iLL Vibes Exclusive Interview with XV - "From Squaria to Earth & Back"

. Jul 14, 2008

***[DISCLAIMER: this interview will be up for 3 DAYS so please be aware that when we update the blog for this week, the posts will appear under this interview!!]***

XV embodies what iLL Vibes looks for in music and I’m talking about the C.O.Q.I., that Creativity, that Originality, that Quality, and that Integrity that is necessary to keep real hip hop alive. For the past couple of months, the name XV had floated past my ears here and there, but I never took the time to dwell on it until last week. I checked the dude’s myspace, and I couldn’t believe my ears. I felt like XV was on the same wavelength as me as he was spitting over Justice’s “The Party.” I loved that song, but I always felt like it needed a lil bit more, some swagger….and that’s what XV provided. Similarly, I was glad to hear him to spit on Chromeo’s “Fancy Footwork” on “Would U Dance With Me.”

Get to Know XV

So I shouted out to him man, I had to hear more about his background and his music. XV came mad humble (a rare quality in the game) thanked me for the support and hooked me up with an advance on “The Square in the Circle” and we set up the interview you see down below. Now I have too much stuff to say about XV and his mixtape. Musically, this dude is out of this world (on Squaria) and some of his compositions of hip hop and electro are rhythmically contagious and can cause some serious synesthesia. Some of his songs like, “Well, Come to Earth” reminded me of some of the material that was on Lupe Fiasco’s first mix tapes like the Fahrenheit series and the Revenge of the Nerds joint.

XV - MTV2 Sucker Freestyle

XV on MTV's Sucker Free "All I got is my balls and my word lika Speedo" LOL

On this mixtape, XV lets you into his world of tribulations, video games (“Controller”), the state of hip hop (“Everything’s Cool”), childhood memories (“1997”), and life on Planet Squaria (“Battle For Planet Squaria”). However, If you had to pick a song that was the epitome of what XV stands for, I would say it was “Everything’s Cool” as he talks about his style and how he doesn’t necessarily conform and fit into the mainstream commercialization of hip hop. Two of my favorite tracks on the album are actually the more personalized tracks (“Please Forget Me” and “Life on Mars). On these tracks, he touches upon the changes he has been through as he excelled musically, and how he simultaneously began getting props from people, yet still felt aloof from the world and wanted to be on his own stuff making his own music being on his own planet.

V for Vendetta (Live) All V Words, Ridiculous

If you haven’t gotten the mixtape yet, be sure to cop it as XV has rightfully called it more of an “experience” than a mixtape. Get to know more about the artist down below in an exclusive iLL Vibes interview with XV.

iLL Vibes Interview with XV: "From Squaria to Earth & Back"

iLL Vibes: Thanx for taking your time out XV, appreciate the support. Now, first things first man, gotta start with the basics. Let the people know the whole concept of Squaria and "The Square in the Circle" Mixtape and how you got the name XV. I'm talking about the second you got the epiphany for the whole concept.

XV: To explain it the best, I would have to explain how I came up with the concept. After releasing my mixtape, "The Definition 4", I was supposed to start working on my new album with my producer, Seven. Suddenly, I was watching MTV Jams, and downloading new music, and I just lost it. I didn't want to do it anymore. I had a long talk with Seven and Bling, and explained to them how no matter what we create, or how amazing it is, it won't matter, because the people don't want to hear it. If their is no audience for it, and everybody wants to dance and get silly, then, we just don't fit in. So, I just stopped listening to rap music and dove into playing video games heavy. I was finishing a new video game every 2-3 days, and just listening to all sorts of weird music from electro to rock to classical soundtracks. Then, I told Seven I wanted to do a mixtape over all of these weird instrumentals I heard while listening to music and playing video games, so I started on "Square In The Circle".

