Exclusive Interview: Xzibit Talks Sun Dogs, His Hip-Hop History, and the Transition To Acting

Xzibit talks to TMS about his new film Sun Dogs, his transition from hip-hop to film, and his history. 

TMS: We’re from Detroit, too, so we’ve got that in common right off the bat here. When is the last time you were back?
X: I haven’t been back, well, I got a lot of family there, so once in a while I go back up, but I haven’t been there in months, maybe years, but I still have family there.
TMS: Cool, cool. So what do you think of the rejuvenation that’s going on here now?
X: I think it’s fantastic, you know? There’s a lot of people who love that city and there are going to be lots of people who come in and try and buy the city out from under itself, but there’s a lot of people who love that city and they’re out there making a difference and I’m glad to see it get the life and attention it deserves.
TMS: Me too, there’s a lot of really cool stuff going on. So, how did your role in Sun Dogs come about?
X: It was an offer. I wrapped my head around the story and sat down with Jennifer and we ended up really clicking and she offered the role to me and that’s how it went down.

Xzibit in the new feature film Sun Dogs.

TMS: It’s a really cool flick and timely also. Tell us, when you transitioned from music to film, how hard was that for you?
X: It was difficult because music comes very easily for me, but acting is something I have to work at consistently, but I take it very seriously. I don’t take anything for granted and I go in with guns blazing. I work really hard at it and that’s why I continue to get roles. 
TMS: That’s awesome. So between those two worlds, music and movies, what would you say the similarities are?
X: If you don’t verse yourself on the business as well as being a creative, you can get fucked. *laughs*
TMS: Yeah, yeah, I can see that. Why don’t you tell us a little about your character in Sun Dogs, very interesting character, if I say so myself.
X: I think, well I play a Marine recruiter, and what my character does in the film is, well, the main character, who has a slight disability, is very interested in joining the Marines, but he’s not capable whatsoever, and my character is kind of like the, he kind of feels for him, so instead of telling him the truth, he sends him on a path that’s unexpected. And I think what turns out is you get to have this underlying message of “the world is not just black and white, it’s actually gray.” So, now, my character has the responsibility of reeling the main character in, which turns out to be a really dope transition and piece to add to the puzzle, so my character is very important to the film and I was really pleased with the way it came out.
TMS: How would you classify this movie, because there are some comedic elements to it, but, what kind of movie would you tell people this is?
X: It is a feel good movie, this is something that’s great story telling. Jennifer did a really great job directing this film and it’s something you have to definitely put some eyes on.  
TMS: I’m watching it last night and this is a different type of role for you, you’re in a leadership role in this, like you said, you’re in the military. It’s quite a bit different for you. One thing I noticed is the movie is kind of about chasing dreams. Is that something you sympathize with? What sold the script to you?
X: I definitely am all about people chasing their dreams and betting on themselves. I think that is something, if you’re able to do that, you should definitely seize the opportunity to do that. It can only go two ways, bad or good. And the way I see it, you have nothing to lose. What attracted me to the script was that my father was a Marine, and I was able to channel a lot of the way he spoke to me and the way he was stern, yet understanding, is kind of the way I channeled this character, because it is different than anything else I’ve done, it is different than anything else that I’ve played. It was intriguing to me, that’s what made me want to step and throw myself into this film. 
TMS: Which is awesome because you’ve done a lot of action stuff, and you know, the gangster stuff and all that. This is a lot lighter, and I think it plays a lot into what we see going on with mental health right now, which is really interesting.
X: Right, right. 

