XVRHLDY – Need To Know II: Luna Review

Xavier Holliday, a hip-hop artist from Chicago who makes music under the name XVRHLDY (misspelled on the cover of this release, it seems), has released his sophomore project Need To Know II: Luna, the followup to last year’s first volume. Setting out to “blur the stigmas people associate with hip-hop artists,” my initial impression of Holliday was that he seemed to be repping the same “alternative Chicago” sound of Lucki Eck$ and Mick Jenkins, trying to fight out of the shadow of drill luminaries like Chief Keef and Lil Durk while also attempting to avoid the media presence commanded by Chance the Rapper. The shadowy woman masturbating on the album cover made me think back to House of Balloons, and I went into this mixtape not knowing what to expect.

The aesthetics of this album are mostly uniform. Production tends towards boom-bap, although some tracks have a more synthesized and even trap-inspired sound than others. Holliday uses vocal effects sparingly and rarely anything other than added reverb or chorus, although “Maccu Picchu” and “New To Me” do feature heavy voice modulation. The lyrics range from somewhat political on “Marithe Francois Girbaud” to familiarly gangster on “Black Alabaster,” the latter song also serving as the mixtape’s biggest single and arguably best track.

Luna does represent a style of hip-hop that veers from the mainstream. The trap-inspired “Trabajo” counters an accessible beat with varying vocal delivery techniques and structures, keeping the listener on their toes. “True Enough” is also relatively progressive, although nothing on this release is as boundary-pushing as the work of Clipping, Sole, Dalek, B L A C K I E, etc. It’s not experimental hip-hop, it’s just alternative hip-hop.

Though this music is enjoyable, it feels underdeveloped. Holliday is still trying to find his voice; at 25, he’s missed the boat for being a teenage wunderkind, and more than ever before, rap is a young man’s game. There is evidence of skill in his cadence and his lyrics are indicative of an active mind. I’d like to see what he’s doing by the time his debut album rolls around, because there’s a lot of promise shown here, and I don’t want it to be wasted.

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