Chicago rapper Xavier & the Thrill tackles self-doubt on his new EP

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Xavier & the Thrill is, somewhat confusingly, just one Chicago rapper—before he changed his name, he was making all the right moves as Xavier Holliday (which he styled as XVRHLDY). In this case, by "right moves" I mean that he was working the media like a pro, attracting attention from the sort of outlets that many rappers court: the bio on his Soundcloud page includes links to interviews in XXL and the Source (as well as to a Reader piece). Clips like that can give a guy an inflated ego, but it doesn't seem as though the good press has affected Xavier's sense of himself—or at least that's the impression I get from his new EP, Breeze.

Closing track "SuperNova" is the one that's stuck with me the most, in part because Xavier reveals a bit of vulnerability and self-doubt. The song opens with what sounds like an echoing sample of a fragile music-box melody, and the first words are, "Wished upon a star, she wished upon me instead / And here's what she said / Wish you rid yourself of fear, because it's all in your head / Be confident instead." The somber tone he sets with this introduction hangs over the song as it changes shape, but as he shifts from the dragging feel of the opening bars to a sort of revitalized self-assurance, the mood begins to lift.

Producer Dadras gradually adds layers of sounds to "SuperNova," and toward the end of the track a repeated, reverberating synth note threatens to overpower Xavier's vocals: "So don't you focus on the hate or what they're going to say / Just use your talents, 'cause it could be gone in a day." It's tough to make out what he's saying, because he doesn't fight to make himself heard or even raise his voice—instead he stays poised and on message as the noise rises around him. His cool-headed charisma makes him sound like an orator with an audience of millions, but he's delivering private sentiments that will mean just as much to him regardless of how many other people hear them.
Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.



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