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"The Source Magazine Review"

With a pinch of Lupe Fiasco's outsider edge and a dose of Kanye West's humor, Wichita, Kansas, rapper XV delivers an entertaining 13-cut collection on "Complex". The wistful "Cruise" features XV detailing his feelings on the industry, while "Give U Everything" talks about a lady he adores though she seems more concerned with his money. XV's concepts are strong and his confidence on the mic makes him a formidable presence. The albums' stellar sample-heavyproduction, from Michael "Seven" Summers, arrives with major-label quality. Unlike his darker work with Tech N9Ne and others, Seven provides XV with crisp, soulful beats that could give Kanye West and Just Blaze a run for their money. With a vocal presence equal to established acts and top-notch beats, XV could become a major rap force as long as people don't dismiss him because of his similarities with his more famous contemporaries. - The Source Magazine

"OkayPlayer.com Review"

What would you say if I told you that a guy named Donavan from Wichita, Kansas just released an album that might make hip-hop Kansas’ most popular export next to wheat? Scoff, would you? Guffaw, perchance?

Those of you who answered yes, read on. Those of you who answered no, I commend you for your openness, but please keeping reading just the same.

Complex is the captivating, accomplished first major-scale album from 21-year-old XV (born Donavan Johnson). XV, who released his independent debut The Legacy at the age of 16, spent the majority of his latter teen years building his own record label (Royalty Recordz) while simultaneously cultivating and honing his talent, and the work has paid off. As rapper, co-lyricist and co-producer, XV shines in every hat he wears, offering up an album that is just as much telling of his influences (Jay-Z, Mos Def and Talib Kweli to name a few) as it is of his personality. Not every track on the album is a homerun, but for the most part Complex walks a steady line between catchy singles-to-be like the cleverly sampled “Give You Everything” and introspective tracks like “Boy from Kansas.”

It is XV’s willingness to expose himself on songs like “Boy from Kansas” and the socially aware “This Side of Town” that make the album and the MC especially appealing. This is not an album full of superficial posing. XV lyrically presents a fully-fleshed out image of a person who, like the album, is really likeable and, at the risk of sounding trite for stating the obvious, complex. - OkayPlayer.com

"URBNET.com Review"

Kansas Citys XV checks in with his promising debut, Complex, and shows hes got the potential to one day become a breakthrough artist like Rhymefest or Lupe Fiasco. Hes at his best on humble, down-to-earth songs like Feels Like The First Time, When I Dream and especially Boy From Kansas, although its his tale of racially divided cities and segregation on Other Side Of Town (featuring a killer guitar riff made famous by Rodney O & Joe Cooley) that impresses most. Once you get past Complexs biggest deficiencies XVs unhealthy fascination with Jay-Z (which mirrors The Games obsession with Dr. Dre) and his producers overuse of pitched up vocal samples what youll discover is a highly gifted MC with the skill set to take it to the next level. Whether hell get that chance or not remains to be seen Download: Other Side Of Town, You Got Me, Cruise [Bradley Miller] - Urbnet.com

"RapReviews.com Review"

According to many an attention-starved up-and-comer, hip-hop is in need of saving. Exactly who "stole" it and when remains uncertain, but "bringing it back" looks to be of higher priority than ever. Even Nasty Nas has come to the conclusion that it's long "dead," making the predicament at least SEEM more official. The validity of hip-hop's supposed demise is, of course, debatable, but I'll say it again and again: if anyone's saving anything it'll be coming from the Midwest. America's own melting pot and the last major region to receive significant nationwide shine, they eat up everything hip–hop has to offer, and spit it back out with as much street soul and wit as any other locale.

The latest in a line of recently impressive Midwestern hip-hoppers, Kansas' XV looks to grab the mic and run. Truly sponge-like, he borrows from far and wide to create a balanced attack; there's a tad of Game (read: name dropping), a dash of Lupe just with the calm tone of voice, and with an impressive hand behind the boards, he's the closest thing to Kanye without being a "College Dropout." XV knows this, and acknowledges it on "You Got Me," telling us to "take "Illmatic," "Stillmatic," "Ready To Die,"" adding up the influences that supposedly shape his style. It isn't that XV sees himself at that level; he's merely showing you where he comes from.

