DC’s own internationally known Uptown XO released ‘Monumental 2’ today. I had a chance to sit down and talk with XO prior to the release. Find out how XO is trying to set himself apart from others in the rap industry and his words of advice to other DC artists aiming at making a ‘monumental’ impact.
LA: You’re about to drop Monumental 2. Any features or production work you want to talk about?
XO: AB the Producer produced every beat, just like the first Monumental (album).
LA: Shout out to AB, he’s in the room right now.
XO: Yeah. My homies, the Secret Society, Doecicapone, Benji, Tragic, Tony Night and AB the Pro as well. Who else… I got my group Diamond District and Fat Trel on a record together. As far as the representation of DC Diamond District and Fat Trel is like yin and yang, you know what I’m saying. But i put that together right quick for the people… That’s the excitement the city need. The element of collaboration. You know, like how Kanye put Jay Z on the record with Pete Rock. Just the energy alone is like, magnetic…I also have features from Mustafa, Ihsaan Bilal, Chanese Martin, Wooptie, Rock Mikey. Oh, man. Who else am i missing? I think that’s about it. I think i got everybody.
LA: A lot of folks want to know why you are no longer with Studio 43. What happened to that relationship?
XO: It was just time to go our separate ways. When I first got with 43, I had a vision and a mindset of anxiousness. The anxiousness i had got put to rest. I feel like the vision got put on hold a little bit… So we sat down, had a talk; and I was free. In fact, (Studio) 43 don’t even really do music anymore.
LA: So it was an amicable split?
LA: Cool, despite that though, you’ve been real busy lately. You’re putting out a lot of videos as well.
XO: Yeah, I just released like 8 videos. I’ve been putting out a video every week for like the last 7 or 8 weeks.
LA: How’s your new independent home working out for you creatively?
XO: Ain’t nothing new for real. I’m still making music with AB laying records, just like I did when we were a part of 43. So even when the s**t hit the fan, the bond (with AB) was solid and I was able to just kept it moving. I’m able to get back to my vision now.
LA: What is your vision?
XO: (laughs) my vision, is putting my city on. I want to put my homies on. I want to talk about the things that nobody is talking about…. I want to bring that element back to rap; where we are talking about things nobody else is talking about and pulling coats. That preserves the (hip hop) culture. You feel me?
LA: The quality of artistry in DC right now is absolutely incredible and the industry is really beginning to take notice. What do you feel like is your niche in the DC music community and hip hop in general?
XO: My niche is storytelling and talking about the streets. When you hear rap now, you hear a lot of glorifying of material things, or people talking about the club. I’m gonna be the person that tells stories about real life and talk to the people that’s on the bottom. When you always talking about material things to somebody that doesn’t have it, it may not even be the writer’s intention, but you could provoke them to try to do something about it, just because they’re frustrated.
LA: What’s been the biggest challenge for you over the course of your ascension?
XO: Just being patient. When you look at the statistics, the average artist takes about ten years before they really break out. I’ve only been putting out music for about three.
LA: What’s been the biggest high for you?
XO: Being overseas and performing with DD. and getting such a good response. And having that just be real. People coming up to us in France, Germany, Italy and they know who we are. We were walking into the venue and people in the line start saying “XO Baby”, you know i say that in the beginning of some of my songs. I’m like “Damn, they know… OUT HERE!” that made me feel like I’m really starting to get somewhere.
LA: What does your name mean?
XO: Unknown Origin. Cuz n***z don’t know where I’m coming from (laughs)
LA: If you had one track off of the new project that you could say was your favorite, which one would it be?
XO: Top Ramen Noodles. Every one (of the songs) is my favorite, but that’s the one I’m playing the most right now.
LA: With everything that you’ve seen out of the artistic scene here in DC: the level of talent, the variety and the volume of good music; what would you like to see more of from your fellow artists?
XO: Unity. People getting together despite their differences or opinions. I’m a victim of it too sometimes, you know. I may judge people because they don’t live how i live, or weren’t brought up the way i was. But they may still be nice at what they do. We gotta learn to set that aside. But if we come together, we can take the people who like what you do, and the people who like what I do, and make them like both. We gotta work together more. And, if you thinking about being an artist, you have to think like an entrepreneur. You have to have discipline, and communication skills. You don’t always want somebody else talking for you all the time. You have to treat your music like the product. And you gotta hustle the product and move it. Gain clientele and have your presence be felt. You have to think about this with a business mind. I was going to open mics and building a reputation. Every Monday faithfully, I was in there. I was pumping product before I actually had product.
Monumental 2 promises to be a project that sounds just as big as the name implies. And for whatever it’s worth, XO sounds like he’s got the rest of the path to his ascension all figured out.
Check out XO’s latest video release for ‘Told You So’ on the left hand margin of this page!
Keep up with Uptown XO on twitter: @uptownxo