A project that brings together legends like B-Real and Xzibit deserves more coverage – I could only find one review for this online and that even cites a quiet rollout for this album. No kidding. It’s a real shame the Serial Killers records rarely cause any more than a ripple when they drop, perhaps because they are marketed as mixtapes and arrive with next to no promotion, but considering the status of the features (Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes) you have to wonder what’s going on at Serial Killer HQ. Xzibit even barks “when this coronavirus over, I’m going to be a rap promoter” as if he knows he could do a better job.
It kind of sums up Xzibit’s status in 2021 – a true great that is always overlooked when discussions around West Coast emcees emerge on social media. Strong Arm Steady, itself an Xzibit-endorsed supergroup from the 2000s, put out some excellent records yet never felt like they got their just dues either. X’s own album “Napalm” (2012) was well-received but again, feels forgotten almost a decade later. Serial Killers continues this trend of overlooked, underappreciated and any other similar adjective you’d like to throw at X.
B-Real’s done it all and you can tell he’s enjoying himself on these Serial Killers records, but he has such a dominant vocal presence that when you’ve got him and X sparring, Young De (now Demrick) has always felt like he’s lacked that larger than life character to match the two OGs’ charisma. The problem isn’t so much with what Demrick is, but with what he isn’t. B-Real and Xzibit have two of the most unique deliveries operating on the opposite ends of the vocal spectrum: halfway to helium and gruffer than a grizzly. Demrick’s easily overlooked and this continues with “Summer of Sam”, the trio’s fourth release under the Serial Killers brand.
Recorded in lockdown during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 is pretty much the main topic on each emcee’s lips and it’s refreshing to see artists documenting their thoughts during these historically important times.
Not unlike a Pete Rock tweet, some of the rhymes about coronavirus will make your eyes roll. Hearing the topical references may date this project quickly but hearing Xzibit commanding the Queen to send Prince Andrew over to the States to face his punishment is brilliantly barmy. “Normal” is a humorous attempt at normality, assuming getting blunted and fucking hoes is your definition of normal. That’s ultimately where the Serial Killers work best when they lean into their creativity and create imagery that isn’t COVID-related. “Man Down” leans on Busta Rhymes’ Jamaican heritage with laugh-out-loud lines from the sexually frustrated Xzibit and Demrick as they boast of watching pornography, consuming canned cheese and only bothering with women if their pussy makes the sound a Wookie makes. There’s definitely a carefree attitude to some of the bars that you simply wouldn’t hear on a major label album.
“Quarantine” possesses a snappy radio-friendly hook from Kharmony Fortune and is a standout moment. In fact, most of the production is nice and shiny, benefitting from that excellent engineering many projects from the West tend to possess. The DJ Quik record “I Feel Great” is a bit heavy-handed, while the Snoop Dogg record “Triggered” is serviceable if nondescript. I liked the swagger of “Loaded” more than anything and it’s classic Rick Rock – he never disappoints! Okay, I’ll ignore the Mariah Carey joint on the Busta album. But when it comes to that classic West Coast feel in a post-Dr. Dre world, few if any do it better.
The Serial Killers are rapping with no filter but that does mean some of the rhymes age not just the record, but the emcees too. Easy target Tekashi SnitchWhine continues to take more jabs than a COVID testing facility. There are random Jeffrey Epstein lines. But the main takeaway from this album is that Xzibit absolutely dominates every track. His presence is huge and he sounds incredibly hungry, instilling his sense of humour into his verses; and with that unrivalled voice, it just makes me want a new Xzibit album. Produced by Rick Rock.
“Summer of Sam” is a reflection of 2020, itself a confusingly scattered collection of paranoia, news commentary and disparate chemistry. Every track is simply three verses tied together, echoing the mixtape origins of the group. On one hand, you’ve got B-Real boasting about the “Superbowl numbers” he’s getting on Instagram; on the other Xzibit is actively dismissing platforms like TikTok and Snapchat. From the two videos released for this album, the one on the B-Real YouTube channel (714,000 subscribers) has 53,000 views; the one on the Xzibit YouTube channel (292,000 subscribers) has 1.1 million views. It doesn’t really make sense. Of course, numbers lie, but it’s noteworthy how the Xzibit-shared video has hashtags and doesn’t refer to the trio as Serial Killers – as if it’s been marketed differently after the low numbers on the B-Real one. If anyone deserves to be a target of Serial Killers (along with Tekashi), it’s their promoter.