Rap artist, television show host, and film actor
Born Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, January 8, 1974, in Detroit, MI; children: Tremayne (son).
Addresses: Home —Woodland Hills, CA. Record company —Sony BMG Music Entertainment Co., 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211.
Began rapping in the Los Angeles hip-hop underground, 1990s; made guest appearances on albums for fellow rappers King Tee and Tha Alkaholics, mid-1990s; released first solo album, 1996; rapped on Snoop Dogg's album Top Dogg, 1999. Film appearances include: The Breaks, 1999; Tha Eastsidaz, 2000; The Wash, 2001; 8 Mile, 2002; Full Clip, 2004; xXx: State of the Union, 2005. Television appearances include: Cedric the Entertainer Presents, 2003; CSI: Miami, 2004; Pimp My Ride (host), MTV, 2004—.
Since the release of his first solo album in 1996, Xzibit has been a leading force in keeping the hip-hop genre vibrant. The surly-tongued rapper became a hot commodity in 2004 after he began hosting an offbeat reality makeover show for MTV called Pimp My Ride. During the program, mechanics do more than simply make over the rusted-out cars of deserving guests—the cars end up with eyepopping paint jobs, flashy chrome rims, and carvibrating sound systems. To use Xzibit's words, the cars are made "scrumptulescent."
As host of the show Xzibit flaunts his charm, tossing out witty punch lines. This charisma helped turn him into an MTV celebrity in his own right and opened the doors to a budding film career, earning him roles in several action flicks, including 2005's xXx: State of the Union, starring Samuel L. Jackson. Though music remains the focus of his career, Xzibit feels fortunate for the opportunity to cross over into other realms of entertainment. "There will be a day when I'm not gonna wanna get up on stage and stand in front of a crowd for 45 minutes," he told the Daily Telegraph 's Kathy McCabe. "This is a young man's sport. Hip-hop has done wonders for my life but I'm not gonna let hiphop consume my life. There's other endeavours I have to achieve."
Born January 8, 1974, in Detroit, Michigan, Alvin Nathaniel Joiner—aka Xzibit—spent his early childhood in one of the city's drug- and gang-riddled neighborhoods. He said his mother, a writer, helped spark his creative side, as well as his sense of humor by having him watch such shows as Saturday Night Live and The Muppet Show. She died when he was nine. Within a year, Xzibit began rapping, mostly out of boredom; he lacked a radio, so he decided to make his own music. His father soon remarried and relocated the family to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a place the young adolescent despised. He passed his time creating song lyrics.
"I was about 13 when I started writin' my own rhymes," Xzibit told Murder Dog, an online rap magazine. "It was something I enjoyed [doing]. I liked to put words together, it was easy for me. I just stuck with it." Often, Xzibit would share his rhymes with classmates as they competed to see who would be the rhyme master of the day. Despite this early passion, Xzibit found plenty of time to goof around. When he was 14, Xzibit got into serious trouble with the law, was removed from his home, and placed in state custody. He also got kicked out of school for fighting and had to earn a G.E.D., or general equivalency diploma.
When Xzibit was 17, the state released him from custody and he headed west. He landed in Los Angeles and recalled that although he was starving most of the time after his arrival, he was happy to be there. The change of environment was lifesaving. Xzibit made a point of leaving his old friends and bad habits behind and set about finding a new set of friends who could inspire him to stay on a better path. Speaking to Interview magazine, Xzibit recounted his turnaround. "When I went out to California, I was still doing the [stuff] that saw a lot of my friends killed or put in prison. But I got a job in a car wash and just started hitting underground clubs, doing a cappella because I didn't have a track, or a DJ."
In time, Xzibit became somewhat of a celebrity in the West Coast hip-hop underground. He made connections and was invited to make a guest appearance on fellow rapper King Tee's 1995 album, IV Life, as well as on Tha Alkaholiks' Coast II Coast album. Spending time in the recording studio with other artists inspired Xzibit to push his music to a new level. "I really started getting into makin' records when I saw how it was done," Xzibit told Murder Dog. "When I saw the people around me goin' from step A (in the studio), to B (puttin' it together and mastering it), to C (really puttin' it out). Bein' involved in that process allowed me to wanna reach out and do that myself."
