Lil Xan — Total Xanarchy
With the trap sub-genre of hip hop absolutely exploding into the mainstream, there has been significant number of Lil ____ rappers signed to labels as they attempt to cash-in on this trend. As can be expected, this has yielded some mixed results. Certifiable stars like Lil Pump have emerged from the SoundCloud scene, but with that comes the inevitable generic copycats. They can't all be winners, as evidenced by Total Xanarchy, the debut full-length album from Lil Xan. The 21 year-old rapper had previously released a couple of short mixtapes that included the singles "Betrayed" — which also appears twice on this record — and the utterly ridiculous "Pink Roses." Now, in the second quarter of 2018 we have the first full album's worth of material from yet another guy with face tattoos, drug problems and an adversarial relationship with enunciation.
Prior to this record, my perception of Lil Xan's material was that it is an embodiement of every genre cliché you could think of. The capstone on all of it is his stage name, a nod to the drug Xanax — the most ubiquitous reference in trap music next to lean and molly. This also makes the opening track of Total Xanarchy even more ridiculous, as it's titled "Who I Am," and is comprised almost entirely of the refrain "xans don't make me." That's an utterly bizarre thing to say ad nauseam when your name is fucking Lil Xan. "Who I Am" also highlights the core elements of Xan's sound: poorly enunciated mumbling that sounds like it's coming from a bullfrog that chainsmoked 3 packs of unfiltered cigarettes, or a creaky door that keeps swaying in the wind — it varies at times. It's a vocal 'style' that sounds drugged out and disinterested, like he could barely stay awake to repeat these trite, vapid lyrics. There are tracks with more lively vocals, which feature generous helpings of AutoTune — though I would not necessarily call it an improvement.
Contradictory lyrics aside, the opening track is otherwise unremarkable, as is the second. Lil Xan lacks the diversity and charisma to carry a lot of these tracks, and even though the record is littered with guest features, they are all competent but nothing more — everyone's just punching a clock here. The first feature on this album is 2 Chainz, making "Tick Tock" barely tolerable — in combination with its sub 3-minute running time. Up next is "Diamonds," which sounds like a bad impression of Lil Uzi Vert warbled over an utterly generic trap beat. The next few tracks all repeat this formula, and none of them stand out — I barely even noticed Charli XCX despite knowing she was a guest feature going into "Moonlight."
The whole record is very down-tempo; there are no fast songs at all, and Xan's cartoonishly subdued and disinterested voice gives the record a very drowsy feeling. Musically, there isn't a lot to criticise: the production is good and clean, and everything sounds like a cohesive collection of songs. The problem is they aren't very good songs, they are exceedingly generic and Lil Xan has no charisma with which to imbue these tracks by virtue of his appearance. Even by the standards of a shallow genre like trap, Total Xanarchy feels trite and generic; if you're into the genre, then you already have records like this — better records like this. It's not that I don't find an addled 21 year-old talking about pussy tasting like Skittles funny, it's just not the good kind of funny — I am laughing at this, not with it. I don't know if any of this material is supposed to be deep or sincerely emotional, but everything is expressed so poorly that it's impossible to tell. A determination I can make, however, is that this album is bad.
As much as I love trap and absurd SoundCloud rappers, I do have my limits. Lil Xan serves up a forgettable mix of low-tempo non-bangers, heavy on guest features and lacking in highlights. This album is impressive in its consistency, remaining just as unappealing from the opening track to the closer, a remix of "Betrayed" with altered verses and more 'rapping' that sounds like someone mumbling into an oscillating fan. Lyrically, this album makes Lil Pump look like a poet laureate — a sentence I never intended to write after hearing "Gucci Gang." Total Xanarchy is eminently skippable; stream it if you want to rubberneck an audio car wreck, but ignore it if your time has any value.
Release date: April 6th, 2018
Record label: Columbia Records
Lil Xan — vocals
Bobby Johnson — production (tracks 1, 10-13, 16)
Danny Wolf — production (tracks 2 and 5)
Ronny J — production (track 3)
DJ Fu — production (tracks 4, 5, 7-9, 14)
S1, Lonestarmuzik, Oshi, Krs — production (track 6)
G Koop — production (track 7)
Tayo — production (track 8)
Diplo, The Picard Brothers, Boaz van de Beats — production (track 15)
- Who I Am
- Wake Up
- Tick Tock (feat. 2 Chainz)
- The Man (feat. Steve Cannon)
- Saved By The Bell
- Moonlight (feat. Charli XCX)
- Shine Hard (feat. Rae Sremmurd)
- Round Here (feat. YG)
- Color Blind (feat. Diplo)
- Betrayed (Remix) [feat. Yo Gotti and Rich The Kid]
Published: May 2nd, 2018.