"Complex" is a people-friendly album, and X is a people-friendly character. If there's one thing rap fans love, it's an emcee with half of his swagger. Arrogant? Maybe a little, but he sounds more confident than egotistic. It's with this charm XV is able to make the most well-rounded Midwest release of the year. By all means, "Complex" is a more cohesive affair than "Food & Liquor;" Where Lupe showcases his ability to write a mind-bending verse, XV is superior in the art of crafting a song. With a familiar flow and production that flat out beats nearly anything this year, mainstream success would seem inevitable.

XV tries to make the most of his musical exposure, but when he's on his game, he's decidedly very Kanye. "Give You Everything," while a great song, consists entirely of your essential K. West elements. The beat (courtesy of Michael Summers): sped-up soul, cheerful horns, and the widely bitten Kanye snare/clap. The rhymes: about a sexy, covetous, and overly demanding female (hmm...), all through a delivery that shifts from cool flow to near-whisper. What's more, "When I Dream" is the conceptual equivalent to "Family Business," even closing out the album. At least X raps about HIS own family.

As a lyricist he's fairly concise and rarely loses you, but in getting caught up in himself, he can get aggravating. Contrary to what he might have you believe, he's producer first and rapper second, but he might be too far ahead of himself to admit it. His bombastic air results in songs like "Boy From Kansas:" part braggadocio, part life summary, all blah. Putting himself on ever higher pedestals, he questions, "let em know, yo, who flow like X?" But like he clearly stated before, lots of dudes do. It isn't like he's counting Grammy's before the nominations, but he crosses lines that Kanye never would. While West calls black America into question, XV is "hoppin' on the track" and "turnin' his hat to the side." While Kanye laughs at his shortcomings to empathize with his audience, XV talks about how "humble and cool" he is. These themes rarely dominate, however, and whatever obstacle he throws in front of himself, XV still runs away with quite possibly the most fun, no-strings-attached record of 2006.

If XV farted into the mic for 48 minutes there would always be the highly skilled production team, who clearly listen to a great deal of Kanye and Just Blaze. X is especially tight; quite obviously a fan of 70's soul, his sampling is superb. His percussion never fights the samples and at least four songs on "Complex" are MTV-worthy.

With Rhymefest and Lupe now at Common and Kanye's coat tails, the Midwest, while still hopelessly outnumbered, hit the battlefield with what is more than likely the illest weaponry. With XV coming heavily strapped and all of Kansas behind him, things are bound to get ugly. Expect heavy casualties. - RapReviews.com


"Complex" [LP] (2006)
#2 on the CMJ Top 5 Hip-Hop Adds Chart
#19 on the CMJ Hip-Hop top 40
6 Weeks on the CMJ Top 40 Hip-Hop Charts

Received weekly airplay from:
CJLO Montreal, Quebec
CHYZ Quebec City, Quebec
CILU Thunder Bay, Ontario
CSCR Toronto, Ontario
KCRH Hayward, California
KHDX, Conway, Arkansas
KHSU Arcata, California
KJACK Flagstaff, Arizona
KJCC San Jose, California
KSJS San Jose, California
KSUB Seattle, Washington
KSVR Mt.Vernon, Washington
KTSW San Marcos, Texas
KWCW Walla Walla, Washington
KZUU Pullman, Washington
SCAD Radio Savannah, Georgia
Rainy Dawg Radio Seattle, Washington
WARY-FM Valhalla, New York
WERU-2 East Orland, Maine
WERW Syracuse, New York
WFNP New Paltz, New York
WFWM Frostburg, Maryland
WIRE Norman, Oklahoma
WMCO New Concord, Ohio
WMEB Orono, Maine
WMHB Waterville, Maine
WMRE Atlanta, Georgia
WMUA Amherst, Massachusetts
WNYO New York, New York
WOSP Jacksonville, Florida
WPKN/WPKM FM Bridgeport, Connecticut
WPNR Utica, New York
WPRK Winter Park, Florida
WPUB New York, New York
WQHS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
WQUB Quincy, Illinois
WRDP Chicago, Illinois
WRIR Richmond, Virginia
WRPI Troy, New York
WTTU Cookeville, Tennessee
WUML Lowell, Massachusetts
WVAU Washington, District of Columbia
WVKC Galesburg, Illinois
WVOF Fairfield, Connecticut
WXCI Danbury, Connecticut
WXIN Providence, Rhode Island