Soon enough, Xzibit signed with Loud Records. Because he had never even cut a demo, Xzibit stepped into the recording studio a complete novice. Speaking to Murder Dog, Xzibit acknowledged that mistakes were made on that first album, 1996's At the Speed of Life, although he was pleased with the effort. "I didn't know what to expect, I didn't know what to deliver, but I put my best effort in. It made enough noise for me to come with the second and the third." One song on that first album, a track called "Paparazzi," earned Xzibit his first significant air time and mild recognition. In the song Xzibit condemns artists who use hip-hop as nothing more than a vehicle for money and fame.
Xzibit released a second album, 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz, in 1998, but it was not until 1999, when he rapped on Snoop Dogg's LP Top Dogg, that hip-hop insiders really took note of his potential. Snoop Dogg's album was produced by Dr. Dre, who liked Xzibit's rock-solid delivery so much that he invited Xzibit to appear on his 2001 album as a guest musician.
The exposure Xzibit received from joining forces with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre broadened his fan base. He also opened for Eminem and Limp Bizkit on their 2000 tour, giving himself even more exposure. By the time Xzibit released his third solo album, Restless, in 2000, he had hit his stride. His first two albums were commercial failures, selling just 360,000 copies altogether. Restless proved to be a million-copy selling album and was certified platinum. In 2002, Xzibit released his fourth solo album, Man Vs. Machine, where he rails against the corporate world and other systems that tie people down. This album went gold. These albums, packed with abstract rhymes that convey powerful meaning, established Xzibit as a favorite among hard-core hip-hoppers.
Besides delivering on his albums, Xzibit delivers in concert. Fans love his lively stage performances, which run in contrast to the calm and cool presentation style of other rappers like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Xzibit is flamboyant. During performances he races his five-foot-eleven-inch buff body around stage atop a tricked-out low-rider bicycle, simultaneously spinning doughnuts and delivering his spirited rhymes without missing a beat.
In March of 2004 Xzibit began hosting Pimp My Ride for MTV and turned it into a hugely popular makeover show. As the title suggests, the mechanics on the show—with Xzibit leading the commentary as the master of ceremonies—spiff up dilapidated cars with over-the-top custom accessories and paint jobs. The half-hour show attracts an average of 2.6 million viewers.
In each episode a young person with an incredibly awful eyesore of a car is chosen to receive a vehicle makeover. Typically, this person depends on the car to make a living or to help others in need. The show, however, goes way beyond just fixing up cars. The mechanics at West Coast Customs, a Los Angeles-based celebrity car shop, do the makeovers. Pimp My Ride makeover cars have included a 1978 Cadillac DeVille, a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and a 1991 Ford Escort. On the show, luxury embellishments are a must. The mechanics have done such things as replace a dome light with a chandelier, add a plasma television, an espresso machine and a wood-paneled yoga chamber—not on the same vehicle. Once they added a bubble-blowing tailpipe to a Mustang.
The show has been a hit not only because of the extreme car makeovers, but also because Xzibit is highly entertaining. One episode featured a 19-year-old college student named Christine Allende and her 1992 Honda Civic. Allende used the car to take her 83-year-old grandmother to the doctor, the store, and to church, which was a problem because the doors were hard to open. In addition, Allende was driving on the compact spare tire and the alarm was so out of whack it went off spontaneously. In typical Pimp My Ride fashion, her car got a full work over, complete with purple paint and racing stripes, a rear wing, spoked wheels and a velvet and leather interior. Especially for grandma, mechanics included a seat massager and doors that flip up, like those found on a Lamborghini.
According to a write up in AutoWeek by Mark Vaughn, Allende got so excited after seeing the makeover that Xzibit had to remind her to breathe, then brought the show home with his antics. "It's a very touching moment here on Pimp My Ride, " Xzibit told the audience. "But with the proper equipment, we'll get through," he said, holding a box of tissues.
