By Geoffrey Rowlands
Lil Xan is named after the prescription drug which he is urging people to stop using. Real name Diego Leanos, the Redlands, California-born rapper was given the nickname by a friend during the two years in which he was addicted to Xanax.
“It’s prescribed for panic attacks and general anxiety problems,” explained 21-year-old Xan. “That’s why I started taking it. But Xanax has tranquilising and hypnotic effects. It’s so easy to become addicted.
“I went with Lil Xan as my stage name because I was still using the drug when I began rapping. I have considered maybe changing to my real name and just calling myself Diego. But the formula is working for me as Lil Xan. I figure it’s better to stay as I am but keep speaking about the bad effects of using Xanax.”
Lil Xan is not the poster child for a solid education. He dropped out of high school during his freshman year.
“I had no intention of becoming a rapper. The truth is I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I just knew I couldn’t sit still for seven hours every day having someone tell me a bunch of stuff I’d never need to know.”
He eventually found a job as a street sweeper.
“I used to get paid $8 an hour. One day, I got my pay cheque for $400, went into a casino, lost it all and decided I wasn’t going to do that job ever again.”
One thing he did have was a quality camera. It was this interest in photography which eventually led to his becoming a rapper.
“I thought I might become a photographer. I’d always loved music. My dad was a big record collector. I used to listen to artistes like Arctic Monkeys, Cage The Elephant and Queens Of The Stone Age. But my dad turned me on to hip hop through the likes of N*E*R*D and Drake. I had this idea that I could maybe earn a living photographing music artists.
“I started taking photographs of some local rappers. I was a massive fan of Steven Cannon and met him at a show. I stood in line for about four hours so that I could be at the front. I asked if I could take his picture. He agreed so I took some shots. I kept turning up at his shows taking pictures. After one show, Steven said I was putting in a lot of dedication and I should be their main photographer.
“I started photographing and filming all of Steven’s shows. During one show, I put my camera down behind the DJ booth and someone stole it. I was devastated because it was a gift from my parents and really expensive. It would have cost around $1,200 dollars to replace. But if my camera hadn’t gotten stolen, I wouldn’t be rapping today.”
Rather than buy a new camera, Xan decided to try his hand at music.
“Studio time cost a lot less than a new camera. I’d written some raps and knew people who made beats so I thought I’d give it a shot. I still didn’t really think I could make a career out of rapping. It was more like a hobby for about a year before things started to get serious.”
Although nominally a solo artist, Xan is accompanied by his Xanarchy crew.
“I started out with a friend in Low Gang. But it wasn’t really taking off. So, from the ashes of Low Gang, I created Xanarchy. I just thought the name was a good play on words. Xanarchy are my friends, producers, beatmakers, other rappers, everyone who has helped me along the way. It took off pretty quickly. It’s ridiculous how much growth there has been in just a few months. Music, fashion, everything.”
His debut five-song EP, CITGO, was released in 2016. The positive response was boosted by postings on SoundCloud and YouTube which greatly expanded Xan’s fan base. His shows sold out in minutes.
His national breakthrough came last summer through the release of Betrayed. With lyrics focusing on his addiction to Xanax, the song became Xan’s first entry on Billboard’s Hot 100.
“I was with my homie Steven (Cannon) at this garage studio in the ghetto. The writing is easy there. It just comes naturally. I wrote Betrayed in about 20 minutes. I knew it was something different that people hadn’t heard from me before. Everybody thought it was insane when we recorded the song. Cole Bennett did an amazing video and I had my first mainstream hit.”
The release of his debut album, Total Xanarchy, was set for April 6. It was promoted by a 29-date North American concert tour. Covering a mix of large and small venues, every ticket was sold within five hours. Fans obviously enjoyed what they heard. Total Xanarchy stormed straight into the top ten on the Billboard 200.
“I really wanted the album to be something else. I feel like I’ve been able to shine with the whole creativity. It has a lot of stuff people hadn’t heard from me. It’s a very mature sound. I don’t think people really expected that.”
Xan has a genuine love for his parents. His mother suffers from serious osteoporosis which may well leave her paralysed in years to come.
“The money I’m making now is really nice. It means I can take care of my parents. My mom has particular needs which will become worse over time. All the money in the world couldn’t cure her but I hope I can make her life as comfortable as possible.”
As might have been expected, the untimely death of Swedish DJ/ producer Avicii has sparked a surge of interest in his singles and albums. Three of each are back among the upper reaches of the UK charts.
Although his death shocked and saddened the music world, Avicii had suffered poor health for years. Real name Tim Bergling, he was hospitalised in 2012 with acute pancreatitis brought on by excessive alcohol consumption. Two years later, his appendix and gallbladder were removed. In 2016, his health had deteriorated to such an extent that he retired from live performances.
A pair of autopsies conducted by authorities in Muscat, Oman, where he passed away, have ruled out foul play in Avicii’s death. But an actual cause of death was not specified.
One person not surprised by Avicii’s passing was his friend and fellow DJ/ producer Laidback Luke. In 2015, Luke said Avicii would join the ‘27 Club,’ entertainment stars who have died at the age of 27, if he did not change his lifestyle. Luke’s prediction was just a few months out. Avicii died at the age of 28.
There were those who questioned the award of the Critics’ Choice BRIT to singer / songwriter Jorja Smith. She beat out competition from artists such as Mabel and Stefflon Don who had already proved their ability with big hit singles.
But Canadian superstar Drake was a massive fan of 20-year-old Jorja. She was the support act on Drake’s UK tour and performed guest vocals on two songs from his 2017 mixtape, More Life.
Jorja’s only top 40 hit in her own right was Let Me Down, which reached number 34 earlier this year. Even this song also featured lyrical contributions from Stormzy.
Let Me Down is not among the 12 tracks on Jorja’s debut album, Lost & Found, which is sceduled for release on June 8. But three of her earlier singles are on the album.
Videos were made to accompany all three songs. Blue Lights is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=i59Klb0S1Uw. Where Did I Go? is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=meP1neJrguw while Teenage Fantasy can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTnWe_sMznM.
Why is it that people cannot express a view nowadays without others jumping down their throats for holding an opinion which might be contrary to their own?
Canadian superstar country singer Shania Twain is the latest artist to experience the wrath of this unholy self-righteous brigade. In a recent interview, although she was ineligible to vote, Shania said she would have supported Donald Trump in the 2016 US Presidential election. She thought even though he was offensive, he did seem honest and talked to a portion of America like an accessible person they could relate to as he was not a politician.
To most people, this would be perfectly fair enough. No matter if you are for or against President Trump, Shania is entitled to her opinion.
But this is not so for all too many who are aligned to the so called liberal or left. These supposedly tolerant people display nothing but intolerance for anyone whose views stray from their particular groupthink.
After being bombarded with criticism and abuse on social media, Shania felt obliged to apologise via her Twitter account to anyone who had been offended by her opinion.
Shania is in the process of a musical comeback. Her smash hit 2017 LP, Now, was her first album of new material for 15 years. Her world tour supporting the album kicks off in Tacoma, Washington, on May 3. She can probably expect banner-wielding protesters at every US concert.
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