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The best kept secret in music


"XV :: Complex :: Royalty Records"

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.

Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10 - http://www.rapreviews.com/


LP's (independent)
- The Legacy (2002)
- The Answer (2003)
- Overture (2004)

- Sincerely
- Everybody

- King Of The City Vol. 1
- King Of The City Vol. 2
- My Town Pt. 1
- XV & 50 Cent :: The Street's Most Wanted
- My Town Pt. 2
- Return Of The King
- Royalty City
- Royalty City : The Next Generation
- Haters : Judgement Day
- By Any Means Necessary
- Royalty City Vol. 1
- Royalty City Vol. 2
- Royalty City Vol. 3 (hosted by DJ On Point)
- The Definition I
- The Definition II
- The Definition III
- The Complex Experiment Vol. 1
- The Complex Experiment Vol. 2


Feeling a bit camera shy


Please refrain from using any quotes from "The Wizard Of Oz" after hearing the Kansas native, XV's, lyrical abilities. We are well-aware that "we aren't in Kansas anymore". It's hard to hold back due to the fact that several websites, local residents and newspapers have declared XV to be the one to put the state on the hip-hop map. HipHopGame.com stated, "Kansas is not a state known for it's Hip-Hop, but XV is doing a good job changing that. Look for Wichita, Kansas to be on the Hip-Hop map in the future." You can only imagine the weight placed on the shoulders of such a fresh and new artist, but XV has taken the title with a grain of salt.

The 21-year old Wichita, Kansas native is a fresh face to the music industry, but has been working towards becoming a household name for nearly 5 years. That work just might pay off with the release of his highly anticipated debut, "COMPLEX", in which XV has been working on for a year and a half.

Born and raised on the Northeast side of Wichita, Kansas, XV (born Donavan Johnson) was not your average kid on the block. Of course he played basketball, rode his bike and reenacted scenes from Power Rangers, like any other youthful spirit would. But his interests varied from those of his three brothers. With a born love for music like his father, who was a record label A&R and an employee at BET, XV began writing songs at the age of 9. Though he was raised by his Mom and Step-Father, the love of music was instilled in him, as well as various other talents such as, writing screenplays and designing websites.

"When I said I wanted to be something, I mean't it! My Grandmother would take me to the library on the weekends and get me every book I needed to learn how to make a movie. I was far from your average kid. When kids were at recess, I would be in class using the school camera to shoot fake news reports. I'm a big dreamer."

The desire to be bigger than his body was fulfilled when XV found Hip-Hop. Being able to express emotions, fantasies, and dilemma's using a clever sense of wordplay makes XV the extraordinary lyricist he is today. His ability to display the perils of the street life, the consciousness of a purist, and relate to suburban youth, stems from his socialness in school. Having friends who were gangbangers, preacher's kids, and rich white boys, allowed XV to break the boundaries many rappers place themselves in, and explore artistic ways to speak to all types of people. Acquiring the moniker, XV, from the roman numerals of "15", the age he was when he decided to begin taking his craft seriously and producing his own music. Inspired by mostly east coast MC's such as Jay-Z, Biggie, Mase, Mos Def, Cam'ron and Talib Kweli, XV recorded, produced, and released his first independent album in 2002. In 2003, his album, "The Answer", received rave reviews on various hip-hop websites.

Without any industry help or management, XV continued to work hard to create a buzz for himself and his record label, Royalty Recordz. Though he got his start performing live at his high school's talent shows, XV went on to opening up for The Ying Yang Twins, Mike Jones, Lil' Rob, Jon B., and defeated four local Hip-Hop acts with over 600 votes to open up for G-Unit. XV then went on to placing a song on Midway's NARC videogame, which led to XV creeping slowly out of the Kansas boundaries in search of a larger base of recognition. That recognition came after XV began making his mark on the mixtape scene with the "Royalty City" Mixtape series and "The Definition" mixtapes, featuring labelmates Bling and Sez Batters. Acknowledgement came from artists such as The Game, Paul Wall, Maino, Sheek Louch and DJ's such as Whoo Kid and On Point. The base has been built, now it's time to strengthen the foundation.

"The title 'COMPLEX' was created when I was trying to describe my album to Bling. It was like being told to describe a three-dimensional piece in two-dimensional form. The title also reflects a characteristic carried amongst most prodigies. I feel the most abstract and idealistic people in the world are complex, because there's so many different layers to them. Albert Einstein was complex, Picasso was complex, Tupac was complex. This album is basically my search for clarity."

With 13-tracks laced with thought-provoking, clever and sometimes cocky lyrical content, XV's search seems to come to a happy medium. His fresh and original topics vary from stereotyping to the differences in urban and suburban america. COMPLEX will be the first major-scale album from XV, and features production from himself, Seven and Benjamin Kash. The album's lead single, "Give You Everything", produced by Seven, is a charming, and sometimes humorous, narrative about a materialistic girlfriend that XV can't seem to break up with. The song that is sure to be a radio smash and bring clarity to the complexity of XV is, "Boy From Kansas". "It was the last song I wrote for Complex, so I feel like it's th