I want to take a look back into one of my favorite mixtapes EVER. It’s been almost 7 years (6/15/2012) since its release. Time flies definitely but I play this mixtape every other week.

A year and change after his highly-praised mixtape Zero Heroes¸ Kansas rapper XV is back with his newest release, Popular Culture. If it’s not the witty lines delivered by the emcee that will have you replaying the songs over and over again, the culturally universal samples used throughout the tape will definitely reel you in. Just as the title suggests, XV creatively samples quotes, theme songs, and clips from many well-known TV series and movies and incorporates them into a compilation that does not disappoint. With any luck, & it still bothers me this dude has yet to gain the attention since. XV begins flipping through the channels of pop culture (literally and figuratively) from the very beginning of the tape in the ‘Intro.’ From there, he travels throughout the decades of television history including specials such as Full House (‘Mary Kate & Ashley’), Aaahh! Real Monsters (‘Aaahh! Real Monsters’), Star Wars (‘Jedi Night’), Zombieland (‘Zombieland Rule 32’), and many more. Although many of the entertainment mentions are hidden between the lines of XV’s rhymes, one obvious reference is from one of the rapper’s favorite movies, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, in the song ‘Wonkavator.’ Other samples on the tape include ‘Someone Out Of Town’ by Malaysian singer Yuna, on the track, ‘Her Favorite Song,’ along with ‘The Walker’ by band GAYNGS on the third song on the tape, ‘Breaking Bad.’

Though sample-filled and incredibly creative, XV does not forget who he is and where he came from during the course of the tape. On ‘The Kick’, possibly the realest and oldest track on Popular Culture, the Wichita artist uses an Inception-themed beat to discuss his life and how he strives for more than just his 15 minutes of fame. To show his appreciation to all of his fans that have been there with him from the very beginning, XV uses ‘Be There, Be Square’ as a dedication and theme song for his fellow Squarians.  Along with keeping it real with his audience, XV recruits some top of the line features for his tape, including Emilio Rojas, Slim The Mobster, Schoolboy Q, B.o.B., and many more artists. This is also the first time many people get to hear upcoming singer Raja, who sings the hook for three of the tracks on the tape.

While many artists attempt to have an overall theme for their projects and fail miserably (no shots at David Banner), XV’s latest proves that it is still possible to do so. His appropriate use of popular culture, clever rhymes, and excellent production (all thanks to producer Awesome Sound), combine to successfully create a more than exceptional sequel to Zero Heroes. If XV’s improvement continues to show as it did on this mixtape, all of his Squarians, new and old, will have something to look forward to with his future releases. I still think this is one of the greatest concepts from a project I’ve witnessed, and that’s saying alot.

My favorite song: Zombieland Rule 32 (Feat. Irv Da Phenom)

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