November 11, 2007

Xzibit - At The Speed Of Life (October 15, 1996)

Xzibit, porn name Alvin Joyner, is a West Coast-based (by way of New Mexico) rapper that is better known for hosting the MTV reality show Pimp My Ride. That's certainly not the direction I ever pictured X heading when he released his debut album At The Speed Of Life in 1996, but I guess a guy's gotta feed his kids, right? That would certainly explain his appearance in that Disney film The Country Bears.

Anyway, Xzibit benefited from an association with Tha Alkaholiks and their mentor, King Tee, and even parlayed this friendship into a guest spot on Tha Liks's second album Coast II Coast. He dropped his debut on the almighty Loud Records (also the label home of Tha Liks) off of the strength of "Paparazzi", a monster of a debut single produced by Thayod Ausar, who would also go on to produce the only track on Lloyd Banks's abomination of a debut that was actually good, "Warrior".

You'll notice that these introductory paragraphs are short; that's because I'm not going to pretend that I know a lot about the Xzibit life story. All I will say is that, at this point in his career, Xzibit hadn't yet connected with the folks that would eventually change his course: Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Andre Young, M.D., so his friendships with Tee, E-Swift, J-Ro, and the criminally underrated Tash were not at risk. At The Speed Of Life didn't earn any sort of plaques from the RIAA, but sold well enough to secure his place and career in the music industry.

Let's see how this plays out.

An instrumental opening, which is interesting, as Xzibit doesn't actually produce any music. Still, a great change of pace from your average gangster-posturing/pretentious rap album intro that I love writing about.

This song is, simply put, a fucking great way to introduce yourself on your debut disc.

I've never been a huge fan of Hurricane G's voice; the only song I've ever actually liked her on was Cocoa Brovaz's "Spanish Harlem" (also featuring Tony Touch). The beat, provided by E-Swift, is also more simplistic than you would expect after both Liks albums.

This track features some truly dark production, a style that works well with Alvin. Also be on the lookout for the remix online, which features labelmates-at-the-time Mobb Deep, who may or may not still be involved in a beef with X, for reasons I can't recall on demand.

Xzibit and King Tee always work well together, which is why it was awkward when he proclaimed that he could have become famous without the help of either Tha Liks or Tee after siding with Aftermath. Thank God that beef didn't last very long.


The aforementioned debut single. Oddly, I actually prefer the clean version of this track: the instrumental is powerful enough for the song to make its point without having to resort to "motherfucker" multiple times, it's that great. This was the first song where I ever actually paid attention to Xzibit, and it certainly did its job. At the moment, I can't recall any other debut artists whose first single was as effective as this one: if you can come up with one, feel free to include it with your comments.

DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill fame provides a piano-sample-driven beat for Alvin to talk to his son over. The song is, surprisingly, not sappy, but incredibly good and sweet. Fun fact: apparently this song contains the first samples that Billy Joel had ever cleared. Actually, I just realized that fact is only "fun" if you also happen to like Billy Joel.


Dammit! Hurricane G again?? Tash remains one of my favorite emcees, and J-Ro certainly holds his own alongside Alvin on a subdued-yet-terrific Diamond D track. Just ignore Hurricane G's presence on here, and you'll do just fine.

Part One actually occurred on Tha Alkaholiks's Coast II Coast (which, if you haven't heard it, why the fuck not? I told you to go buy it already!), but Xzibit actually guested on that track, so it's not as awkward as, say, Raekwon's "All I Got Is You Part 2". Sadly, this song is kind of dull, especially for the subject matter (i.e., fucking). Ras Kass's appearance is for only two lines, so don't get too excited.

Xzibit reminisces about his past on this track, on which I was surprised to learn that I don't mind Xzibit telling a serious story over his tracks. This song is not bad.

Rassy and Saafir, along with X, combined to form the supergroup Golden State Warriors, and this was their first song together, to my knowledge. Honestly, this track sounds pedestrian until Ras Kass appears. I can't really explain how the addition of Ras Kass halfway through a song somehow ties the entire room together and makes the previous verse sound even better, but it does. Too bad we would never get the collaborative Golden State Warriors album: I'm sure Saafir could use some work.