Since Xzibit began hosting Pimp my Ride, his career has opened up. He hosted MTV's European Music Awards in November of 2004 and has had several film appearances. He filmed alongside Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen in the thriller Derailed, set for release in 2005. He also made a guest appearance on the CBS series CSI: Miami. Speaking to Raptism.com, Xzibit noted that television acting is a challenge because "television is way different than hip hop, like you only get one chance to do it right whereas hip hop you can do it 'till you get it right; TV is kind of like you only get one chance to actually get it off."
Xzibit released a fifth album, Weapons of Mass Destruction, in December of 2004, in which he raps about social and political issues. He rants about President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, tying his hardcore rap into a larger, global picture. On the album Xzibit sings about all kinds of weapons, from AK-47s and other street guns to the kind of weapons the United States was seeking in Iraq. In the track "Cold World," Xzibit draws a parallel between an American inner-city dweller battling addiction and a child living in war-torn Baghdad unable to escape U.S. bombs. He reminds listeners that, like the people in his song, they, too, have a choice in life—they can give up their problems or die with them. In "State of the Union," Xzibit rear-ranges one of Bush's State of the Union addresses, skillfully mixing up words here and there to produce phrases like "homicidal dictator." These global—and political—ruminations have turned Xzibit into a true crossover rapper whose music is popular with both the gangsta crowd and college-culture intellectuals.
For all his vitriolic gangsta raps, Xzibit also has a cool side—one that feels gratitude. Speaking to Interview, Xzibit explained that there are two types of artists. "There's a guy who really thinks he deserves everything that's happening to him and there's a guy who knows he worked [hard] and was blessed. I really feel like everything is a blessing."
Besides his gruff rapper persona and his jovial TV show demeanor, Xzibit has another side—father. His son, Tremayne, was born when Xzibit was 19. The rapper never mentions the name of Tremayne's mother but has said they broke up in 1998; they share custody. Tremayne stays with his mom during the week while attending school, then spends weekends and summers with Xzibit. "I'm learning just like he's learning," Xzibit told Vibe 's Benjamin Meadows-Ingram. "I just try to keep his environment stable and make him feel like he's my highest priority."
As a father Xzibit is aware that some of the lyrics and stories conveyed through hip-hop are less than life-inspiring. He has called on fellow hip-hop artists to work to remake the genre into the meaningful art form it once was. In an interview with the Independent 's Chris Mugan, Xzibit asked fellow rappers to place positive and sensitive messages into the mix instead of just "hooky junk-food rap." Xzibit called for a return to integrity. "We have kids that listen to hip-hop by the millions and they listen to us more than they listen to their parents, their teachers, and politicians. So if the only thing we're doing is selling them clothes and making them have sex, what are we preparing them for?"
At the Speed of Life, Loud, 1996.
40 Dayz & 40 Nightz, Loud, 1998.
Restless, Loud, 2000.
Man Vs. Machine, Loud/Columbia, 2002.
Weapons of Mass Destruction, Sony, 2004.
AutoWeek, April 5, 2004, p. 30.
Billboard, December 18, 2004, p. 24.
Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia), March 10, 2005, p. T10.
Independent (London, England), December 31, 2004.
Interview, October 2002, p. 94.
People, December 20, 2004, p. 104.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), December 16, 2004, p. F5.
Washington Post, June 5, 2004, p. C1.
"Biography," Xzibit Central, http://www.xzibitcentral.com/biography.php (May 16, 2005).
"Interview with Xzibit," Murder Dog magazine, http://www.murderdog.com/archives/xbit/xzbit.html (May 16, 2005).
"Xzibit—Father MC," Vibe, http://www.vibemagazine.com/modules.php?op=modload& (May 16, 2005).
"Xzibit Interview," Raptism.com, http://www.raptism.com/html/xzibitint-raptismdotcom.shtml (May 16, 2005).