“Hey I wake up, I throw up, I feel like I’m dead”

These are the profound thoughts of Nicholas Diego Leanos b/k/a Lil Xan. Before we drink any more of his lyrical lemonade let’s talk about the man himself. Mr. Leanos had the hard knock life growing up that fuels the desire to overcome adversity. He reportedly never had a stable home as such, following his parents from one motel to the next (presumably as they searched for employment) across California, and even though it’s cliche for an impoverished rapper to hustle and/or sell drugs to finally get a grip, Leanos was also a street pharmacist and an aspiring photographer until he finally decided to be a rapper full time. After hitting the Soundcloud lottery as Lil Xan (named after Xanax) and going viral, a record deal with Columbia and a debut album called “Total Xanarchy” followed.

“God damn, God damn, Lil Xanny the man”

Perhaps so. To scrape yourself up from the dirt bottom and reach the very top is laudable. Xan has a following, he has songs like “Betrayed” that have charted in the mainstream, and he’s toured off his debut album and recorded countless cameos with other young and successful rap artists. It’s necessary to say all of this though to offset what’s to come (maybe even to Quavo it before the whole thing takes off). If I’m congratulatin’ I can’t be hatin’ right? I’m happy for Lil Xan to have achieved all that he has in his young life, and I hope that he banks off it and sets himself up for the future. He probably did other than whatever it cost to get Rich The Kid and Yo Gotti on the “Betrayed” remix.

As hard as I look though on tracks like the DJ Fu and Tayo produced “Shine Hard” I can’t find any depth or substance to what Lil Xan has to say. The beat absolutely KNOCKS. If you have a good set of woofers in your car the windows are going to vibrate until you’re afraid they’ll shatter. That’s all the song is though. It’s not about the fact that Mr. Leanos is flossing — he’s entitled to live it up — it’s about the fact he has NOTHING to say. “Diamonds” has the exact same problem. He repeats the same few lines ad nauseum and none of the sentiments are interesting or new compared to any other young flossy artist.

“Diamonds be wet on my wrist, yeah
Diamonds be wet like a bitch, yeah
Diamonds be wet like a bitch, yeah
Diamonds be wet on my wrist, yeah
Diamonds be wet like a bitch
And my diamonds be wet on my wrist, yeah, ay
Diamonds be wet like a bitch
And my diamonds be wet on my wrist, yeah”

This is lyricism? Some of Lil Xan’s songs can barely even be called that. “Basically” is 1:47 long and if it was just a Bobby Johnson instrumental it would be better as a demo tape to shop his work to other rappers. “I’m just saying you can do better/like Xanarchy, I did it better/and I’m so cold I think I need a sweater”. I’d say these are fifth grade rhymes but that’s an insult to fifth graders who could write a smarter rap song. To make matters worse Mr. Leanos is part of what’s called the “sad rap” movement, and even though it’s only 1:48 long “Deceived” leaves me feeling depressed too.

The biggest bummer is that once in a while something accidentally sounds like another artist who’s no longer with us — Lil Peep, XXXTentacion, or Juice WRLD. “Far” sounds eerily like the latter made it, which is wild given the completely different backgrounds of the two. Even though I never thought Juice was the best of his generation, he does this better than Xan.

There’s a lot of great production and some solid cameos on “Total Xanarchy” but neither one can take the place of actual talent. It is for better or worse indicative of today’s music scene in general that if just one song accidentally breaks through and gets noticed, you can bank off it in perpetuity, and on that note Xan is expected to drop a new album sometime in 2020. When it comes out I hope the production is just as good but that Mr. Leanos has taken the time that good fortune has provided him to express more than just base level sentiments with rudimentary simplistic words.

Lil Xan :: Total Xanarchy
5.5Overall Score