Following the release of ‘black rock’, we sit down with Xadi to discuss a Donald Glover career arc, what it’d look like if he ran the world, and venturing into the world of photography.


“Black boy making white songs and they ask me what I represent”, Xadi spits on the homonymous lead track from his latest EP, ‘black rock’. It’s a powerful sentiment, positioned within a single about his foray into rock music – something that’s not traditionally seen as a ‘Black’ genre. “I didn’t know music had a fucking colour”, he continues, inspired by musical pioneers who’ve defied expectations and forged their own path. Little Richard, for instance, as he references in the track. And himself, naturally.


Written from an isolated house in the Scottish Highlands, ‘black rock’ boasts a voice that isn’t afraid to push boundaries and bars that land with resonance. The west Londoner’s music today glides in and out of contemporary sounds, fusing old-school R&B and hip-hop with indie-rock to create something uniquely his. With all his skills self-taught from hours upon hours of YouTube trawling – that’s from playing the guitar to learning to master, his fully DIY mindset gives him an edge in an increasingly multidisciplinary world. 


Cambridge-educated, a thrill-chaser, formerly a self-described “sleep-deprived studio gremlin”, there are multiple facets that make up Xadi’s intriguing world. Following the release of ‘black rock’ and ahead of an exciting future, we sit down with Xadi to discuss a Donald Glover career arc, what it’d look like if he ran the world, and venturing into the world of photography.

Hey, Xadi! Congrats on ‘black rock’. Could we kick off with you explaining a little bit about the project, influence-wise and what was going on in your head at the time of writing?

Hey, thank you so much! The concept for the project came when I was in LA late last year. I came across so much more sonic diversity amongst music by Black artists which made me reflect on my own musical journey and the fact that rock was the first genre I ever fell in love with. 


Over Christmas, I went and stayed in an isolated house in the Scottish Highlands and started researching and writing. I found out that a lot of pioneers of rock music were Black, yet today in the UK, it’s not seen as a genre that Black people are ‘expected to make’ – which is something I felt growing up listening to rock. All of this just made me want to write something that would have made the 13 year old me excited and inspired.

Is there anything you hope that listeners will take away from the release?

No boxes, that’s all. Ignore what society says you should do, and do what you like doing.

It’s a strong set of tracks, but is there a particular song that you feel most proud of or most connected to, for whatever reason, and why?

“Hate This Town” is my favourite. I like it because it sounds rocky, but the flow still sounds like rap. It’s like the lyrics are a stream of consciousness floating from one idea to the next. The vocal processing is actively weird as well, which I was advised against because it makes it hard to understand but I just felt like it sounded cool. And then there’s this vocal solo which is processed to sound like a guitar which is just raw emotion. Detailed breakdown, I guess [laughs] but yeah that’s my fave.

Much of your music is steeped in heavy emotions, especially the new “Sodium Lights” with lyrics like, “Did we have the wrong skin colour in the wrong damn town”, and “A fear addiction on the list of all my vices.” Could you speak us through the importance of voicing hardships and issues like addiction and mental health battles in your music?

I don’t know how important it is and I don’t ever really think about it, it just kind of comes out. Most of my music is recounting experiences and emotions I’ve felt in my life, I don’t think I would be able to honestly recount those things without speaking about being a thrill chaser, or some of the experiences I’ve had as an ethnic minority growing up in the UK.


Saying that, I’ve moved away from getting too explicit on some topics because sometimes when you’re listening to music you just wanna vibe out. 

What sort of music were you listening to while putting together ‘black rock’?

Scrolling back through my liked songs on Spotify, we have SZA, Drake, Tommy Lefroy, Wallice, The Neighbourhood, Chase Shakur. MISH MASH O’CLOCK [laughs]. The genres are so varied, maybe it comes across in my music but those are a few people I had on heavy rotation last December.

You’ve been releasing music for several years now… How do you think the new project compares to, or has evolved from, ‘Day Ends’, or some of your other early stuff?

I tend to really enjoy listening to my old music because it feels like a timestamp, but I always end up thinking ‘Wow, I used to be shit’. I don’t really mean it but it just feels like a good marker of the fact that my production and flow have all really improved. Genre-wise I think I’ve become more experimental and have found myself not feeling the need to fit into any boxes so much, which I’m really proud of.

Taking a look back at where it all started, where do you think your interest in music began? And, from there, when did it begin to look like a career option?

When I was a kid, my mum always played music in the car when we were going to see my cousins – so I think that was the initial pull. As I got older, one of my best friends had the most musical family and I spent so much time in their house and was always around them playing different instruments, which had a huge impact on me. 


I had no right to think music could be a career. I had learnt everything I knew about music from YouTube, and from my friends, and I didn’t know anyone in the industry. But, I’ve always just had the mindset that if someone else can do something, why can’t I? I was just glad I had found something I loved enough to want to spend every day doing.

Are there any artists whose career trajectory is something you aspire to?

I’m as ambitious as I ever was. I would like to have a career arc a little like Donald Glover – except with maybe a couple more albums. I just like the idea of being able to touch different art forms as I get older. Film and fashion are really interesting to me and it would be cool to be able to do some stuff in those spaces before my time on this rock is up.

What do you think you’d be doing now if it weren’t for your music career?

Weirdly, maybe some kind of business, I think either something in fashion or technology. I have an irrational fear of being a small cog and I also have an awful response to authority, so, if I was able to work for myself, I would… Ooh, or a doctor maybe, I think if ever that feeling of existential dread came over me, I could numb it with the fact that I’m helping someone.

You’re still early in the game, but the past few years have been prolific. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced throughout your career so far? And how did you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenges come from within. When I started, I carried so much self-doubt – partly because I hadn’t achieved anything to show me that I was going in the right direction, but also because this whole job is just so unstable and uncertain; it can all fade away so quickly. I have found some comfort in learning just to be at peace in the instability and focus on artistic projects case by case. I also used to be such a bad boss to myself: I wouldn’t give myself time off and would isolate myself to meet the deadlines I had set for myself. Now, I can appreciate the importance of being a socially-balanced individual instead of a sleep-deprived studio gremlin.

What would it look like if Xadi ruled the world for a day

Chaos… nothing would run on time and the alcohol would run out quite quickly. I think it would be a bit like Italy. It would be vibey though.

What’s on your career bucket list? Any dream venues, collabs, awards?

Royal Albert Hall. I love the idea of making something you can take in while sitting down in luxury. Dream collab would be Drizzy Draaaake. Dream award, Mercury – the reason being that, after artists win it, they go on to do some even cooler shit than what got them there. I like the idea of that.

Finally, looking to the future, what’s the big plan? Where would you ideally be in five, ten years?

More of this except bigger. More uncharted territory. Later this summer, I am putting together a photography exhibition of Black pioneers across all fields from fashion to academia to celebrate their trailblazing in areas where people haven’t always had great representation. Working on this new photography is a bit of a taste of how broad these projects are going to be. I want each project I do to get bigger in scope and draw from even more influences and art forms. 

I feel like throughout my journey I’ve been looking at a circle, and in making this project I’ve just zoomed out and realised it was a cylinder, 3D, deeper, with so much to explore. That was a weird analogy but I hope I just keep zooming out and finding new dimensions

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