At the time it didn't have a concept, it was just about me trying to fit in somewhere where I don't fit in. Then, I was playing one of the best video games of this decade called, Mass Effect, and it has all of these different planets and galaxies on it. That's when I came up with the idea for Squaria. Planet Squaria represents my character, "The Square's", hometown. In reality, it represents my house, because I am such a homebody, and I explain that on the mixtape song, "Life On Mars". And, I got my rap name, "XV", from the roman numerals of 15, which is the age I was when I decided to really pursue Hip-Hop as a career. And by that, I mean, I started my own record label, started producing and becoming a well known name on and Soundclick, and I released my first independent album, "The Legacy" at that age. So, it was a major coming of age for me from the person that I was before I turned 15.

IV: I love the idea of a concept album man, Lupe's "The Cool" and Wale's "Mixtape About Nothing" have some amazing music locked into a creative concept. Now, to a certain extent, everybody is a product of their environment, so how do you feel Kansas helped produce and develop your style of hip-hop and put you on the Squaria state of mind?

XV: Kansas is literally in the MIDDLE of the U.S. map. So, due to this location, we are influenced by EVERYTHING. There is no certain sound that Kansas Hip-Hop music has. If you were to live in Atlanta, it would be rare to hear somebody from there sound like an MC from New York. Same goes for a rapper in Los Angeles sounding like a rapper from St. Louis. This allowed me to have no boundaries as an artist, which is really the "squaria state of mind" as you put it in such a super-dope way. I should do a song like that over NY State of Mind, hahaha!

IV: Ah man, now that I would love to hear, "Illmatic" is such as classic CD man...nothing like what is out right now. So while we are on that topic, what do you think is hurting the game most right now? A lot of people say it's the lack of creativity and consciousness in hip-hop as its stuck on gimmicks and tired dances. However, I believe the fans are a problem too because they are listening to it and buying into it, pretty much letting it flourish (all I can think about is that Ice T v. Souljah boy argument….Kanye sorta let me down a little too). What do you think about the whole idea?

XV: What's hurting the game the most right now would be the lack of leaders. Not only as rappers. That goes for chairmen, CEO's, A&R's, Program Directors, Music Directors, Fans, Promoters, BLOGGERS, everybody!!! Everybody wants to follow. They want to follow what is hot. They want to follow what is "cool". They want to follow who is on all the blogs, even if they don't dig them as an artist. They want to follow so bad, that if I say hop on one leg and bark like a dog in the club, everybody's gonna hop on one leg and bark like a damn dog! Think about it! That's why dances are so hot right now. Because people don't want to lead. They want to follow. It gets me frustrated, because, I think, "Am I missing something? Maybe I'm not hearing right." Like, Lil' Wayne. I can't front, because he's the ONLY artist on my mixtape, and dude is CRAAAAAAZY nice! That is not a question. But, "The Carter III" was not a good album! It wasn't WACK! But it wasn't a good album. It wasn't structured well. It didn't have concepts. And it lacked alot of the swag and lyrical content that he delivered on various remixes and mixtape releases before the album. Yet, you have people calling it a CLASSIC. Putting it up there with Illmatics and Reasonable Doubt. I just don't get it sometimes. But, I just blame it on the lack of leaders. Obama For President. Haha!

IV: Hahaha, very true man, individualization is really taken out of the expression of music when there are dances tied to all these songs, it's like people are robots at the club. What up and coming artists across all genres are currently motivating and inspiring you? What about All-Time artists?

XV: Like I said, I'm actually more motivated and inspired by video games, movies, comic books, and porn...BUT...up and coming artists that have been pretty inspiring to me have been Charles Hamilton, this rock group called Jupiter One, Janelle Monae is incredible, and although they're not really a new new band, I just found out about them, but Death Cab For Cutie has been a major inspiration to the work that I've been doing on my new album.

IV: I love that Charles Hamilton mixtape man, yall got some similarities too as he is on the video game tip like you, but with Sonic. "Narrow Stairs" is a pretty dope LP too from Death Cab for Cutie. I can tell you get on eclectic side from the mixtape as you hadSmashing Pumpkins? Chromeo? and Justice? Ah man, you put some classic material on this mixtape fam. I kno you just released the tape, but are there any other artists outside of hip hop you plan on spitting over for your new material? Just to name drop a few, I feel like you would sound dope over some MGMT, Crystal Castles or Cut Copy.