TMS: Considering you came up in hip-hop, how would you say that scene has changed now since you started? 
X: I was just talking about that. I think the biggest difference is the way the music is digested now. There was no internet when I first came out. There was no downloading, no file sharing, it was all, you had your album, you had your favorites, and you’d open your CD or album cover and you got to read the credits and you were able to immerse yourself mentally, emotionally, physically into the album. Now, everything is, it’s like a fast food generation. Everything is quick, quick, quick. Microwave, you heat up and you cool down faster than you heated up, you don’t listen to everything, you don’t listen to a body of work, you listen to what you want out of the body of work, and I think that’s the biggest difference. That may sound like a negative, but actually, it’s quite the opposite. It took the middleman out from between the audience and the artist. Now it’s the artist’s responsibility to connect to the audience, and sometimes people do a great job, sometimes people do horrible at it, but it’s no difference, you get the great stuff right next to the bad stuff, which puts the power back into the hands of the audience and the artist. It’s up to you to make great material to make that connection the most creative way possible. 
TMS: It’s funny you say that, my son is 15, and I’ve been into music, producing music, since I was 13 years old, I’ve been in all different kinds of bands. But my son, I’ve always tried to get him into music, and he’s never been there. Then, like two months ago, he put a big smile on my face because he came to me and said “Dad, I found this band that I love” and it’s experimental hip-hop group called Death Grips and it’s exactly what you said. It’s fed directly to the user, or listener, through YouTube, that’s how he got introduced to it, those fast video clips, getting that stuff out there yourself instead of signing a record deal. It’s totally changed. What tools do you think a young musician or actor needs to succeed?
X: Thick. Skin. *laughs*I mean, if you really are dedicated to your craft, it may not happen today or tomorrow, but if you really want it, your actions will speak louder than your words and it’ll happen for you, one way or the other. 
TMS: It’s a lot of sacrifice too, anything you got to put yourself out there and really put your all in to it. So, Napalm was your last album, back in 2012. What would it take for you to get back in the music game and put out a new album? Is that something you’re interested in, or are you full time acting now?
X: Absolutely, there is a definite stepping back into the music for me. Right now, I just re-opened Open Bar Entertainment and we’re really excited we’re stepping back into the music scene. It won’t be an initial Xzibit album first. I have a couple artists I’m going to put out before myself, but I will be making a return to music. 
TMS: What would you say you enjoy about acting versus music? Do you think that acting is less cut throat than being in hip-hop or music?
X: No, it’s the same. Hollywood and hip-hop will do two things, give you the rope to pull yourself up, or hang yourself. And then the other thing is, if you don’t look at it as a business, you will find yourself being taken advantage of by other people. So, as much as you are a creative, you have to be a business man. You have to know the ins and outs and you have to know who to fire. One of my mentors told me, the only way you get to really learn how to do something, is if you learn everyone’s job, that way you know who to fire when they’re not doing it. So, that’s the way I approach everything. I learn it from the inside out, frontwards and backwards, that way I know when people are failing around me. 
TMS: That’s the best way to be. Whether it’s the production end of it, or the acting end of it, get into every aspect. So, Sun Dogs takes a look at this young man who wants to join the military because he’s sick of terrorists. This terrorism thing is a major political issue right now. I obviously do not like our current President. I’m not a fan at all. How do you deal with the current political climate and all the bigotry and racism going on? 
X: I mean, I stay away from religion and politics because it’s too violent, I just stick to gangster rap. *laughs* at least I know what to expect. You know what I’m saying?

