“I'm the fucking king,” Xavier Wulf says, discussing his place as an influential figure for a wild new wave of rap that exploded from SoundCloud. “If you dig deep enough, you’ll find out who the real legends are.”
The Memphis-born rapper has always been ahead of his time. A former member of the Raider Klan, Xavier hates the term SoundCloud rapper, but he does acknowledge that he was one of the first rappers to take full advantage of everything the platform has to offer—amassing a large following and millions of plays. “I remember the day I found SoundCloud,” he says, turning back the clocks half a decade. “I had no idea it would be what it is today." He adds, “I'm one of the first niggas who was on that shit. A lot of these niggas have no idea what SoundCloud was.”
Before his punk rap style became the sound of the moment, Wulf was blending influences from bands like Skipknot and Limp Bizkit into his own twist on hip-hop. Now, he has mixed feelings about the rappers who came in his wake.
“I ain’t gonna lie. Back in my day, shit was a little different,” he says. “The underground shit, it started out a certain way. Like, real niggas only, just killing shit underground. But now some fuck shit slid through and popped off. There are some dudes that got by off of the formula that me and a few of my peers laid down. They connected that formula and it's not real a lot of times.”
As he’s developed as an artist, Wulf’s style has remained raw, but he’s come to understand his responsibilities as an influential rapper. “I ain't trying to be nobody’s father, but if a young man listens to my music, I’m going to tell him something that he can use to survive,” the 25-year-old explains. “I don't want to scream some stupid ass, dumb ass, ignorant hook in his ear the whole time about nothing.”
Moving from Memphis, Wulf is now stationed in Los Angeles as a permanent home, with his own store located right on Melrose. There, he befriended Adam22, and became the very first hip-hop guest on the No Jumper podcast—helping spark another thriving fixture in the underground. Settled in LA, he's found new momentum. Riding high from the success of his new “Check It Out” single and its Skepta-featuring remix, Wulf draws from one of his favorite sources—anime—as he outlines his next steps: “This is the perfect time to pull the sword. This is the end of the anime right here. The last battle. I’ma go crazy. I’ma kill ‘em all. I’ma end this and be onto the next shit.”
Watch the premiere of his new video for "Check It Out" below and continue for our full conversation with Xavier Wulf.
You were one of the first rappers to build a big following on SoundCloud...
I remember the day I found SoundCloud. I had no idea it would be what it is today. I ain’t gonna lie—back in my day, shit was a little different. The underground shit, it started out a certain way. Like, real niggas only, just killing shit underground. But now some fuck shit slid through and popped off. There are some dudes that got by off of the formula that me and a few of my peers laid down. They connected that formula and it's not real a lot of times.
The term "SoundCloud rapper," I hate that shit so much. Shit make me wanna not even use SoundCloud anymore. But the fact that I'm an OG, I'm one of the first niggas who was on that shit—that's why it don't bother me. A lot of these niggas have no idea what SoundCloud was back in my day. And when I say “my day,” that was only like five years ago. But SoundCloud wasn't like that.
I remember Chris Travis didn't even have a SoundCloud, but I told him, "This is a good site right here. Look how it displays the song and shit in the little bubble. It’s cool and it's easy. You can get the link on Twitter and all that.” Fast forward like a year and half, when we got to Cali, Bones didn't have a SoundCloud either. So we made him make one. It was just the easiest way to share music and get the music out there. Shouts out to SoundCloud.
How important is SoundCloud to you and your come-up?
It was very important. SoundCloud and YouTube were all I had to get my music out. That's all I knew. I was using YouTube first, just dropping songs on there, but I got tired of rendering videos and pictures and shit for like an hour. On Soundcloud, you just upload the shit and it's out.
Would you say you’re a pioneer for this new wave of rap? Or that you helped pave the way for it?
Me and my boys definitely feel that way, but we keep it humble. We could be all over the internet screaming, "Oh we started this shit," and giving niggas history lessons. But we’re on some shit where its like, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find out who the real legends are. People gonna find out who the OG is.
A lot of these rappers, they don't like reaching out. They fuck with me, but they don't want to say they do online, because they’re scared I won't tweet back or respond. I don't really fuck with anybody, but I'm glad they feel like that. But there are definitely artists that pay homage as well, and I like that. I love it when an artist that's doing good now sees me in person and they tell me, "Bruh, I fuck with your music, you one of the reasons I do this right now." That shit warms my heart. Now you got my blessings. And I could be an asshole and say whatever, still, but I'm not like that. Instead of doing that, I'll say, "I appreciate that bro, you keep doing what you're doing. You keep it real and you're going to keep going up." We might smoke a blunt and then we part ways.
