Picture this: Dorothy and Toto walking into a packed club with bootys shakin’, beats bangin’, blunts rollin’, and someone busting hustler music in her face. What’s she going to say? “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Oh not so fast Dorothy, you could’ve just walked into XV’s latest show in your home state. Hailing from Wichita, Kansas this cat is out to show that hip-hop’s yellow brick road touches more than just the coastlines. Producing 11 of the 17 tracks, the onus lands directly on him to make a buzz with his new album “Overture.”

It jumps off with “Royalty.” The high-octane beat has an instant head-nodding quality as XV drops lyrics like:

“The beat and the flow is done by me
Try’na make it to the top better run by me”

His voice sounds younger than average but his sincere delivery and tight flow combine to sound reminiscent of Fabolous. This song, reppin’ his record label, Royalty Records, runs into some familiar territory on the catchy hook, when XV does his best G-Unit impression, yelling “R-r-r-ro-ro-royalty.”

The next track, “Where I’m From” displays a thing called Crunk with drony synthesizers as the heavy bass and claps keep it moving. The next three songs are far from filler but they take a back seat the sixth song “Allow.” This Mista Royce-produced banger has the most obvious mid-west sound, reminiscent of the Legendary Traxster (Twista’s old producer). The progressive beat features tingly pianos combined with sliding keys that culminate when the high-pitched horns come in for the chorus. XV slides in with a laid-back flow but his usual energetic delivery, which seals this song up as an anthem.

One bone some might have to pick is the lack of original subject matter for the songs. There’s several club songs, bragging rights songs, a beef song, a song about a girl, etc. Basically the same template as too many rap albums over the past few years. Yes, it would be nice to see him talk about different things, but it seems that the goal for this album is to be easily accessible and radio-friendly rather than an underground classic. It’s more “Get Rich or Die Trying” than it is “Illmatic,” and we all know how successful the 50’s album was.

On “Enemy,” he comes firing heated lyrics at an old crewmate:

“Before Royalty you had no bitches
Before you joined, my crew didn’t have no bitches
But, I’m better than ever, hotter than most
Like 100 degree weather in turtleneck sweaters”

The ultra-smooth “I’d Like to” gives off similar vibes as Biggie’s “One More Chance,” but definitely has its own Midwest flavor. XV raps about what he’d like to do to various ladies. Once again, not very original, but his flow and catchy-ass beat don’t let you press fast-forward.

The album ends on a softer, yet strong, note with “Find a Way” and “All I Can do is Cry.” On the first one, the captivating, gospel-like chorus sets the tone over this dark, futuristic beat. Ending his lines right on each fuzzy snare, XV tells his story about trying to leave the game.

“All I Can do is Cry” is the required heart-felt song. The piano beat and vocal samples create a soulful canvas for XV to paint a picture of his late grandmother. Sometimes it seems like MC’s rap about subjects like this because they feel they have to and their sincerity isn’t believable. But his personal descriptions of qualities that are universal to all Grandmas bring you close to the song:

“When I’m thinking of you, grandmoms I miss ya
I tried to hold back tears that night on Christmas
Wishing I could give you everything on my wish list
And that would probably be just hugs n’ kisses”

This is a strong effort by XV to put his city and himself on the map. No two songs sounds alike and each one is catchy. There’s virtually no filler, and XV has enough charisma, MC skills, and production talent to counter the argument against his unoriginal subject matter. Yes it’s been done before, but rarely this well. If the rap game never truly makes it out to Wichita, then XV has the right tools to build his own yellow brick road into the promised land of hip-hop.

XV :: Overture
8.5Overall Score