Two years ago Xzibit was one of the hottest emcees in the industry. Appearing on what seemed like every new release, Mr. X to the Z established himself as one of the West’s elite emcees. And after releasing two superb albums that went unnoticed by the mainstream, Xzibit finally got his due with “Restless”. With Dre, Snoop, and Eminem among others in his corner, Xzibit reached that superstar status achieving platinum success with his third solo release. However, longtime Xzibit fans were quick to point out X’s new direction and sound, which turned many diehard fans away. And while the good doctor Andre Young was in his corner, “Restless” ended up being a disappointment compared to his previous efforts.
Now after a two-year hiatus, Xzibit is once again ready to take the West Coast over with his new LP “Man Vs Machine”. With practically the same lineup of producers and guests back again, “Man Vs Machine” could very well be called “Restless part 2” as the album’s sound mirrors “Restless” in almost every way possible. And if there is one category that “Man Vs Machines” replicates with his last effort it is inconsistency. As most of the album is either hit or miss, as most of the joints are either completely satisfying or horrendously put together. And as most fans have noted already, the bad tracks aren’t just bad, they are below any caliber that Xzibit has displayed thus far.
Prime examples of this come from tracks such as the two Jellyroll produced tracks “Heart Of Man” and “Harder”. Utilizing the same Toto sample of “Africa” as Nas did years ago with “New World”, “Heart Of Man” is a stale/forced effort from Xzibit. The track leaves a stale taste in your mind right from the moment you hear the Toto sample. “Harder” is the group collabo by The Golden State Project, which includes Xzibit, Ras Kass & Saafir. However, the track comes no where close to duplicating a sound close to what the three can do, as each emcee delivers a disappointing performance on the mic, especially Ras Kass, who puts forth another repetitive verse.
However, it does get worse for Xzibit. “Missin’ U”, “Enemies” and the Erick Sermon produced “Right On” all suffer from lackluster production, that unfortunately bring each track down. However, the worst track featured on the album is the train wreck of a song called “Choke Me, Spank Me, Pull My Hair”. Saying this is Xzibit’s worst track in his long career is an understatement, as Xzibit experiments with his flow, sound and delivery to the point it doesn’t even sound like him. It is quite unclear what Xzibit tried to do with this track as he ruins a bangin' Dr. Dre produced track. Nevertheless, let’s hope Xzibit never tries to duplicate anything like this again, for his sake at least.
But not to get down on Xzibit too much, as he does deliver some great tracks, its just unfortunate that the bad ones over shadow the rest. The album opens up with the prison tales of “Release Date”, produced by Rockwilder. Then immediately goes into one of the albums true highlights “Symphony In X Major” featuring Dr. Dr. The Rick Rock produced track is a melodic symphony inspired sound that could very well be taken for a Dr. Dre produced track on first listen. Xzibit rips the track, while Dre puts forth-another sleeper on the mic, continuing to stay on the topic of how great he is.
The lead single “Multiply” featuring Nate Dogg is another West Coast hit as it mirrors X’s last lead single “X”. More standout tracks include the rapid-fire flows of “Break Yourself”, and the East Coast sounds of “The Gambler” and “BK To LA” featuring M.O.P. Probably the two finest moments on “Man Vs Machine” are the guest appearance of Snoop Dogg on “Losin Your Mind” and “My Name” featuring Eminem and Nate Dogg” Both tracks are beautifully produced as Dre produces “Losin Your Mind”, while Eminem continues his excellence in the beat making department on “My Name”. The Eminem and Nate Dogg collaborations on “My Name” especially stand out as Eminem once again goes all out on Jermaine Dupri, this time adding a little Nas influence to go along. “You don't want it with rap, this is what I'm all about - c'mon. I, No gangsta you ain't either. (Will) But I know that I spit "Ether" (Not) I shoulda crossed your belly (Lose) Show you I'm not R. Kelly X, pass me the weed, I'ma put my ashes out on his ass”.
In the end “Man Vs Machine” ends up like his last effort, inconsistent. It seems Xzibit tried to hard to force the issue on some tracks and try and put out a certain sound instead of sticking to what he does best. Of course there are numerous bangers featured on the album, including the bonus disc featuring the Bink produced “My Life, My World”, the DJ Premier produced “What A Mess”, and the Rockwilder produced “Hit U, Where It Hurts”. Why Xzibit would leave a DJ Premier produced track off the final version of the album and only include it on a bonus disc is a mystery to me and perfectly personifies the problems plaguing “Man Vs Machine”. While it may satisfy Xzibit fans, those looking for a return to X’s roots will be displeased with this latest effort as filler tracks consume half the album, while the other half is what we thought we would get. X is still one of the West Coast’s finest emcees, lets just hope he leaves the gimmicks at home next time and sticks to what he does best.