Good, but not great.

Instrumental outro. O-kay...

FINAL THOUGHTS: At The Speed Of Life is one of the better debut albums I've heard in hip hop. The Liks's influence is obvious, as Xzibit spends more time rhyming about positive, fun things, as opposed to killing every motherfucker in sight. This disc also carries an inarguable East-Coast influence, manifested in the beats, which are almost as far removed from G-Funk that you can get without resorting to using accordions on your songs. Xzibit proves that he is able to hold the listener's attention for the duration of an album, and can alternate between handling an entire track and passing the mic around with guests. All in all, a good album that would look good on your shelf, or at least, on your iPod.

BUY OR BURN? Goofy cover art aside, you shouldn't hesitate in picking this one up. It surprised the hell out of me back in 1996, and is worth the listen.

BEST TRACKS: "Paparazzi"; "Eyes May Shine"; "At The Speed Of Life"; "Plastic Surgery"; "The Foundation"



  1. Thanks for the info on this, I agree with you on this being a totally different xzibit than what we have today, I didnt know how much I used to like that album until I compare with what hes doing today, which isnt bad, but...

  2. I bought this years ago but have never really listened to it - will give it another chance I think!

    How about a review of Mobb Deep - Infamous? Tribe's Midnight Marauders?

    Keep on with the reviews, whatever they are though - you have introduced me to a lot of stuff I have been missing out on for years.

  3. John, thanks for your support. You can check the archives for the Infamous review, and I'm working on starting on the Tribe stuff. Thanks for reading!

  4. this is indeed a great album , a shame he didn't have this in mind when he released his latest album "full circle" with that jellyroll guy all over it, i mean , do you know any other producer with an even more irritating sound ? Let me know, cause i'm curious lol

  5. Tcha, two words: Swizz. Beatz.

  6. i've read about him before but never really heard a track of him, looks like that's my luck then lol

  7. I'll sum it up in one sentence. Best Xzibit album. This is a good album, very dark though. Definite Liks influence, I believe E-Swift helped coexecutive-produce it and gave him some tracks too. That guy is one amazing overlooked producer. Anyway, this album is his best, completely different than his other ones. His second album is the closest to this one, but still no comparison. I still listen to it from time to time. Sometimes I'm surprised when I think how much he has changed musically. I really can't stand his new stuff.

  8. AnonymousMay 29, 2009

    one of the songs here was played on pimp my ride, i was surprised, but yeah this album is definitely an underground classic

  9. "At the moment, I can't recall any other debut artists whose first single was as effective as this one"

    "Ooh We Love You Rakeem" - Prince Rakeem

  10. AnonymousJuly 19, 2010

    Been years since I heard this album, but it is great. Xzibit's career certainly did make a huge 180, but it's understandable. In fact, probably a bad career move NOT to do what he did. A lot of people didn't like "Paparazzi" I remember, even so far as to one of the Outlawz (Edi??) taking a shot at Xzibit for making the song on Pac's "Bomb First" from the Makaveli album.

    This is probably my fav. Xzibit album, I really liked on "Carry the Weight" how he got personal. "Just Maintain" was up there for me, really dug X's rhymes on it and the beat too even though I agree Hurricane G is annoying. And of course "Paparazzi." Good shit in general.

    Some other really effective first singles that I can remember, Dre's "Nuthin' But a G Thang" and Snoop's "Gin and Juice" (or was "Who am I" the first single...can't remember)... Or how about Meth's "Bring the Pain"??? Granted, all these cats were more famous than Xzibit was when this album dropped.

    In general, lovin your reviews. Very thorough. Thanks for sharing your opinions. I've spent a lot of time reading.

  11. PORN name Alvin Joyner? Second word typo pretty bad too.

  12. It's called a joke. Lots of them thrown around on here. I don't use the phrase "born name" in life, nor do I use it on the blog.

    Thanks for reading!