses different flows to drive home each song without sounding boring.

The ladies jam "Turn Off the Lights" is a turnoff only because his confident flow comes off begging more than convincing. Also, his voice can sometimes gets overshadowed by the pulsing beats and his content, while consistent, might not distinguish him from other rappers.

That said, he does show a bit of depth on later tracks "Love, Hate, Sex and Drugs" goes from hearing a lover's confessions on her ambitions to his personal focus on his music instead of sex and drugs. "Money and Drugs" shows X describes three tales of ladies struggling to survive with the emotion of a street narrator.  Both songs have hypnotizing beats that set the mood and are easily a highlight of the album.

The album is a promising debut that'll take a few listens to appreciate and it shows that XLUSIVE will be an MC to watch and listen for in the future. The same applies to Loopz, whose versatility behind the boards creates a cohesive sonic experience that fans will enjoy. Go cop the album

Follow him at @XLUSIVE and check out his websites and

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