XV: I have already thought about messing with some MGMT, but I can't give away too many, cause I gotta leave a few surprises in there for the next mixtape. But, I've already thought about doing some stuff over Moby, Pendulum, Zoot Woman, and I'm actually in the process of doing a XV & The Killers mixtape, cause The Killers is one of my favorite bands.

IV: I can't wait to hear your version of "Kids" or "Electric Feel." So, Seven, an incredible producer man. How did you hook up with this cat and what is it like working with him in the studio?

Working in the studio? I don't work in no studio with Seven. We just play video games and every now and then he'll play a beat for me. If I come up with something, we'll lace it, see how it sounds. But mostly...we just play video games. XBL Gamertag, XtotheV, get with me! Hahaha!!!! But we don't play no Madden. I'll let the rappers play those sports games. Haha!

IV: Hahaha, yeah man sudden inspiration is the best when it comes out nowhere like when you're chilling with your friends watching TV or playin video games. Ok fashion, you know we had to take it there especially with your plans for the Fly Boy Club apparel line. So, what brands and sneakers does XV rock? Personally, right now I'm waiting for those Back to the Future Marty McFly Air Yeezys that are about to drop soon.

XV: Oh yeah, I love the fashion scene!! But, I'm tired of everybody on your planet talking about they're fresh and fly all the sudden, when I could've sworn, just one year ago, long ass white tee shirts were cool as fuck! But, the brands I fuck with the most are Gold Coin, I like how they release limited apparel. Rocksmith has some pretty dope jackets. But honestly, I like regular ass t-shirts with funny sayings on them and rock band shirts. You'll see me rocking those more than anything. And as far as kicks go, it doesn't matter if they're Jordans, SB's, Reeboks, or Payless Shaq Shoes! If they have a dope tongue on them and some outlandish colors, I'll pick it up. I saw the Air Yeezy's actually before Kanye did the Glow In The Dark tour, because he rocked them at the Grammy's and I was like....Hmmmm...what are those? But, everybody's gonna be on them, so I can't fuck with em'. Haha!

IV: True...but some Shaq shoes? I dunoooo maaaan LOL. Ok, so from your pics up on myspace I can see you are up on the comic book game on some Samuel L Jackson in "Unbreakable." What are some of your favorite comic books? I know you got to be excited about the Dark Knight.

XV:That's the best question I've ever been asked, bro!! Man...I have so many favorites. But, if I had to say ALL-TIME favorites, I would say Batman's "The Dark Knight Returns" and "The Long Halloween", The Punisher MAX Series 5 by Garth Ennis, that series is just beautiful! Sin City's "A Dame To Kill For", and I fuck with this Vertigo comic called 100 Bullets. And I'm going to say this...I got my midnight-show tickets for Dark Knight the MORNING they went on sale...and that this will be the best movie of the decade. Period.

IV: I agree, only one more week until cinematic paradise haha. So, tell me more about your plans for a Youth Mentoring Program "Fly Boys of America", it's really good to hear about musical artists reaching out to the community.

XV: Well, I was raised by three women. My Grandmother, my Mom and my Aunt. My Grandmother was a children's storyteller, my Mom is a principal, and my Aunt is a director of the Wichita, Kansas school district. So, I have it in me to reach out to the youth. I was kind of a wild child growing up, because when you grow up around so many rules, you just feel the need to act out. So, I ended up getting locked up over a school fight where I hurt a student really bad. When I got out, I had to do community service and I chose to mentor and tutor students at my Mom's school. I fell in love with it so much that I even thought about being a teacher like my Mom. But, I saw that the kids really connected and looked up to me so much BECAUSE I was a rapper and I was there talking to them, and reading books with them. So, I plan to start a mentoring program where I visit students at schools, talk to classrooms, and have outings going skating, bowling and to arcades. I know for a fact that a boy's youth molds him into the man that he will become, and I would like to be a positive part of that for kids. Because, like I said earlier, Hip-Hop lacks leaders, and I'm trying to change that.

