Ever since he was a young kid growing up on Chicago’s Southwest side rapper YOUNG XAV has always possessed an unusually high degree of intelligence. He says he taught himself computer coding when he was in the 6th grade. He also stated that later on, he taught himself graphic design and video editing as well. In casual conversation, XAV is poignant and well spoken. He leaves no stone un-turned when getting his points across and is very expressive about his goals, ambitions and thoughts about the world around him.
Like a lot of brilliant people, XAV spent a lot of time on his own growing up. Stating he was bullied a lot, XAV had trouble making friends and says he even transferred schools five times as a direct result. However all of this time spent on his own served as the breeding ground for the intense introspection that has become a defining characteristic of who he is as an artist- More on that later.
Much like his rare level of intelligence it is easy to see where his musical roots stem from. His father was a DJ growing up and he says that music had always played one role or another in his life. XAV says some of most vivid memories from childhood were listening to early Eminem records on car rides with his mom which led to him discovering other artists such as 50 Cent and Dr. Dre.
XAV attended high school at Muchin College Prep in Downtown Chicago and he says it is here that he really found his place. He says it was here where he discovered his love of attention, stating he would go far as to campaign for his birthday; meaning that he would talk to as many people as possible in an effort to get as many happy birthdays as he possibly could. After graduation XAV attended Tribeca College in Downtown Chicago to study Film, leaving after a year when he realized it was not what he wanted to do. It was right around this time where XAV started to pursue a career in music.
After dropping a series of singles as well as an EP XAV decided that he wanted to get more serious with his craft. He came up with the idea that he wanted to throw a show and says he worked nonstop for two weeks selling tickets, promoting the show and even making an intro trailer for it. The final product was the After Dark Show which XAV says was a big success. After the show was over XAV was asking himself what he wanted to do next. He decided he was going to start working on his next EP. Despite wanting to make another short project the final product came to be something much greater than anything XAV could have realized or hoped for.
What came of it was XAV’s debut full-length studio album After Dark which is a 15-song time capsule documenting XAVs’ experiences over the most trying sixth month period of his entire life. Over the course of these 15 songs XAV puts his struggles with substances, heartbreak and depression on full display for the whole world to see. He conveys a stunning amount of honesty in his bars, getting more personal than a lot of artists are willing to go.
From the very beginning the album has a very cinematic feel. The intro track features an energetic brass section and planking pianos as well as a car revving up and driving away. It really feels like the opening scene to a movie. XAV views this album as cyclical and that he structured the songs in a way that would resemble a heavy night of drinking followed by the morning after. Early in the album on cuts such as Sinners and Life is Grand XAV is living the rockstar lifestyle, musing on misadventures with alcohol and women. However this is presented simultaneously with the consequences of his actions as cuts such as After Dark and Still Alive explore the dark side of substance abuse and excessive indulgence in an effort to escape ones demons.
XAV does a beautiful job painting a full picture of what it is like for one to be drowning in their own vices. A true highlight on the album arrives with the Dear You interlude and the following track Dancing in the Dark. These two tracks see XAV coming off as apologetic and remorseful for past mistakes towards an ex-lover as well as addressing his general experiences with love up to this point in his life. XAV has described this part of the album as the part in the night when one is drunk and in their feels. However this sentimentality of these two tracks is abruptly followed by the track On the Low, a banger of a track featuring more themes of vice and excess.
The back end of the album features more moments of introspection from Xav. The 12th track Chasing Dreams finds XAV contemplating his current place in the rap game and dreaming of one day rising to the top. XAV describes this track as the thoughts of somebody sitting drunk and alone in a bar at 4 am dreaming of better days. The 14th track Til Dawn is a beautiful meditation on the relationship between XAV and his mother. The track has a nostalgic ring to it and really is a beautiful moment on the album.
After Dark closes out with the song Road to Legend which sees XAV reflecting on more past experiences and coming grips with where he is currently at in his life. XAV views this track as the sun rising after a long night and coming back down to earth to face the reality that awaits. Aforementioned, After Dark has a very thematic feel to it throughout its duration. Everything is concise and orderly. XAV pulled together a sequence of tracks that truly tell a powerful story. For him to be so young yet able to pull together a conceptual project like After Dark is a true sign of the intelligence he possesses.
Today XAV is a lot more extroverted than that young kid who used to sit on his computer all day. However it is clear that XAV got to know himself quite well during that time as introspection and taking self-inventory are a big part of what makes his album work so well. Despite finding a sense of contentment at the end of the After Dark XAV is still far from the finish line. He is now waking up to the sun in his eyes that is his own brutal reality. However the LP gives you a sense that he is now inviting the suns daunting rays into his soul with open arms.
These days YOUNG XAV is only focused on whatever comes next. He has found closure in the mistakes of his past, now looking forward with two feet in front of him. He says he is solely focused on promoting his album which has done quite well and is now past a hundred thousand streams. He is also planning his next album which he says will be entitled Dead by Dawn and that it will be tied back to After Dark in some way. He says he has not started work for this project yet and that there is no timetable for its release date. If it is every bit as tight and conceptual as After Dark, rest assured that it will be worth the wait.
After Dark is now available on all platforms.