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From Up in Smoke to Empire, Xzibit’s Been at the Top of His Game for Decades

The former Pimp My Ride host talks Empire, the infamous “Up in Smoke Tour,” and his most recent album.

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High Times

Most fans are unaware that Xzibit spent some of his formative years in Albuquerque, NM. Before he discovered hip-hop, the former Pimp My Ride host was headed down an ominous path of drugs and violence. But a move from the Southwest to the City of Angels switched his focus to music and helped X—whose real name is Alvin Nathaniel Joiner—change his life.

Since unleashing his inaugural album, 1996’s At the Speed of Life, Xzibit has become a permanent fixture in pop culture. From his time on the popular MTV show and a slot alongside Dr. Dre on the “Up in Smoke Tour” to his recent three-year stint on Empire as Shyne Johnson, Xzibit’s career continues to evolve. He credits the “Up in Smoke Tour” with taking him from relative obscurity to hip-hop glory.

“It was the first time that my music had been broadcast and pushed on a national or on a global level, alongside iconic acts such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eminem and Snoop Dogg, and you know, all of us coming up under that 2001 [Dr. Dre’s 1999 solo album] umbrella,” X says. “I was exposed to millions and millions of people, and now you have the opportunity to showcase your talent at the highest point of the pendulum.”

“So it’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s go get it,'” he continues. “That was a turning point because I was able to go up there and do what I love to do. I started writing at 13 and now here I am alongside some of the people that I grew up listening to and was a fan of, and now I get to work with these people.

Most recently, Xzibit reunited with Los Angeles-based rappers Demrick and B-Real—who X calls the “Buddha Master”—for another Serial Killers project titled Serial Killers: Day of the Dead.

X acknowledges that the album was birthed from a few shots of tequila—as the cannabis and liquor were freely flowing. While this method helped all three artists truly get in the zone, Xzibit admits he doesn’t go as hard as he used to back in the day.

“I don’t get as shit-faced as I used to,” he says. “I don’t bounce back like I used to, so I had to slow that shit down. It gets in the way of your productivity.”

“But I think we have three distinct voices and our rhyme styles are different, but familiar,” X continues. “So, those generations of MCs coming together, I think it’s a good balance. What we bring to the table kind of merges all these fan bases together, and then we have this hybrid of what we’ve all created individually.”

Although his Empire character was recently killed off, he’s grateful for his time on the show and has his sights set firmly on the future. “I’m really glad to see them back for another season,” he says. “They deserve it. Everybody over there does such a great job and it’s such a great platform for them to get that music off. Shout out to Lee Daniels for having me on the show. I enjoyed my time there.”

“I had three good years. But had to step away, work on myself, come back and organize the things that I had to do in Los Angeles which are just as important. This next year, I’m gonna get back on the theatrical side. We have some things in the mix. I don’t want to really put it out there just yet, but we’re definitely coming back on the theatrical side, so keep your eyes open.”

This article originally appeared in the April, 2019 issue. For subscription services, click here.

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