But all these fuck niggas scared to pay homage. You wouldn't be here if wasn't here for me and my boys. So, pay your homage bro, don't be a bitch. I can't stand that. We struggled for this shit—this underground shit. We changed the way labels do streaming because of us. I'm the fucking king.
I went through middle school not listening to rap at all. I was put onto heavy metal and shit. I was put on to Korn, Slipknot, and Blink 182 all in the same day.
Do you think when you started up, you were ahead of your time?
Yeah, but when I started I didn't think that. I didn't think I was ahead of my time until I figured out what I was capable of, and how far I could go beyond that. I be holding back. If you go listen to Ethelwulf and you go listen to Xavier Wulf, it's almost like a reverse. Because Xavier Wulf is more chill. But Ethelwulf, the way I used to flow was crazy. I'm going back to that shit, too.
Fuck holding back, man. I was treating that shit as a secret power. You know how in anime, the main character would kill everybody, but he doesn't wanna pull that sword? I didn't wanna pull that sword. I haven't pulled that sword for like three or four years, but I'm pulling it now.
I always knew what I could do, but I was like, “I need to keep it like this for right now.” But, why wait? Time to pull the blade. I kept it concealed as long as I could, but I can't hold myself back anymore. But the problem is, I know what's gonna come with this. If I go back to that wild style shit and those crazy flow patterns, I will out-rap and out-flow yo ass. For anybody reading this interview, shaking their head and going, "I don't know about that," take yo bitch ass to one of my Ethelwulf songs. And that's 2012. I was a baby doing that shit back then, so imagine now.
Now does seem like right time for Ethelwulf to come back out.
Yeah, I feel like this would be the perfect time to come like that again. This is the perfect time to pull the sword. This is the end of the anime right here. The last battle. I’ma go crazy. I’ma kill ‘em all and I’ma end this—be onto the next shit.
I’ve heard you refer to your music as punk rap before. Why do you say that?
Hell, yeah. Man, I’m going to keep it real with you. I went through middle school not listening to rap at all. I was put on to heavy metal and shit. I was put on to Korn, Slipknot, and Blink 182 all in the same day. I was like, wow, I don't know how to deal with how this is making me feel. I would just be like, "Fuck this shit is hard bro." And all I saw was black. Then you go watch a video and you see them all going fucking crazy and headbanging. I love that shit. I get the most emotional feeling from that—guitars, drums, all that goes crazy.
I'd say punk rap is me, because when I do shows and aggressive music, I think about those bands that made me feel that type of way when I was a kid. Now I've translated that into the Wulf, so it's like I can't be stopped. My forefathers in this music shit are real OGs.
I like the mumbled tone but I don't like screaming and shit no more, so I just had to mix it up. I gave em both. You want the screaming shit? there it is. You want the smooth shit? there it is, All in the same song.
A few years ago, Fred Durst reached out. Me and Bones were tripping, like, goddamn Fred Durst just reached out! You don't understand. I had a PSP when I was in 7th grade with a memory card that only had 25 megabytes. I could only have like four or five songs on it at a time and two of the songs I had on there were Limp Bizkit's “Break Stuff” and “Faith.”
Fast forward, at a show in 2015. Fred pulls up to the venue, hops out with us, and performs a bit of “Break Stuff.” Man, that shit went crazy. Now, we’re just cool. We'll DM each other from time to time, just shooting the shit and seeing how each other are doing. The fact that Fred Durst is one of my OGs, that was like a power-up for me. All the more reason to keep doing what I'm doing. Once you get a blessing like that, nobody can say nothing to you.
Yeah real shit, Adam is my guy. Once he figures out what he wants to do with something, or if he sees there's a way he can make something out of something, he does it. Even if you watch the first interview, it's a good interview. But nowadays you can tell he's really a professional. He just knows what he's doing. It's organic.
You knew him through BMX stuff, right?