IV: That's true man, and it's good to hear you're gonna step up to the plate. So, how did you hook up with Mickey Factz and Jesse Boykins on "Questions?" What are other artists in the game have you worked with and what artists would you want to collab with in the future?

XV: I hooked up with Mickey through MySpace. My dude Jay Wise out in New York sent me Mickey's page and said, "Yo, X, I think you would like this dude." I went and checked him out and heard his mixtape and was like, THIS DUDE IS ON THE SAME STUFF I'M ON!!! So, I automatically hit Mickey up and told him to stop swagger-jacking me, hahahaha, and he reached back out to me, and I told him that we should do a track sometime. "Like Water For Chocolate" is my favorite Common album of all time, and I've been wanting to do The Questions for so long, so I felt that Mickey would be perfect to fill Mos Def's part from the song. And then Mickey had the idea of throwing Jesse Boykins III on it, just to take it to another level. Then, this nigga said, "We adding trumpets to it"!! HAhahaha! I was like.......okay! Let's go! LOL! I keep a pretty tight circle so I don't work with too many artists, but I'm planning to work with Charles Hamilton. I would love to do a track with Uffie and Feadz, and I would love to work with Kenna. I think his voice is incredible. Like the black David Bowie or something. Haha!

IV: That's true, some of the material from Factz's mixtapes is similar to yours like his use of techno as he has sampled Daft Punk on a couple of tracks. The result was incredible, dope song. Ok, so Marketing Time XV, tell the fans your favorite track from the mixtape and why they should DL "The Square In the Circle."

XV: Marketing Time? Okay...Square In The Circle! Square In The Circle! Square In The Circle! It's out now for free!!! Go Get It! Go Get It! Go Get It!!!!! Square In The Circle! Haha. Okay, my favorite track on the mixtape is "1997", because it means so much more to me than the song can explain. First, the original song, "1979" by the Smashing Pumpkins really makes me reminisce on my youth, because I was like 10 years old when that came out, and that was back in the days of skating parties and ice cream socials. And that video would be on MTV every morning before I went to school. That was back when MTV actually showed music videos too. Second, in 1979, Billy Corrigan, of The Smashing Pumpkins, was 12 years old, so on the original song he was talking about not wanting to grow up and missing his youth of 1979, and in 1997, I was 12 ... or 11 ... haha. And, I miss that time of my life so much. So, that's just my song! And people should download "The Square In The Circle", because the mixtape that they're currently downloading with 20 "A Milli" remixes on it is not going to compare to what I did with this mixtape. I don't even like calling it a mixtape. But, it's an experience, and I just don't want anybody to miss out on it.

IV: Hahaha yeah man Milli has gone OD especially when you got R&B singers like Chris Brown and Ne-yo on it and the mixtape is definitely a unique experience man. Ok, so interviews are so structured sometimes, so I'm going to let this last spot be your platform for shout-outs and to say anything that's on your mind man.

XV: Well, I only have like 2 friends, so...I don't have anybody to shout out...but I would like to say be sure to subscribe to my blogs and youtube channel @ Next week, I will drop the first video from "The Square In The Circle: The Visual Experience", and it's actually the video for '1997'. And the visual experience puts a whole new twist on the mixtape. So, make sure you subscribe, so you don't miss anything. And much love to IllVibes for doing this interview, and I hope you all continue supporting my music and my artistry, as I will be flooding your inbox with material for the next few years. Haha!! Enjoy yo-self!!!!

IV:Your welcome man, thanks for taking out your time as well. I can't wait for that "1997" video and we got your back over at iLL Vibes man. Congratulations on the mixtape and I wish you the best fam.

And for those that don't get the mixtape

Peace & iLL Vibes