First, there was Snoop. Then came Eminem. Now Dre would like us to know about Xzibit. The rapper has been around for years, but right now his new album 'Restless' is causing a buzz. Why? Dre is executive producer, Snoop, Nate Dogg, Eminem, KRS One and Tha Liks are just some of the names on the LP. In fact Xzibit was a one-man buzz guesting on over 30 tracks last year, including collaborations with LL Cool J, Talib Kweli, Soul Assassins and De La Soul. Currently he's filling the void left by the Outkast on Eminem's tour. He took some time out to tell Radio 1 what's it's like to be hip hop's most wanted right now.
Why has 'Restless' drawn more attention than your previous underground albums?
This is the first time I've taken creative criticism and have somebody else working with me as far as putting the album together - Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre is a producer extraordinaire; he knows what he wants to hear and he knows how to make a hit so I trusted his judgement as far as putting everything together and releasing this LP.
What's Dre like?
Dr Dre is a legend, dude. He really, really knows how to bring the best out of an artist. So when you get into a situation where you've actually got to come up with a track, he'll help you paint the picture then he'll show you how to hang it right.
And you're tight with Snoop too, right?
My first actual success as far as being on the mainstream radio and TV play was 'Bitch Please' with Snoop on No Limit with Top Dogg. After that we developed a friendship, and we just continued it from there.
What about all the jibes Suge Knight's been making about your mates?
I think negative draws negative. As long as they aren't coming close to us and endangering our people they can do whatever the fuck they want to do. We continue with God on our side - we're rocking fans, we're rocking millions and that should speak for itself.
What can we expect from your live performance with Eminem?
We come out and give real hard-core shit. We spit at the crowd, we hit it, we try to make it sound just like the record. We definitely give a A1 performance. When we rock the arenas, we bring our sets with us, there's more people involved, the lightshow's better. What calibre you want it? You come to the arena, you're going to get a cannonball."
What's he like?
I met Eminem like six years ago. I mean I felt he got skills when I first met him so it's not difficult to see where he is at now man. I know he's going to do it. Greatly misunderstood by the press. You can say things and take them literally or you can find the wit in it. I think when you try and pigeon hole somebody and make them out how you want them to be, it's never going to fit. Eminem is one of those people who knows how to speak for himself and knows how to press people's buttons, so I think it's entertaining.
Are you as hard as your image suggests?
Everybody's a human being first, you know? And whether you have a hard image or not you still have people to answer to. I still have responsibilities and I don't ignore that. You don't become hard by ignoring your responsibilities. You realize there's consequences and pros and cons to everything and I choose to be very conscious of that.
Any tips for the top?
Look out for the Golden State Project, that's myself, Ras Kass and Saafir. Also look out for Defari also known as fuckin birdman, big beaked bastard. Get away from me! [Defari butts in at this point and says: "If you guys print that shit what he said, there's not gonna be no more Xzibit!] Let's deport him right now!
Why and how did you guest on over 30 tracks last year?
I was on so many songs because I had a lot of stuff I had to do to show my record label they had a calibre artist that needed the attention they weren't giving me. Then it started to burn up and those songs I recorded were beginning to chart, and eventually, just counting the big ones, I shifted 17 million units outside of Loud records, so they were pretty excited about that.
Anyone you haven't worked with?
Nope. Been smashin' on it!
The album, 'Restless' is out now. The single, 'X' is out February 26th.