Tony Malouf is the one who connected the dots. He hit us up back when me, Bones, Chris Travis, Eddy, and Elliot was still living at our house in Burbank. So Adam, Brandon Begin, Tony Malouf, and a few other guys—we linked. We were in the garage talking and Malouf said we could ride bikes if we wanted. And you know me, I'm off the shits. I like that kinda shit. So I got my bike and started riding around with them and I developed a joy for that shit. I got obsessed with learning tricks for a while and I had Brandon and Adam and my guys teach me how to do shit. Now I can get on the skateboard and do some tricks. I can get on the BMX bike and do some tricks. I try to keep the edges sharp.
You reference skating, BMX, cars, anime, and other hobbies in your music a lot. How does that all play into your image as an artist?
I didn't change nothing from when I was a kid. Everything that made me happy as a kid still makes me happy right now. I'm still into the same shit. I still like toys. I still got Bearbricks from Walmart in the crib. I watch Adult Swim every fucking night. It's just a mindset man. It keeps me where I want to be in my head, and that's important.
A lot of people don't understand that you gotta do what the fuck you gotta do for your shit. People think it's so hard to get where they want to go, but it's really not. You’ve gotta stay down for yourself and figure out what the fuck you want. Figure out what makes you. Figure out who the fuck you are. That's the real problem: These guys ain't gonna get nowhere until they figure out who they are. Me? I'm the same kid I was when I was 12.
At what point did the music come in? When did you start rapping?
I started rapping in 11th grade. To keep it real, I was listening to Lil B when I was in like 9th or 10th grade because I liked The Pack. I still like The Pack. Then Lil B went out and did his shit. But the way he did his shit back then... It just showed me, like, okay first of all, this nigga’s beats are hard as fuck. Secondly, he’s just doing what he wants to do.
He made it by just getting the point across as minimally as possible. He did his videos anywhere he wanted and the songs weren't really mixed. He took some deep shit and he'd put some swag on it. When I saw that energy, I just transformed it into how I would move in my own way. That's what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to take shit that makes you think a certain type of way and figure out how to make it work for yourself.
I ain't gonna lie, it took some time because I didn't get that good at rapping off rip. I didn't automatically know how to rap and I also didn't care about certain things the way I care about them now—like how to sound on a track. I know I sound some type of way on my music, but that's what the fans want. Some of my supporters don't like when I do the mumbled tone dark shit. They like the high pitched, screaming shit that I be doing. That's why I did both on “Check It Out.” I like the mumbled tone but I don't like screaming and shit no more, so I just had to mix it up. I gave them both. I gave everybody what they wanted. You want the screaming shit, there it is. You want the smooth shit, there it is. All in the same song. I didn't figure shit out until late 2012, though, when I transformed into Ethelwulf. That's when I started killing shit.
Everything that made me happy as a kid still makes me happy right now. I'm still into the same shit [...] I'm the same kid I was when I was 12. Just on a bigger scale now.
What’s your favorite part about being an artist?
It's the love. The way these kids look at me and the things these kids say to me—that's what it's all about. I don't care about none of that other shit. But it didn't start off like this. I didn't know that it would be this way. I didn't know that this would touch people like this.
I figured out that I had a responsibility. The shit I say, niggas will go out and live that. They'll listen to the things I say and be like, "Okay, I'm on that." That's why I switched up from Ethelwulf, because Ethelwulf talks about a lot of guns and crazy wild shit, but there's a lot of kids listening to my shit.
I ain't tryna be nobody’s father, but if a young man listens to my music, I’m going to tell him something that he can use to survive. I don't want to scream some stupid ass, dumb ass, ignorant hook in his ear the whole time about nothing. I could say some names, but I ain't even trying to be petty like that. There’s a lot of niggas out here that I don't fuck with because I see the kids.
If you look at my supporters, a lot of these kids are artists. They’re amazing, smart kids. I pull a different type of situation out of people. Now, look at these other niggas' fans. One of these bubblegum ass rappers: You look at their fans and they’re just as dumb as the rapper. Hollow Squad—my niggas is smart, my niggas is killas. I'm telling you, it’s a different type of situation. I’ve got a responsibility out here with this shit.
I could have blown up, but I'm on that real shit and niggas don't wanna hear that all the time because it makes them feel some type of way. That's why my shit moves slower. But I ain't tripping, my shit holds quality. Real music. That's why I fuck with Skepta so hard because me and him had talks like this. He's the same way as me. We on some real grown men shit. Me and Skepta make the type of music where its like if our parents hear it, our parents would be like, "Yeah that's my son with that shit." We have substance. We got good shit.
