*Multi-Platinum rapper, actor and producer Xzibit currently guest stars as Shyne Johnson, an aspiring music producer on the hit FOX music drama “Empire.” The villainous character first appeared at the end of Season 2, and EUR/Electronic Urban Report chatted with the artist about how he channels his music background to enhance the role.
Xzibit also notes that he wouldn’t have any friends if any part of his personality was similar to his TV persona.
“I wouldn’t have a wife, more importantly,” he says.
Check out our Q&A below below.
You have a unique opportunity to incorporate your music background into your role, do you pull from the personas of any real like industry players to help develop your role?
Xzibit: It definitely hasn’t hurt, the fact that I’ve been in the music industry for over 20 years, and I’ve been in all positions. I’ve been in an artist position. I’ve been in a management position. I’ve been in a producer’s position, so I know how to look at the spectrum from different angles, and it’s definitely a lot to pull from that I can use in Shyne’s character. But really, it’s not only about the music experience, it’s about being in that position and seeing when someone is desperate, and when someone feels like this is his last shot, there’s no Plan B. I think that’s where I started building Shyne’s intensity from. When everything matters, when every drop counts — that’s where he’s coming from because he’s been on the streets so long. But really his passion is the music industry, but he’s had to survive his own way and been heavy-handed at it, there was a lot of that in the early 90’s. A lot of people were taking crack money and coming into to music industry and starting labels. So that’s kinda where his energy is at.
It must be quite enriching to play a character that is the complete opposite of you.
Xzibit: Yes, it’s good because I’m getting a lot of feedback…. you know, social media unites us with our fans, gets the middle man out of the way, and you get to directly hear what they think. A lot of people are like, “Yo, I watch the show, and I know who you are, and I love you, man, but I hate you on that show!” That means I’m doing a good job.
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Viewers know that there’s a lot of mistrust between Lucious and Shine. Where does it stem from?
Xzibit: It’s kinda like Shyne comes out of no where, and usually Lucious destroys his enemies and gets rid of them immediately, but for some reason, he’s kinda letting this guy linger and the reason why is because they’ve known each other since they were children. And there’s something that happened where they had to part ways, but Shyne has something over Lucious that nobody knows. That’s going to be revealed later, and then you’ll be able to see the dynamic of why they have so much tension. I think on a street level, they had their thing, and now that it’s coming into this business where he’s new, and Shyne feels like he’s being deserted by Lucious after we get our hands dirty in the street, and all of a sudden you’re this big multi millionaire running this record label, which is what I wanted to do too, but now since you need me, you coming back and this time Shyne is not waiting to stick around to find out if he’s going to get treated fairly or not. He’s taking what belongs to him.
Lucious has agreed to give Shyne his own imprint, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for him. What exactly is Shyne’s ultimate goal, and how is Lucious preventing him from reaching it?
Xzibit: You’ll see very soon. (laughs) You’re asking all the right questions, I just can’t give you the answer.
Do you contribute in any way to the music production on the series?
Xzibit: I haven’t contributed anything yet, but that’s not saying that I won’t. It’s just the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet.
Speaking of music, there are a lot of critics who believe hip-hop is dead. Do you believe there’s more to come for hip-hop and its global influence?
Xzibit: That’s a loaded question because hip-hop in itself is defined as MCing, DJing, graffiti and breakdancing. That is the true definition of hip-hop . Now, those elements aren’t as popular as they once were in the creation of hip-hop. But, hip-hop has went from being something that happened in the parks with people who had broken equipment, to a billion dollar industry. Now I say that with a heavy heart because we’ve made this multi-billion dollar industry but we literally only have one billionaire, which just tells the story of the landscape. So, has hip-hop, not its definition but in its existence, has hip-hop helped take people who have never stepped foot on a college campus, and give them the opportunities and the lifestyles and impact on pop culture? Yes. Has it remained the voice of protests and resistance, and anger like it once was? No. It’s a shadow of itself. It’s survival is based on us.
We need to reach back and tell these stories and tell these people why they’re able to do what they’re doing. And that just hasn’t happened yet. It’s just like, hip-hop eats its young. So we got quite a quagmire here, cause we got this juggernaut of a business that we started, but we have no control or jurisdiction over. So until people start loving it like we use to and loving the people involved, even though it has nothing to do with us, I think that’s when hip-hop will go more of a positive direction. But for right now, if you got a laptop and an iPhone, you can call yourself a rapper cause you can put yourself out there with the best of them. So it’s like, we need to take ownership in that and really love it. Maybe it needs to take a backseat to other music for a while so all the roaches and the rats that want to eat off of it can see that there’s no value in it, then the people that really love it can restore it to its greatness.
You’ve be at the game for two decades, what’s important for you to do to not lose your relevance?
Xzibit: Not care about being relevant. I don’t really care what people think of me. I think I’m doing things as an artist. I’m doing things that feel good to my soul. I’ve had plenty opportunity to do other things, but it didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t right. And if it feels like work, then it’s work. But if you have that opportunity to do what you love, and you can make a living out of it, then that’s a blessing and I never take that for granted. So I’ve always done things that make me feel like, ‘Okay, I want to get up and see and be a part of this cause means something,’ and I think that’s what has always resonated through my performances and my choices I make in entertainment.
Tune in to “Empire” Wednesdays at 9/8c on FOX.