August 21, 2009

Xzibit - Restless (December 12, 2000)

Alvin "Xzibit" Joyner, co-star of The X-Files: Fight The Future, started off as an affiliate of King Tee and Tha Alkaholiks, and used their friendship as a springboard for his first two solo albums, At The Speed Of Life and 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz, both of which were critically acclaimed and won him some fans, but neither of which were bonafide blockbusters. (Wikipedia claims that his sophomore album sold more than five hundred thousand copies, but I'm not buying it.)

Off of the strength of the single "What U See Is What U Get" (which, like his "Paparazzi", is just phenomenal, I have to say), Xzibit was able to move beyond stumping for guest spots within his record label's roster (mainly Tha Alkaholiks and Mobb Deep, who appeared on a remix to his "Eyes May Shine") and was invited to contribute to Snoop Dogg's "B Please", a song considered Snoop's comeback single primarily because it ws produced by Dr. Dre, whom he hadn't worked with since Doggystyle, his debut disc. This cameo was so well-received that Dre felt obligated to invite him along with the rest of the Up In Smoke tour (which featured Snoop, Ice Cube, Eminem, Dre himself, and some others), and the friendship blossomed to such a degree that Loud Records, X's record label, soon found themselves with Andre Young sitting in the executive producer's chair of Restless, Alvin's follow up to 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz.

With Dr. Dre in the mix, Xzibit soon found himself surrponded with A-list talent both in front of the mic and behind the boards: names such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, DJ Quik, Erick Sermon, and KRS-One soon populated online tracklistings (as did the usual suspects King Tee, Defari, and Tha Liks). Dre himself produced three songs, although two of those three were co-productions with other name-brand beatmakers. When Restless was finally released, two years after his last album, some were disappointed in the dearth of Dr. Dre prescriptions, but others were amazed that the guy even noticed Alvin at all, considering that Xzibit was already established as a solo star and was not a virtual unknown, unlike Snoop and Eminem.

Restless went on to become X's most successful album, selling more than a million units off of the strength of Dre's name. Xzibit then, apparently, went on to hang out more with the Aftermath crew than Tha Liks, which drew the ire and tears of J-Ro, but we haven't gotten to that part of the story yet.

One of the sound bites during this rap album intro features a woman who says that Xzibit is cool because she likes his beats. Um, Xzibit doesn't produce all of his own music. He didn't craft the instrumentals. Already the intro sounds self-important, which annoys the fuck out of me every time.

Rockwilder takes the hydraulic car sound effect from the intro of Dr. Dre's 2001 and turns it into the beat. Not a bad way to reintroduce Xzibit to the masses, but it's abundantly clear that Restless will sound nothing like his previous two albums.

This shit makes me believe that Xzibit could have easily transitioned onto the Death Row Records roster, had he been rapping in the early 1990s and had the label not fallen the fuck apart and all. Nate Dogg on the hook, a Battlecat instrumental, a reference to Snoop's fictional WBALLS radio station, and name dropping Kurupt only adds to the illusion. Oh, if we were only able to glimpse into an alternate hip hop universe.

Dr. Dre himself allegedly co-produced this song with Nottz, which means that he probably heard the final product and added a few keys or something, since this sounds nothing like one of the Doctor's prescriptions. Anyway, the Eminem-esque adlib within Andre's verse means that Marshall (probably) wrote his verse, and it's not bad (even though it is kind of lazy, as Andre directly references his own songs “Still D.R.E.” and “The Watcher”), but ever since it was revealed that Dre doesn't actually write anything, the mystery is gone. For his part, X sounds alright, but the track is blah at best.

The first single, which, if I'm not mistaken, resulted in a lawsuit for himself and producers Dr. Dre, Scott Storch, and Mel-Man, as they were accused of song theft. (The guy who sued them lost, by the way.) Regardless of the legal hassle, “X” sounds like more of a natural progression from Snoop's “B Please” than that song's own sequel (which, strangely, appeared on Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP). Xzibit spits as if he was granted a rare second chance, which he technically did, but the man already had two solid albums under his belt without Dre's executive production help. Snoop only appears at the end of the song, which was unnecessary, but given the star power involved, it makes total sense why X didn't just trim the final minute off of the track.

Love this track. Erick Sermon supplies a catchy beat for X to rhyme to, and he and E Double seem to imply (at the end of E's verse) that the song was originally intended as a duet between the “two fly motherfuckers”, but then X's Alkaholik friends Tash and J-Ro straight-up Murderball this song. The hook is also goofy and really really good. I know: I'm surprised, too.

It's weird that Erick Sermon mentioned KRS-One on “Alkaholik”, and then, one track later, the man himself appears. Huh. Xzibit does a serviceable KRS impression, especially on his extremely long first verse, while the actual man only supplies ad libs throughout. While I wish that the Blastmaster would have spit a verse over this co-production from Xzibit and Thayod Ausar (the man who brought us Xzibit's breakthrough single “Paparrazi”), the song still works. Thankfully, KRS does not shout out E Double, as that would have just been wacky.