How did that Skepta collaboration come about?
Me and Skepta have been cool for like two years now. I met him through my boy Ian Connor, just shooting the shit back in the day. He was like, "Yo my guy Skepta, he fucks with you heavy." I didn't really know about grime or any UK music, so he put me on. We met and he was a cool guy. The first thing he told me was that he likes my song, "Führer Wulf." For him to pick out that song means he really fucked with me.
I was in L.A. right before "Check it Out" dropped and I had the rough version in my phone. I'm in the front seat and Skepta and Ian were in the back so we're just bumping and the song ends, and Skepta's like, "Bruh that shit crazy man!" Three weeks after that, he came out to L.A. and we sitting on the couch smoking, and my assistant Hakeem asked him, "So what new music you fucking with Skep?" And he goes, "To be real I'm still on the ‘Check It Out’ shit." He's like, “Do you mind if we make the remix?” We ran up to the studio upstairs, and he wrote it. We recorded that shit right there, mixed it up, and then we dropped it. Shot the video, and now we're here.
Me and Skepta finna go crazy. We're on some real other shit, I'm telling you.
Can we expect more music from you and Skepta in the future?
Of course, hell yeah. Me and Skepta finna go crazy. We're on some real other shit, I'm telling you. In the studio that day we were together, he made a beat for me on the spot and it was cold. I put a verse on it and everything. It’s in my phone right now. I’m going to go overseas. I ain't even been out the country yet, but he invited me to London to kick it.
What kind of music were you listening to growing up?
I grew up in the late ‘90s, so I caught that tail end of all the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Three 6 Mafia, Project Pat, DJ Paul, Juicy J, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta, and Scarecrow. When I grew up as a kid I never planned on being a rapper. But as a kid, when a song came on in the car that was too slow or R&B, I didn't like it. I liked the rap stuff. The hard stuff. I've learned to appreciate all kinds of music now, but when I was young, I used to hate anything but hard rap.
Also, for all the rappers that want to do Memphis type music or try to, that shit corny. You can't do Memphis music unless you a Memphis dude. You’ve gotta be born and raised in Memphis in order to qualify. Straight up. So I have an advantage. Can't nobody make music like Memphis niggas. The attitude and shit, it's just genuinely authentic. I make the type of music I make and it's not really hard. I just do me. I do Memphis.
Has your creative process changed over the years?
Yeah. Back in the day I only made music at home with nobody in the room. No one could be around me while I made my shit. I had to be by myself and nobody could hear my shit until it was finished. I was like that for years. Then I met my guy Big-E, who is my engineer now. For the longest time, I was the only person who could make me sound like me. I recorded my own shit and mixed my own shit. It was hard trying to teach that to other people. But I went to Big-E's studio and he has a special talent, man. He just got the sauce. He's the best in L.A.
The first song I did in the studio with him was “Cold Front.” I showed him my ways a little and he took it on and now he's the only one I could trust to mix my shit when I'm not around. When we made “Cold Front,” that pretty much killed my anxiety about studios. Now I can record with people in the studio. I don't mind anymore. I'm good now because I know what I came to do. I came to go crazy. When I made “Check It Out” in Atlanta, I put on all black [clothing], left my hotel room, went to the studio, and killed it.
It sounded like a record where you had all black on.
Hell yeah, all black.
Your shows are a big part of your artistry as well. Do you feed off that energy?
Hell yeah, you gotta feed off that. If they're rowdy, I'm rowdy. But for the most part I just go. I be tired as hell after the shows, but that's how I know I went in. When I do shows and I kill it, it's like a struggle for that last song. I'm finna die, but I gotta kick the doors open. Everybody happy, everybody turnt up, everybody tired. These cocky ass rappers think they're so cool but they don't understand that without your supporters, you ain't shit. Your supporters are everything. They're the reason you got everything you got and can pay your bills, so if you don't appreciate them, then fuck you. How you think we got here? Look at the faces in the crowd. Keep it real and stay humble nigga, you do that and you good.
What’s next for you?
I got some work. I gotta catch up with my boy Toro y Moi, shout out to him. Me and him got started on some shit like three years ago. But then he moved, so you know how that goes. We finna get that cracking, though. Now is the time. Skepta, of course. Chris Travis, Bones, Eddy. I just want to let all my fans know as well: I love you and I'll see y'all soon.