Donovan Johnson (born July 9, 1985 in Wichita, Kansas), better known by his stage name XV, is an American rapper currently signed to Warner Bros. Records. Since 2006, XV has released over 15 mixtapes. The 25-year old Wichita, Kansas native is a fresh face to the music industry, but has been working towards becoming a household name for nearly 5 years. That work just might pay off with the release of his highly anticipated debut, "The Kid With The Green Backpack", in which XV has been working on for a year and a half.
Born and raised on the Northeast side of Wichita, Kansas, XV (born Donavan Johnson) was not your average kid on the block. Suffering from an incredibly rare phobia known as Excelsiorophobia, he is deathly fearful of placing a hat firmly upon his cranium. He has fought this fear his entire life, as you can clearly see, placing baseball caps at various angles atop his head. Despite suffering from this career and personality defining phobia, he has persevered to establish a life that resembles some normalcy. Of course he played basketball, rode his bike and reenacted scenes from Power Rangers, like any other youthful spirit would. But his interests varied from those of his three brothers. With a born love for music like his father, who was a record label A&R and an employee at BET, XV began writing songs at the age of 9. Though he was raised by his Mom and Step-Father, the love of music was instilled in him, as well as various other talents such as, writing screenplays and designing websites.
"When I said I wanted to be something, I mean't it! My Grandmother would take me to the library on the weekends and get me every book I needed to learn how to make a movie. I was far from your average kid. When kids were at recess, I would be in class using the school camera to shoot fake news reports. I'm a big dreamer."
The desire to be bigger than his body was fulfilled when XV found Hip-Hop. Being able to express emotions, fantasies, and dilemma's using a clever sense of wordplay makes XV the extraordinary lyricist he is today. His ability to display the perils of the street life, the consciousness of a purist, and relate to suburban youth, stems from his socialness in school. Having friends who were gangbangers, preacher's kids, and rich white boys, allowed XV to break the boundaries many rappers place themselves in, and explore artistic ways to speak to all types of people. Acquiring the moniker, XV, from the roman numerals of "15", the age he was when he decided to begin taking his craft seriously and producing his own music. Inspired by mostly east coast MC's such as Jay-Z, Biggie, Mase, Mos Def, Cam'ron and Talib Kweli, XV recorded, produced, and released his first independent album in 2002. In 2003, his album, "The Answer", received rave reviews on various hip-hop websites.
Without any industry help or management, XV continued to work hard to create a buzz for himself and his record label, Royalty Recordz. Though he got his start performing live at his high school's talent shows, XV went on to opening up for The Ying Yang Twins, Mike Jones, Lil' Rob, Jon B., and defeated four local Hip-Hop acts with over 600 votes to open up for G-Unit. XV then went on to placing a song on Midway's NARC videogame, which led to XV creeping slowly out of the Kansas boundaries in search of a larger base of recognition. That recognition came after XV began making his mark on the mixtape scene with the "Royalty City" Mixtape series and "The Definition" mixtapes, featuring labelmates Bling and Sez Batters. Acknowledgement came from artists such as The Game, Paul Wall, Maino, Sheek Louch and DJ's such as Whoo Kid and On Point. The base has been built, now it's time to strengthen the foundation.
"The title 'COMPLEX' was created when I was trying to describe my album to Bling. It was like being told to describe a three-dimensional piece in two-dimensional form. The title also reflects a characteristic carried amongst most prodigies. I feel the most abstract and idealistic people in the world are complex, because there's so many different layers to them. Albert Einstein was complex, Picasso was complex, Tupac was complex. This album is basically my search for clarity."
With 13-tracks laced with thought-provoking, clever and sometimes cocky lyrical content, XV's search seems to come to a happy medium. His fresh and original topics vary from stereotyping to the differences in urban and suburban america. COMPLEX will be the first major-scale album from XV, and features production from himself, Seven and Benjamin Kash. The album's lead single, "Give You Everything", produced by Seven, is a charming, and sometimes humorous, narrative about a materialistic girlfriend that XV can't seem to break up with. The song that is sure to be a radio smash and bring clarity to the complexity of XV is, "Boy From Kansas". "It was the last song I wrote for Complex, so I feel like it's the most open song about me. My next album is going to be called, 'Clarity', and 'Boy From Kansas' was a step towards that. No matter where you're from, you can relate to that song."
It is a constant struggle for an artist to find himself, and many get lost in the search. It's also a battle for a brand new artist to come out and just be themself. XV is proof that it is a battle that you can win. With an album filled with honesty, positivity, humor, vulnerability and hardly any obscenities, finding clarity may not be an issue for XV any longer. "I'm a regular human-being. I get mad in traffic, I curse, I think about sex 98% of the day. But, in the end. When they read about me or find my time capsule 500 years from now. I want them to say that I was a positive dude. And that's who I am in my music."
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