Get To Know Xadi [Interview]

Dean Benzaken

West London’s very own rapper, singer-songwriter and producer Xadi shares his latest self-produced EP titled Floating in Lilac. The project displays his poignant lyricism whilst showcasing some of his most diverse and emotionally-driven vocal performances. Sonically, Floating in Lilac finds him creating a body of work that blends soothing and spacey R&B sonics with elements of UK rap and jazz. Get to know Xadi below:

You’ve just released your new EP Floating in Lilac. What’s the meaning behind the name of the project?

The title represents a feeling really. The stars look so beautiful on those winter nights when the sky is purplely-lilac, and I was comparing it to other goals in life that I put all of my energy into chasing but get no closer to. With creative pursuits generally, I feel like the chasing element of them is often more gratifying than when you actually get there, and it's the lens that we look at it through, often made by the media and stuff, that makes it look more appealing than it actually is. I like looking at the stars but for obvious reasons, I don’t ever want to get too close to them.

The project finds you predominantly showcasing your singing voice with tracks such as "Decorative Scars" and "Nowhere" highlighting this. Was this a conscious decision or did it happen naturally in the studio?

Over lockdown I really found my singing voice, I was dealing with some things in my personal life that I didn’t want to talk about through rap because I find myself going into things in more detail than I’d actually like to. With singing I found I was able to express the same emotions, but just with the tone of my voice while I was singing, or the notes I chose, without having to explicitly talk about it. I also developed more confidence in my singing with tracks I had released in the year leading up to me writing this project as the couple I had done were getting a really good response online.

The music video for "Decorative Scars" features themes of blood and religion. What was your thought process behind the filming of that video?

I worked on this with some really talented people (Zach Joseph - Director, & Jack Worrall - DOP) and together we pieced together the idea of bringing the concept of decorative scars to life, and showing this as literal scars, and how if these were physical things, it would be a very striking problem. The element in the Church was interesting, firstly, the sounds of the synth pads we used just have this choir-like tone to them which made the scene quite fitting. I was raised going to church on Sundays, and Zach said to me that when he heard the song, it felt quite repentant, so we wanted to get the kind of guilt-like feeling across in the visuals.

While the EP displays your lyrical prowess and vocal range, there are also moments where you show off your guitar ability on tracks such as "Off The Gas" and "Somewhere Else." Did these songs initially start on the guitar or was it added during the production stages?

Most of the songs I write start on the guitar, I tend to find a chord sequence that I like, which up there with sound-scape is the MOST important thing to me. I cannot write a good song, if I don’t like the chord sequence. I think this comes from the fact that I used to write songs in an indie-rock band when I was growing up and that is the most natural starting point for me. Like pretty much everything I do in music, I learnt how to play the guitar using Youtube, so my style is quite free flowing and takes influences from lots of different places.

You are certainly a mutli-faceted artist. Do you find it’s important for you not to be pigeon-holed as just a rapper and show other sides to you as an artist?

I am not too bothered about what people class me as because it’s true, the styles of music I make are quite varied, but I feel that in the past year I have really found my sound and the types of music that express me best so as time goes on I think there will be more of a concise sound. You’re right though really, I don’t ever want to be in a box because I don’t want to ever feel like I have said all that I have to say, and taking elements from different genres is the best way of keeping things exciting for myself, and my listeners.

Sonically Floating in Lilac is very spacey and open with the use of lush synth pads. Who were you listening to around the time of producing and writing the project?

Those sounds have always been what I’ve gravitated towards and I’m not sure why. If You’re Reading This It's Too Late by Drake is a project that I love the sonics of, Baby Keem’s latest project had some really cool soundscapes in it, Russ’ SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE was really cool as well in terms of mixing guitar melodies with synth and sample-scapes. I listen to so many genres of music, I might like a sequence from a rock song and then mix it with some sound design from a ballad tune or some old R&B stuff.

You are a very visual artist as seen from your music videos and artwork. Who or what influences you on the visual side of things?

Honestly, I’m a perfectionist. When I made the songs initially I always felt like I wanted to make the videos look like short films, or like something you’d see in a crime drama. I very fortunately knew a really talented director named Phoebe Brooks, and through working with her on the video for "It’s Alright," I met some other incredibly talented people who work in film and were down to help me bring these songs to life. Centeno, who paints all of my artworks, is one of my oldest friends. We went to school together and he has always been so supportive of my music, and I have always loved his paintings. When I write a song, I send it to him, and he listens as he paints, and whatever colour the track makes him feel like, is the colour that the artwork is.

Being from West-London how did that play a role on your musical journey?

A lot actually. My mum’s family are Irish and so were a lot of kids I went to primary school with, that side of things got me into stuff like Kings of Leon’s early music and more guitar heavy songs. Where I grew up is very diverse so I was hearing music from all over the world and when I got a bit older I started listening to grime music and UK rap which I think influenced the way that I flow on songs. Even if I’m singing, there are certain pockets that I feel have been really influenced by that scene. At the same time, Centeno was always into American rap music, and put me on to things like Tyler the Creator and Childish Gambino which also had a massive influence on my taste.

Do you feel it’s important to you to represent that part of London?

Always, it’s the only place I have ever called home, the city made me who I am. Especially in the type of music that I make, there aren’t a huge number of people who are really big from London so when we get this stuff popping the way we need to I will always represent the City that gave me so much.

Lastly, what can fans expect from Xadi for the rest of 2022?

Live shows, maybe a little festival appearance, and singles, I have a couple of tracks which are already loaded up and just need some finishing touches before release so I’m just excited to get it going!

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