Album: Xzibit

3.00

Weapons of Mass Destruction, EPIC

Xzibit presents himself on this fifth album, with some justification, as the heir presumptive to the West Coast hip-hop tradition, the last in the string of Great Cali Rappers that includes Dr Dre, Ice Cube, 2Pac and Snoop Dogg.

Xzibit presents himself on this fifth album, with some justification, as the heir presumptive to the West Coast hip-hop tradition, the last in the string of Great Cali Rappers that includes Dr Dre, Ice Cube, 2Pac and Snoop Dogg.

Of that stellar crew, Ice Cube is the most obvious model for Xzibit's style, which, like Cube's, involves a troubling blend of keen political insight and brutal gangsta amorality, delivered in an angry bark that brooks no argument. Weapons of Mass Destruction front-loads the politics, with the introductory "State of the Nation" mischievously collaging George W Bush's speeches to give the impression that the President is talking about himself as "a homicidal dictator who's addicted to weapons of mass destruction", and the track "Cold World" offering three contrasting sketches of hardship.

In the first, a girl, "Justine, 19, just got clean/ Fresh out of rehab with self-esteem", fights to preserve her morale; in the second, a young dealer screws up and loses his churchgoing mom in a revenge attack. So far, so routine; then, in the third verse, we meet an Iraqi youth in Baghdad who "ate with his right hand, made money with his left hand, prayed to the east five times daily", who's suddenly and violently politicised by "88,000 tons of missiles and bombs" dropped on his family and friends by US planes. Set to a Wu-Tang-style lonely piano figure and synth whine, it's a sharp portrait of how times are hard in every 'hood these days.

Sadly, it's pretty much all downhill from that point, with a succession of raps celebrating gun violence ("Beware of Us", "Tough Guy", "LAX"), and a couple ("Saturday Night Live", "Hey Now") about the undertow of violence in hip-hop club culture. Riding a typically infectious Timbaland brittle bounce groove, "Hey Now" features a chorus that's like a skipping-rhyme about thugs "looking like they wanna kill something". One track, the annoyingly catchy "Muthafucka", even namechecks the Washington sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, which probably wouldn't have happened had Xzibit's family been among the victims. Elsewhere, "Ride or Die" concludes that, actually, the police are the real gangstas; and "Crazy Ho" finds Xzibit and his Strong Arm Steady crew being stalked by a bunny-boiler - which may be the only way for a woman to get, if not their respect, then at least their attention.

In between, there are a few glints of something deeper at work. The gospel stylings of "Judgement Day" backdrop Xzibit's reflections on his former waywardness, and how "the devil brings out the soldier in the peaceful man", while "Back 2 The Way It Was" finds him hankering for old-school days and ways, "'cos right now, hip hop is hollow.../ And maybe, from the way we act, we lost our minds." Maybe.

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