I imagine that it's extremely hard to go about your daily activities when hangers-on of both the male and female persuasion are all centrally located on your dick. I don't envy Alvin and Calvin (ha!) at all: handling an ongoing problem such as that requires the patience of a fucking saint. Oh, the song? It sucks. Why do you ask?

Gimmicky and lame. That's all I got.

I gravitated to this track inmy past life as an Eminem stan: I suppose I was so excited by the fact that Xzibit was performing alongside one of my favorite artists (at the time) that I failed to register that the Em beat is plodding, and both Alvin and Marshall provide lyrics that make it appear as if they're tryng to imitate each other. Also, the “I hate the paparazzi” sentiment isn't exactly something that will have the average listener relating to Eminem. A misfire.

While it makes sense that the guy who wrote this song went on to host MTV's Pimp My Ride, which trafficked heavily in rims and tires, this song was still boring as shit. Defari, as usual, fails to impress me, but Goldie Loc was decent. Overall, though, this was pretty dull.

It's not as if I wasn't expecting a sex song on a rap album (that would be like going to the Apple store and not expecting them to sell computers and smell funny), but I couldn't get past Soopafly's goofy, bouncy beat that doesn't promote sexual promiscuity in the least.

It's nce that, at this point, Alvin counted his Alkaholik family (alongside Snoop and Dre, the song's producer) among the folks that his enemies had best not fuck with. This track is more lyrical than anything else Restless has offered thus far, and it isn't bad, as Xzibit has been consistently nice with the rhymes.

The Mel-Man / Battlecat beat is much more mainstream than I would like, but that doesn't make X's boasts any less convincing. I prefer the remix with WC (of '& The Madd Circle' and Westside Connection fame), but this is still really good, even if it inadvertently encouraged a lot of R&B singers and suburban white kids to do the Crip walk.

Xzibit, Quik, and Suga Free lament the longh stretches of time they spend away from their loved ones while going about their daily jobs as rappers. Quik talks about video game cheat codes at one point, which I found hilarious, and oddly, with that line, I now relate more with DJ Quik than Eminem. Most of you two will probably feel the same way. This wasn't bad at all.

Xzibit ends Restless with a posse cut that should have sounded better. X and King T, who was signed to Aftermath at the time, which explains his name switch from King Tee, still have a good chemistry, but Defari sounds downright backpacker snooze-worthy. A shame, that.

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Restless, Xzibit aimed for the mainstream audience that sort of eluded him during his first two album releases, except this time he had Dr. Dre at his side, and at this point, every rapper that Dre aligned himself with had won the Big Bucks, the Free Spin, and the Man's Fur Coat in hip hop's version of Press Your Luck. He did so by using Dre's influence to sway MTV while keeping the underground satisfied by including his Likwit Crew brethren. To that end, he's fairly successful, although Restless is the most inconsistent album in his catalog thus far. Alvin seems at times to be overwhelmed by his good fortune, and some of the production choices he makes risk alienating the fans who have followed him since At The Speed Of Life. Even with those issues, though, restless is pretty entertaining, although it is missing one of the biggest factors that made his first two albums so damn good: the Golden State Warriors posse cut (although, to be fair, I'm pretty sure that Ras Kass was otherwise preoccupied behind bars, and Saafir wasn't able to get off of work early that month).

BUY OR BURN? Even with the inconsistency, the songs that bang on here are good enough to warrant a purchase. You can pick this one up and lament the rap career of Xzibit, which seemed to take a turn for the worse after this release. I'll continue that story at a later date, though.

BEST TRACKS: “Alkaholik”; “Kenny Parker Show 2001”; “Get Your Walk On”; “Sorry I'm Away So Much”; “X”


Other Xzibit albums are being discussed here.


  1. I still can't help but nod my head when I hear Get Your Walk On.

    I am not sure if you have heard either of the Ratatat Remix albums, but they are most certainly worth a review. Coming from a man who also values beats as much as flow, these instrumentals do exactly what they are supposed to do: give the song a distinct sound and illuminate the rapper's prowess. In other words, this shit go hard.

  2. Was waiting for you to do this.

    I liked this album (got it on tape); sure, some weak spots .. but it was the turn of the millenium, so it was to be expected. ATSOL and 40D&40N are undoubtedly both superior albums, but Restless was satisfying enough.

    Alkaholik is my shit; even my sisters love that track. I think you did Don't Approach Me some injustice though; both X and Em's second verses are great.

  3. Wow, I really thought that you were going to shit all over Xzibit right here, because of him going mainstream and all that...
    I really liked Alkaholik, Get your walk on and X...I remember when a friend of mine heard Get your walk on and a few days later he was trying learn to crip walk(and yes he was a suburban white kid), and he got really good after a few years but he dropped it after high school...
    yeah anyway, another good review Max, keep it up

  4. Front 2 Back, X, Alkaholik, Get Your Walk On, all classics. I don't like how you dismissed Double Time, I enjoy that track a lot.

  5. That whole minute at the end of "X" with nNoop is f***ing terrible. X marks the spot, nah, X spots the mark - get that stupid sh!t outta here!