Hip-Hop, which used to be an underground platform for
creative expression, is now one of the most popular styles
in music. Sadly, with Hip Hop’s rising popularity, came
the downfall of its essence. Lyrics and creativity have
taken a backseat to the dance-instructing “rappers”
steering Hip-Hop into the future, which segregates many
artists into sub-genres of the art. Hip-Hop has become
strikingly similar to High School with the hipsters not
eating with the gangsters in the cafeteria and the ballers
not hanging around the conscious rappers in the hallways.
It’s no wonder its so easy for a guy like XV to proclaim
“I don’t fit in!” in this kind of setting.

XV, born Donavan Johnson, an artist obsessed with comic
books, action figures, web surfing, and role-playing video
games, would be classified as a nerd. But his love for
fashion, colorful sneakers, and women disqualify him of
such stereotypes. So the 23-year old lyricist finds himself
playing the same role in the music industry that he played
throughout middle school and high school: the “nobody”
begging to become a “somebody.”

Without any industry backing or management, XV, garnered
the attention of the masses after releasing an array of three
volume plus mixtape series’ such as Royalty City, The
Definition, and The Complex Experiment. The Kansas-born
MC began receiving the support from other up and coming
artists such as The Game, Paul Wall, Maino, Sheek Louch,
and DJs such as Whoo Kid and On Point. XV started to
create a local and major buzz for himself and his record
label, Royalty City, and began recording “Complex.”

The debut album, “Complex,” was met with adequate
reviews from OkayPlayer, URBNet, RapReviews.com, and
many more. The release also peaked at #19 on the
College Radio Hip-Hop charts. XV would go on to grace
the pages of The Source, AllHipHop.com, and Black Beat
Magazine, as well as partnering with MTV in a promotional
campaign for Dell Computers and MTV’s Virtual Worlds.

With the rise of the digital age where anybody can wake up
and become a rapper, Hip-Hop has become crowded with
one-hit wonders. XV, whose name is derived from the
roman numeral 15, which is the age he says he “departed
from Earth to begin a hermit home-life on a fictional planet
he calls Planet Squaria,” has made his mark on the internet
scene. His internet exposure has generated a heavy buzz
and a strong fanbase through some of Hip-Hop’s biggest
blogs such as NahRight, 2dopeboyz.com, HipHopDX,
AllHipHop, among others. He used these outlets to release
the widely conceptual project “The Square in the Circle,”
which includes a guest feature from Lil’ Wayne. XV followed
up by releasing a slew of new music with the internet series
“40 days and 40 nights,” which launched in September of
2008. The concept of the series was to release a brand
new song every morning and every night for 40 consecutive
days through a variety of Hip-Hop websites.

Now, ready to capitalize on his growing buzz, XV wants to
share his story with the world through his new album
entitled, “The Kid with the Green Backpack”. It’s a concept
album inspired by XV’s life in middle school where he was
widely referred to as “the kid with the green backpack,”
rather than his actual name. With the project, he parallels
his life of being a “nobody” in high school to his career in
the music industry, as he sees the two worlds being very
similar to each other. XV’s close friend and producer,
Seven, arranges the entire score to the story that XV
explains as “the Hip-Hop soundtrack to a John Hughes
movie.” The album details every event that lead him to
becoming the superstar alter-ego, “XV”, beginning from a
talk with the school counselor on “Invisible,” to a run-away
pursuit to fulfill his dream on “Losing the Signal,” ending in
an unforgettable prom night on “A Night to Remember.”

As a huge fan of comic books and superheroes, XV has
set the stage for a triumphant story to take place within
this intriguing project. XV finally finds his place amongst
all the gangsters, hipsters, and ballers in Hip-Hop, as
simply, The Kid With The Green Backpack.”