TMS: Yeah, politics are hard right now. You do play a military person in the movie, was the military ever a consideration for you when you were growing up?
X: My father was a Marine, as I stated before. The only time I thought of joining the military, I was in 11th grade and I got kicked out of school for the last time. I’d been successfully kicked out of every school in the whole entire district, there was no other school for me to go to, so my dad came and was disgusted, he was disappointed, he didn’t say anything until we got to the car and then he said, he took me straight to the Marine’s recruiting office and said “You want to fight? I’ll take you somewhere you can fight.” I didn’t get out of the car, obviously, *laughs*. So I said, “Dad, I’ll get a job, I’ll get my GED, I’m gonna make something of myself. And he looked at me for a good two, three minutes and he shut the car door and he drove me home. That was as close as I ever got to actually being in the military. But that was a real moment between me and my dad. I had pushed him to his limits. I pushed myself to certain limits and backed myself into a corner and it was up to me to get myself out. 
TMS: That’s really cool, it sounds like your dad was a great role model and so often now, these days, there’s no dad at home, so that’s pretty powerful stuff right there. You’re pretty natural in this role, you’re kind of like a chameleon in this role. You’ve done harder roles, now you’ve done this one, was this an easy performance for you?
X: No, not at all. Nothing I do I ever look at as easy. Once you start looking at things that way, you become sloppy. So I take everything I do very seriously. That's why it takes a lot for me to make a decision about something. If it doesn't push me, or it doesn't challenge me or put me in a position where I haven't done it before, then it's not that intriguing to me. I want to do things that take me out of the wheelhouse that everybody expects me to be in, I think that's what keeps people on their toes, that's what keeps my name fresh, that's what keeps things coming in my direction, because I don't look for certain things that keep me in a certain light. I look for things that make me vulnerable, that keep me challenged, that make me challenge myself and push myself to different things. So yeah, I mean, as a musician, as I said, I can do music in my sleep, but when it comes to acting or channeling other things, and staying in character, that is a job for me. That is something that I work at. 
TMS: In your acting career, has there ever been a role you really wanted to play but didn't get, and is there any role or character that you would love to play on screen?
X: Man, I mean, there have been plenty of things I wanted to do. There was one role that I actually got and if you do some research, you'll see it was a film called Pinkville. I had got the role for one of the sergeants in the film, and it was a time piece so I had to get prosthetics for my face, to make myself look older and I was sat in a room with Oliver Stone, he told me I looked too old, I went in three weeks and lost like 60lbs, and came back in there looking 100% and he was like "Wow, you fucking killed it." And the audition went great and I got the part and we were on our way, opposite Bruce Willis and it was the turning point. So, the day we're supposed to leave, the writers' strike happened and they cancelled the fucking flight. I was packed, ready to go, and that. I think that is the only regret, or the only role I think I really wanted to do.
TMS: That's heavy, that sucks. So, when you were growing up, I guess the last thing I'll ask you is, things are a lot different now, then they were 20 years ago. We used to have strong role models for us to look up to, whether in African American culture, whether in white culture, we don't really have many of those people anymore and it kind of makes me sad, you know, when I think about it. When you were a kid, what people did you look up to and who did you strive to be, who made you decide entertainment was a thing you wanted to do, and who gave you the ambition to go forward with it?

X: Wow, well, I was, my parents were very religious, so I didn't look up to sports athletes or actors or.... I didn't really have that thing to look up to. What I did was, my parents were educators, as well, so they always enforced education. They always pushed higher education. And so, I looked up to my father. He was my hero. He went through two tours in Vietnam. Was he perfect? By no means, but I looked up to him because he was my father and he was my role model. And from there, you know, it was like my older brother, I had a step brother that I definitely looked up to, he ended up doing a lot of negative things and it impacted his life. That's who I learned from, I learned from people with real experiences, and I learned what to do and what not to do, I wasn't one of those people who wanted to continue to make the same mistakes I saw other people make, I learned from those mistakes, good and bad. So, when I was 17, I was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my mother had died when I was nine, my dad got remarried and divorced, and so I was 14 years old, running in the streets of Albuquerque, trying to sell crack and be a gangster. Know what I'm saying, so it got really real and people started dying around me, I was like. "You know what, I'm going to die. If I continue to do this, I'm going to die." And I was not willing to do that, so at 17 years old, I came out to California by myself, with a black and purple Geo Tracker. I had $3000, a hand gun, a rifle and some cross-color clothes, know what I'm saying? So that's how I got here. And when I got here, I didn't procrastinate. I didn't waste time because I didn't have a Plan B. I never did, I never will have a Plan B. Plan A is still working. That's what inspired me, and that's why I keep going. 
TMS: Hell yeah. That's great. Well, I got a lot of material here to work with. Good luck on the movie.
X: Thanks a lot man, thanks. 
TMS: Great talking to you.