Bursting onto the scene in 2018 with his heart-wrenching single “I Hope You Know I Mean It”, Lil Xtra is one of the most underrated artists in the world of alternative hip-hop. An Atlanta native, Xtra mixes melodic croons with straight-up bars, his songs are filled with extremely vulnerable lyrics and chords that wouldn’t seem out of place in a 2000’s emo hit. He currently boasts over 10 million combined streams on Spotify and consistently releases top drawer singles – so why isn’t he more widely known in the scene?
Despite the pandemic, 2020 has seen Xtra release his third studio album ‘Taking Up Space’ under the Hopeless Records banner – the first and last time he would work with the label that’s home to pop-punk heroes like Sum 41 and Taking Back Sunday. Xtra has also recently dropped a new single ‘First Day Out’ that showcases the rawest trap side of this diverse underground artist.
We caught up with Lil Xtra to chat about his new album, brief time with Hopeless Records, self-esteem and the stories behind his deepest cutting lyrics…
You’ve been working hard in 2020 releasing your new album ‘Taking Up Space’ and your most recent single “First Day Out” – has the pandemic effected your work rate in any way?
The pandemic hasn’t effected me much at all to be honest, but I have been working a lot now. I didn’t have much inspiration for a while but I’m back full force now!
You signed with Hopeless Records at the end of last year and ‘Taking Up Space’ went out under their label, what was that experience like and why are you no longer working with them?
I didn’t enjoy my experience but out of respect for the privacy of all parties involved I’d rather not say much about it. It wasn’t a good fit, neither side was happy and it’s best that things have gone the way they have.
‘Taking Up Space’ really showcases your versatility, with emotional tracks like “Improve” going back to back with hard hitting rap tracks like “Wasted In Paris” – is their a particular style that you find easier or get more satisfaction out of writing?
Easier for sure, writing acoustic songs or more rock style songs is much easier for me. But I would say the only time I feel satisfaction after writing is when I feel like the song I wrote is really good.
A lot of your tracks show vulnerability, you talk about being isolated, self hatred and alienating the people you love – where do those feelings of self deprecation come from?
I’m not sure really. I just have a very low view of myself, and I always have. I feel like there are a lot of kids that feel that way that aren’t really sure why. I try to speak to that.
I read that injuries prevented you from perusing a career in sports as a teenager and that’s what led you into taking music seriously, do you ever wonder what path you’d of taken without those injuries?
Not sports, I wasn’t good enough to go pro and I never thought I was. My plan was to go military then fire department, which I would have definitely done without the injuries. But I’m much happier being a musician I can say for sure.
You feel any sort of impostor syndrome as a musician or do you feel confident that now you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing?
Very confident. Music is the one thing I’m good at, and the fact that it’s now my career feels like all the validation I ever needed.
On “Improve” you say “now these kids treat me like a fucking VIP, I fucking hate that, will you please let me breathe” – do you struggle the ‘fame’ side of being a musician?
Not really, but I do have some weird interactions because I try to answer as many people as I can. It makes me a little uncomfortable when people say things like I saved them, because really they saved themselves. I just helped them see their reasons to try/live/ get back up etc. most people are great though, especially in person!
I discovered you through “i hope you know i mean it”, that track still gives me shivers. The line “I helped her put the knife down and that means so fucking much”, I always wondered what the story was behind those lyrics?
Thank you, I assume most people find me that way. The song is pretty literally about what happened honestly. She sadly committed suicide a few years later, the song is dedicated to her. Gone but not forgotten.
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2020?
Raising my new puppy and putting out a new single every chance I get, I’m planning to drop a new song every two weeks now that I can do what I want again. I have like 6 songs lined up on the way! Thank you for guys for having me!