Since the birth of this site back in '08, I've been fortunate to witness the growth of a plethora of artists. In these two years, one of the artists I've seen grow the most is Studio 43 and Diamond District's X.O.

When I think back to the first time I heard X.O., I remember thinking that he was cool. I respected the desire and ambition, but I didn't see it leading anywhere close to the success that it has. It all changed when In the Ruff dropped.

I don't know if working with Oddisee brought out the best in X.O. or if it was just that I wasn't listening close enough to what he was saying on Realmatic. What I do know is that with lines like:
Yall know what my dream is
Try to come in between it
I'll define retaliation
Show you the meaning
I went from nada to alotta
All because of Allah
Still remember what I was told by my mama

                                                      - I Mean Business
I recognized what both Kenny Burns and Oddisee had already seen in him. The M.C. with the flow that jumped on and off beat was easy to overlook, but at the cost of the person doing the overlooking.

Another experience that solidified my impression of X.O. happened during SXSW last year. The Paxtons were in midst of recording The Manhattan Project, and asked X.O. to jump on a track. As I sat in the room talking to Chris, X.O. sat on a couch with headphones and quietly absorbed the track. Ten or so minutes later he was in the makeshift booth laying his verse and adlibs. The end result was a great feature on one of my favorite tracks on the mixtape.

In addition to raising his spit game, I've also noticed the growth of X.O.'s stage presence. The first time I saw him perform he seemed stiff; robotic even. Who knows? Maybe it was not yet being comfortable with getting the 2Pac treatment. Whatever it was, it no longer exists. When I caught his set at The Carryout, he was all over the stage, interacting with the crowd.

The key to longevity in life and art is growth. Still a relative rookie in the game, X.O. is growing at rate that will only keep him on the "Who's Got Next" list for a short while. Not cause he's falling off, but because he's quickly rising to "I've Got Now" status.

Take a few minutes to get to know X.O., straight from the man himself.

Photo courtesy of my dude Modi

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