If you ask hardcore rapper Xzibit, the building blocks of his forthcoming 40 Days & 40 Nights (due Tuesday) can be heard in three of the album's songs: the foreboding "Chamber Music," the pass-the-mic intensity of "Three Card Molly" and the psychedelic rap of "Shrooms."
"We had finished these songs and they were so big to us that we had to come up with a title for the album that would fit the size of the songs we just completed," Xzibit explained from the offices of Loud Records in New York. "When we were finished, we were just like, 'Wow, this is out of control!' It was like nothing that we had ever heard before. It's just not the typical hip-hop songs, so we just had to go and name it something big."
Xzibit, who declined to give his real name and age, first came to the hip-hop scene in 1995 when he toured with his friends in Tha Alkaholiks. In 1996, he signed to Loud Records and released At the Speed of Life, an album that featured the production work of DJ Muggs, Diamond D and E-Swift. That LP, according to Xzibit, serves as the perfect springboard for 40 Days & 40 Nights' reality-based rap, including such songs as "What You See" and "Los Angeles Times."
"I feel like the first album contained a lot of personal songs, like 'The Foundation' or 'Carry the Weight,' " Xzibit said. "In order to let you know I'm not bullsh--ing you, I've got to let you into my life to a certain extent and let you know that everything I'm talking about is real."
"For this album," he continued, "I kinda got to expand and say other things that wouldn't jeopardize my realistic point of view."
To help him expand his musical horizons while remaining true to his urban storytelling core, Xzibit called on gangsta-rap producer Sir Jinx, the man behind rap superstar Ice Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate.
According to Jinx, the two met at a party thrown by Tameka Wright, the widow of gangsta rapper Eazy-E, where Jinx asked Xzibit to kick a freestyle rhyme. Jinx was impressed enough with the rhyme, he said, that it made him really want to work on 40 Days & 40 Nights. He was even more impressed when he later learned that Xzibit hardly ever freestyles.
"I only work with the hardcore," Jinx said, "and when I heard Xzibit, I knew that was the kind of rapper I could work with."
When not producing tracks on 40 Days & 40 Nights himself, Jinx helped to shape the album's vision, advised Xzibit to tailor his raps so they flowed like stories and added sound effects and basslines to songs as needed. "From that point on, I was like explaining to [Xzibit] how I thought a real lyricist should come," Jinx explained. "I did gangsta, I did commercial, I did R&B, so I have a different perspective of how these things work."
40 Days & 40 Nights may be the album's title, but it could just as easily have been entitled 270 Days & 270 Nights, considering that it took nine months to record. According to Jinx and Xzibit, they tackled the project one song at a time, taking time after every song was recorded to listen to the final results in the car while shopping for records.
The end result is an album that is flush with images from the inner city ("Los Angeles Times"), first-hand accounts of crime ("Inside Job") and expressions of urban angst ("Let It Rain"). It also boasts a bevy of guest stars, as Ras Kass and Saafir -- Xzibit's bandmates in Golden State Warriors -- check in on "Three Card Molly" and Method Man and Jayo Felony make guest appearances on a party jam entitled "Pussy Pop."
"Sir Jinx is the master of putting all these things together," Xzibit said. "He started all that to me -- the live action, the actual song, the whole sound effects along with the music and the line going along with the music."
"What You See" is the album's first single, a song that Xzibit said he wanted to be the first release because it isn't as rugged-sounding as the album's other tracks. "If people jumped onto this one," he explained, "we knew they were going to like the other s---."
"I wanted this album to be not only better than my first one but surpass it by every level," Xzibit continued. "In terms of concept, music and production, it just had to be to the next level. And to guarantee that, you gotta really put your foot down and concentrate."