During the process of outfitting a fan cave in the Santa Monica apartment of 92-year-old Los Angeles Rams fan Lewis Lazarus in advance of Thursday Night Football kicking off on Prime Video earlier this month, Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, better known by his stage name Xzibit, learned a few things.
One of them? That Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa is genderless. “I didn’t understand exactly what Alexa could do until I got into this project. I found out a lot about the programming and that Alexa is not a she,” Xzibit tells InsideHook. “Alexa is an AI that has no gender identification. That was cool to find out.”
Xzibit has found out a lot over the course of a career that began in earnest with the release of his debut studio album At the Speed of Life in 1996 and was taken to a new level in 2004 when he hosted the first of six seasons of MTV reality series Pimp My Ride.
A hit that inspired international spinoffs including Pimp My Car, Pimp My Room and Pimp My Whatever, the show moved Xzibit from America’s headphones into America’s living rooms and helped introduce him to new audiences that never normally would have picked up a rap or hip-hop CD. (It was the mid-2000s.)
“I was in the middle of putting out some of the most hardcore records that were out back then. It wasn’t popular at the time to go from that kind of genre into reality television. It was a risky move,” Xzibit says. “In hindsight, it was a trailblazing move on my behalf. During that process, I found out people who had no intentions of ever listening to an Xzibit record were now invested in my character and compassion. It opened up a new avenue of how I saw myself.”
And what opened as an avenue ended up a road that Xzibit is still traveling to this day. “When I started making records, I wanted to be perceived a certain way. I wanted people to be like, ‘Oh shit, Xzibit is fucking gangster rap,’” he says. “But that didn’t define me. When I was able to get out of what my self-perception was and leave myself vulnerable, caring and doing for other people, I learned a lot about myself. I’ve never been ashamed of my scars or my past. If you try to come off as a perfect person, your house of cards is gonna fall one day because nobody lives a perfect existence. The more vulnerable and honest I could be with my audience, the better. That’s why people trust me. Be proud of your shit. You know what I’m saying?”
Shooting Pimp My Ride over the course of a number of years also opened Xzibit’s eyes to what the show was really all about. “It wasn’t about the car. It was about wish fulfillment,” according to the 48-year-old. “That’s something I figured out during the process of making the show. I never worked on the props and I didn’t have any say so on whether to put in a chandelier or a popcorn machine or whatever. That wasn’t my gig. What I was able to do was see the significance of what something meant and how I could bring that to life.”
Considering what he was able to do for Lazarus, it seems Xzibit hasn’t lost his touch even though Pimp My Ride has been off MTV for well over a decade. It won’t be returning to the air, but Xzibit’s days of helping dreams come true aren’t over yet.
“Working with people who are trying to do something positive is where I’d like to stay. I’ve done both sides of the fence and now this feels like the right thing to do,” he says. “We’ve seen what division does. That record is played over and over again. Some people want it to continue to play and it’s feeling like battle lines are being drawn. I feel like campaigns like this are part of the light. The more light we can bring to people, the better. People need to laugh. People need to smile. People need to be aware of what’s going on, but we need some light. The only thing that gets rid of the dark is light.”
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