XO Man interview: “I’m a true believer in working with what works and pleases me. I couldn’t careless about an artists twitter following or hype. My only concern is their work ethic, drive and talent.”
I caught up with XO man just after he lent his bars and flow to the magical track Killing all my enemies with love which features Ed Sheeran. XO Man is more than ready for the spotlight to be all on him, especially since releasing his thought provoking EP Calm. Totally focused on music, I had a chat with the rapper to find out a bit about him as an artist, the concept behind Killing all my enemies with love and much more.
1) Where does the name ‘XO Man’ derive from?
I was playing video games at my friend’s house; he asked me if I wanted to become a rapper. With no interest whatsoever I replied yes. His next question was “so what are you going to call yourself?” At the time we were playing Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal, so I said XO Manowar and just shortened it to XO Man. Thank God I wasn’t playing Sonic.
2) If you could describe your musical career thus far in a sentence, how would you describe it?
Like playing and learning chess for the first time with a grand master as your opponent.
3) You have a track featuring Ed Sheeran entitled ‘Killing All My Enemies With love’ tell us how this collaboration came about?
It happened while personally training Ed Sheeran on tour in Scotland. I tend to bring my studio equipment everywhere with me and previously spoke to Ed about the track. I like to feature artists that are not only talented but can relate to the tracks. Ed hasn’t always been the successful artist he is today and struggled just like me. Why do you think he wrote ‘You Need Me’? After a wild night in Edinburgh we stumbled in to my hotel room around 8am, switched on the mic and recorded magic.
4) Give us a brief insight into the concept of the track also?
I often question the lack of support I’ve received from the UK music industry. It’s is not to be confused with the love and support I receive from my British fans. I’ve achieved more than most of the UK artists signed for, performed in many different countries while flying the British flag and after all of that no record labels from my home, England have offered there support. I’m only human and I can’t pretend or deny the fact that this pisses me off. Luckily my love, passion and drive are far greater than my ill feeling towards the UK industry. So I turned my negative in to positive and Killing All My Enemies With Love was born.
5) Now you have an EP which is out now called ‘Calm EP’, what’s the story behind this title?
‘Calm EP’- it’s chilled out, thought provoking, bass filled sexy music.
Its a four track EP so I split it down the middle with ‘Amazing’ and ‘So High’ covering my conscious side while ‘Slow It Down’ and ‘Mine Now aka the UKs Sexiest Music Video have a much sexier feel. It’s also a two part EP with its twin Storm EP coming soon.
6) You only feature two artists on the ‘Calm EP’, what’s the reasoning for choosing ‘Shaun White’ and ‘Dukus’ over everyone else you could of worked with?
I’m a true believer in working with what works and pleases me. I couldn’t careless about an artists twitter following or hype. My only concern is their work ethic, drive and talent. While recording my Calm EP I felt like they would compliment the tracks I had in mind.
7) What’s your favourite track on the EP and why?
It all depends on what mood I’m in. Each track triggers a different emotion and feeling. For instance – ‘Amazing’: direct, no nonsense lyrics over a hard bass filled beat. ‘Mine Now’: Sexy melodic vocals wrapped in body tingling bass. ‘So High’ and ‘Slow It Down’ are also my favourites. To solve this problem I put the whole Calm EP on repeat and listen to it as one long roller coaster of songs, filled with ups, downs, twits and turns.
Tell us about ‘Mine Now’, it’s being dubbed as the UK’s sexiest music video, how does that feel to be behind that?
Feels AMAZING! Let’s start by thanking my lucky stars I got to be behind a glow in the dark, sexy dancing goddess. Winning. ‘Mine Now’ is the second video released off my latest body of music CalmEP. After getting bass filled, in house production from DJ JDen (BassN8s) I simply closed my eyes, pictured whatever came to mind and wrote it down. With the track in hand and a visual vision ready. I put together a small SAS equivalent team consisting of DOP, Elmino ‘The Great’ and body painter, Stephanie Indigo, lastly myself as director and voila the ‘MINE NOW’ video was created.
9) You’re known for being outrageous, have you always been like this?
If outrageous is the opposite to following the generic musical formula plague feasting on the heart and soul of music everywhere then call me Mr. Outrageous! I’m almost 7ft with a curly moustache; longer hair than most females, street style to couture, make whatever music my heart desires and speak my mind across all social networks. If I wasn’t me and a conformist I’d be puzzled but luckily I am me and love it. I don’t think about being different or try to be different. It’s like going Shoreditch with a designer beard, brogues, turned up jeans and vintage shirt expecting to standout. Different just is and if you or the public think I fall in to that category I’m truly blessed and grateful for that.
10) Your clothing line ‘Tashe N Heart’ is doing quite well internationally, what was the thought behind it?
When designing my logo I needed to find something that not only represents me but an image u can spot out in a crowed (just like me). Contrary to belief my moustaches don’t magically appear every November, I’ve been raising this bad boy for the last six years so to represent it on my logo made sense. ‘I heart XO’ was something my fans would type while messaging me so I adopted the abbreviated term and my logo was created. I started of with badges and as more people became interested I moved on to t-shirts that were worn and supported by One Direction, Paolo Nutini and Ed Sheeran to name a few. I can’t thank people enough for their on going support.
11) Which rappers do you currently take inspiration from within the UK if any?
Inspiration musically? None. However, I often mention M.I.A as someone I admire due to her journey and musical freedom.
12) If you woke up tomorrow and lost the ability to construct a decent verse, what would you do?
Call Jay Z, find 2pac, text Nas, tweet Immortal Technique, write a fountain pen letter to André 3000 and ask for help. Failing that I’d become a full time instead of part time personal trainer to the rich and famous and make everyone half as sexy as me.
13) Are there any female rappers you would love to work with in the future?
Nicki Minaj. Avoiding her generic pop records she’s actually dope and can out rap many.
14) What does music mean to you?
Imagine playing football without a ball and you’ll be one per cent there. The feeling my fans give me while on stage is a hundred times more addictive than tobacco with a high you can’t even begin to fathom or explain. From my intimate acoustic sets to performing topless at a festival in front of so many people they begin to look like water. The buzz is exactly the same. I love music unconditionally and to get even ten per cent of that back from fans is more than enough even for a GIANT.
15) Where do you see yourself in 5 years musically?
Touring across the globe performing in countries I can’t even pronounce. Becoming a world renounced artist from the UK not just a UK artist. Follow Slick Ricks footsteps and become a respected UK rapper in the USA. Breaking the generic mould by having my so called controversial music play listed on Radio 1 and prove that good music will always out shine the money-fueled crap A&Rs seem to be so good at finding.
16) Any last words for our Independent readers?
My real name is Neo and I am the chosen one. Not the bald, hiding under a hat singing one. On the real follow me, play me, support me, buy my t-shirts me, share me, talk about me, talk to me, high five if you can reach me and in return I will keep being me.
XO MAN’s CALM EP is available on iTunes now.
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