Craig Xen Triumphantly Returns Home To HoustonCraig Xen. Photo: Courtesy of Artist
Hip hop has definitely changed from the days when it was used as a vehicle to curb gang violence in the streets of NYC or from the days when it glorified violence on the streets of Los Angeles. In the past five years we’ve seen pop rap and new variants of the genre drop like bricks from a building on fire more than any music going. There’s a whole new side of hip hop that’s gained a ton of steam over the past year where audience members mosh to the music rather than just vibe out. Coupled with a lo-fi aesthetic and an almost VHS nostalgia, one of the bigger artists to emerge from this scene is Houston’s Craig Xen. Though he’s been in LA for a good while building up his name, he’s back in Houston to showcase his sound and bring it to the city he’s from. Free Press Houston was more than happy to grant him an interview before his return to Houston set this weekend at Walters.
FPH: You’re from Houston, correct? What part of Houston are you from?
Craig Xen: I was born in southwest Houston, from 6th grade to high school I moved around a lot, mostly due to trouble I got into with certain districts. I’ve lived all over Houston from 5th ward to Katy area.
FPH: You have a peculiar story of how you’ve had success in the music industry, with being from here and moving out to LA before moving back. Can you explain how all of that happened?
Xen: The internet. I had trouble establishing a fan base within the city, so the first opportunity I got to move out, I did. Tyler Gro$$o hit me up on Twitter, told me he needed me in LA, I booked my flight that day and made my way out to LA. Everything went up from there, the city was a lot more welcoming to my sound and the culture I’m a part of is much larger there.
FPH: The rap scene you’re in has crazy live shows with people moshing when you perform. Does that seem odd to you or do you see it as just how people express themselves in your scene?
Xen: There’s nothing odd to me about it, I’ve found my place with the people who come out to the shows. We all use the music and dance together as a form of expression. Moshing brings us together, we let all the negativity out at the shows. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s viewed as fighting, when in fact, if anyone fights, we kick them the fuck out. We’re having what to us is a great time, and a great release for all the shit we keep bottled up inside.
FPH: Your music has always been primarily on Soundcloud, but your new singles “Voltage” and “Succubus” dropped on Spotify, are you leaving the Soundcloud model behind? How do you monetize your music on a platform like Soundcloud?
Xen: I found new ways to reach more people, I’ll always be on Soundcloud, but I branched out to reach more people. Soundcloud has a monetization system now for select artists.
FPH: Aside from artists like B L A C K I E, you have very little in common with other Houston rap artists. With Saul Williams saying this year that B L A C K I E is the future of hip hop, do you see your brand of hip hop growing here in the Bayou City?
FPH: Since you’ve never performed in Houston before, can you tell people what they should expect from you when you play live?
Xen: If you don’t know anything about me or my music, expect a learning experience.
Xen’s future in Houston as well as his impact on the city’s thriving hip hop scene are his to grow upon his return. You can catch him this Saturday, November 12 at Walters on the Double Cup event when he co-headlines a set with SUICIDEYEAR. Merging electronic and hip hop, the Double Cup show will also feature a set from Houston’s Josiah Gabriel, YoungKnowledge, as well as art from Jenaro Goode and a pop up from House of the Naked. The all ages show has doors at 9 pm and tickets between $15 and $18.