I say this with bated breath: XV is really back. Really, really back. Like, new album back. The kid with the green backpack is here, now with a dad hat, and a record that will remind fans why waiting on XV’s album was the right move.
Today, the blog era darling returns with The Dude With The Strap Back Dad Hat, a 10-song stomping ground where the Kansas native spars with the new era of hip-hop while staying true to his Squarian roots.
There is an aura to this project, some higher energy that binds together the music and creates communion between XV and fans. A sense of loyalty permeates the work, so much so that the centerpiece of the album is entitled “Loyal.”
“My longtime producer, Seven, produced ‘Loyal,’ so if you follow my music, then you would know that we pretty much came up together as artist and producer, and even more as friends,” Vizzy tells me. “He understood that one of the keywords in the ‘L7’ motto that I created for the Squarian fans included the word, ‘Loyalty’ in it, and with it being a centerpiece of our previous conversations, it just felt organic.”
With that, Vizzy describes loyalty as a sort of spiritual bond between people—any people—who are willing to enter into a commitment together.
“Loyalty is something I feel is very ethereal and cosmic,” he says. “Almost divine. Not trying to get extra philosophical on you, Donna, but it's like loyalty is something that binds and creates a commitment between two people who mutually agree to support each other through their partnership. It's not marriage; it's not family; it's not friendship; loyalty isn't an emotion. It's a mode that you have to activate and keep activated for it to reach it's required potential.”
For XV, loyalty is about family and reciprocity. He doesn’t believe his fans owe him anything unless he gives them something first. At that point, loyalty becomes a site of communion and sharing, of giving and taking on an even scale. Consequently, of all the things for Vizzy to be proud of with this project release, he takes the most pride in his fan base sticking by him, patiently awaiting new music. They put the battery in his back, so to say, and with the new album out, their loyalty has finally been rewarded.
Our full, “extra philosophical” conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: How does it feel to finally have the album out?
XV: It feels incredible to not only deliver a full-fledged album to my fans but to see the delivery methods available to artists to give music to their fans. It's been years since I've released a full album, and when I was dropping music on the regular streaming wasn't where it is today. So, a lot of opportunities and digital platforms that have been created are new to me for this project, and entirely new for me as an artist. Although I've been studying and staying informed on the music industry, it's just different when you get to implement those things you've learned. If you only knew what we have planned. It's only the beginning; I will say that.
What inspired “Loyal” on the album?
My longtime producer, Seven, produced "Loyal," so if you follow my music, you know we pretty much came up together as artist and producer, and even more as friends. But we stopped working together a couple of years after I signed with Warner Bros. and just went our separate ways. Never any beef, but it was very evident that something had happened. So during my break from music, we reconnected and just hashed everything out, and loyalty was a core of the conversation we had. As time went on and we started making music together again, Seven played me the beat for “Loyal,” which had a vocal sample yelling “Loyal!” in it. He understood that one of the keywords in the “L7” motto that I created for the Squarian fans included the word, “Loyalty” in it, and with it being a centerpiece of our previous conversations, it just felt organic.
What does loyalty mean to you as a broader concept?
As a broad concept, to me, loyalty means an undying allegiance. Loyalty is something I feel is ethereal and cosmic. Almost divine. Not trying to get extra philosophical on you, Donna, but it's like loyalty is something that binds and creates a commitment between two people who mutually agree to support each other through their partnership. It's not marriage; it's not family; it's not friendship; loyalty isn't an emotion. It's a mode that you have to activate and keep activated for it to reach it's required potential. I feel like loyalty is almost always compensated and reciprocated when you understand that mode, and it's mutual.
What about fan loyalty? Do you feel fans owe artists something?
It's all about the relationship you create with your fans. I'm one of those people who treat others as they would like to be treated, and I treat my fans like my fam; I've always been that way. So fan loyalty is only important if you're giving your fans the same loyalty in return. In that case, the fans do owe artists at least their loyalty in the sense of staying active with those artists and engaging with them in the way that they engage with you.
Same question, but about family.
I say on the song, that “blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family” because loyalty is a crucial trait to have when having a real family. Like I said earlier, I treat my fans like fam. So, the same loyalty applies. Staying active, staying engaged, and in touch, and just mutually supporting each other, no matter what. Your kin is your blood, but that doesn't mean that they support everything you do. It doesn't mean they have your best interest at heart at all times. It doesn't mean that they aren't going anywhere. Family is supposed to be the foundation and system that teaches you about loyalty because I feel that family is what you should be most loyal to. But life shows you that family doesn't always mean your blood. Loyalty creates that foundation of a family. Not the other way around.
What about loyalty to yourself?
Not sure if you can be loyal to yourself, that seems like it would manifest into selfishness. Since loyalty is almost like a partnership two energies agree to commit to it would be hard to be loyal to yourself because there isn't that accountability partner to evaluate the relationship which is an essential key to learning about loyalty. As humans, we naturally aren't perfect, so we let ourselves down in the same way we can let others down, but there's a different type of accountability when you let another person down that holds you to a standard because of your relationship with each other. I don't think you can create that with yourself. You're supposed to grow and evolve the concept of loyalty within yourself, for you to use out in the world of real-life relationships.
How did loyalty to yourself factor into this album?
Dedication factored into the creation of this album more than loyalty. It can almost be seen as the same thing though. Before I started this journey, musically, I started it mentally, in the winter of 2017, when I started going to the gym at four in the morning instead of waking up and rolling up. I've never worked out in my entire life. I'm pretty sure I failed or dropped weights my freshman year of high school, so yeah, I never even knew working out. But I knew I needed a better understanding of dedication to achieve success in the relationships with the people in my life and my career.
Waking up and going to the gym at four, no matter what time I went to sleep, changed my whole view of dedication. Loyalty factors in when I asked my boy Freddy High, as an accountability partner, to help me out by going along with me. He knows me, so he knew that this was a completely new direction for me as far as dedicating myself, and as a loyal friend, he was by my side for that. Which is why you see Freddy High as the only feature outside of guest singers on my new album. He was there throughout this entire journey, and he’s gonna be there in the “End Game.”
What are you most proud of with this release?
Wow. So many things. I'd say, more than anything—and I'm not saying this because of the topic either—I'm probably most proud of my loyal fan base. I can't say I've accumulated all of the intangibles that people see as “making it big,” but I will say that I love the fans and people that I've touched with my music. And I'm just excited to continue that conversation again, after going through what I've gone through and learning what I've learned, I'm just excited to share this journey and knowledge with my people again. I will also say that my team makes me proud of this release because this album was truly a group effort among an unlikely group of individuals that have been part of my life throughout the years. That's why “Day Ones” was released, to set the tone for the people who have been with me through this journey.
How does XV stay loyal, and to whom does he stay loyal?
Staying loyal is a mode. It may not be turned on for every person in your life, but it's just a mode that you can turn on and when you know who you are, you know how to keep it on. I stay loyal by just trying to stay down for whatever cause my people are riding for. We may disagree, see things differently, or not communicate, but in the end, I'm riding with you no matter what! I stay loyal to the “L7” motto and Rule 32, and the people close to me who are living life in the same way, enjoying the little things. Love, life, loyalty, and living long like legends. #L7.