Tallahassee, Fl native rapper and singer Xela (his born name Alex spelled backwards) brings chill and organic vibes to the world of independent music. A recent L.A. transplant, he plans to take his music career to the top in 2018 by making music fun again. On our first encounter he’s cool to the touch, sporting a bright orange hoodie with a leather belt tied around his neck. The 25-year old spoke to me about his upbringing in Florida, the explosion of music from the region in recent years, the recent death of Lil Peep, and a whole lot more.
How was it growing up in Tallahassee?
Tally’s cool. It’s a quiet town. There’s not a lot of room for expansion and everything with music. It’s more of a college town there’s not really more for music. There’s some people that never left there after school and all that.But some of them just stay there their whole life.
How was school for you? Did you graduate?
School was okay. I’ve never have been a fan of it and yes I did graduate.
How long have you been making music?
Basically since I was a jit [youngster]. But not real music. Like little melodies I would forget. I probably didn’t take it seriously until like 2013 or 2014. In middle school my friends were in a rap group so I started because of them.
Back then was the rap scene popping in Florida?
Hell nah! There wasn’t anything in Florida at all. At that time it wasn’t even big for independent rap at all. The game wasn’t there yet. I think the first Florida artist popping during that time I think the only artist out there was SpaceGhostPurrp.
What was the first thing you recorded on? Also are you only a vocal artist or have you tried production at all?
The first thing i recorded on was one of those Blue Yeti Microphones. They’re kinda cheap but we didn’t know what we were doing anyways. I want to learn to make beats but I only rap and sing (for now).
I get the feeling that in many parts of Florida when it comes to young people, although there may be a country feel, the internet and internet culture has a big influence. Is it one, the other, or a balance?
Balance of both. In Florida It’s still the south even though it’s a bit tropical. so you’re gonna have your segregated cliques. It’s not like out here in L.A. Growing up there was like a little of me living in the country, living in the ghetto. I had black friends and white friends but it can be difficult getting them to hang out together. You gotta be an odd ball to be able to fuck with both of them.
When you wore Avenged Sevenfold T-Shirts did you get ripped on?
Definitely got ripped on! Back then it was new, now it’s a trend. I wish it was like a trend. Back then I really liked these.
What made you want to rock tall airbrush Tees? Super retro!
I’ve always been a fan on airbrushed tees. It’s a big thing in Florida.
The video with you as a little kid in the hot tub, that was your dad talking. What are your parents like?
Well it’s crazy. My dads is originally from Curacao. The first CD he gave me was The Beatles One album. He’s from the caribbean shack or whatever and that’s the only thing they heard on the radio. Growing up that’s the first music I’m listening to.
When did you first get exposed to hip hop? (What particular song, artist, or album made you wanna make music yourself?
My brother played a lot of old school hip hop growing up, I was inspired by T-Pain and Lil Wayne to make music.
How did you meet Big Baby?
That was 2014. I first started getting my music underway. My boy Pablo who shoots all my videos showed me this song from this kid who was the friend of his friend. It took me a while to listen to it. When I finally did (after the third time of him telling me to) It was “The Trenches” I was like God Damn this shit is hard af! I told Pablo to tell [Big Baby] to do the remix and let me get on the song. He agreed and we met when we did the video. We were already really similar so It was a vibe and it was natural so we just kicked it off then?
Pablo has provided some excellent visual work for you. How did you guys first meet? Has he shot for anybody else?
I met Pablo through a mutual friend named Alex. Pablo has shot for Alex, Big Baby, and a number of artists.
Betty was someone that I met in Tampa. It was a (what) Magazine show. She’s a prominent figure in Tampa. She’s big in the music scene and kind of Eclectic like me, she’s a dope girl.
How’d you and Big baby get connected with Max P?
Through mutual Florida artists at the time. Max P lived in Tallahassee for a while as well.
Tell me about your friend Jose who passed away.
Jose was a dope dude very positive i met him in Tampa when I first started taking music seriously. He always motivated me and supported my vision.
California Vs. Florida?
I fuck with California 100%. I fuck with Florida as well. It’s similar far as the landscape and the weather. There’s definitely more going on in L.A. business wise. Florida there’s chill people depending on where you go. Miami is chill and Orlando can be too sometimes. But I’m fuckin with California right now.
What artists or producers would you like to work with?
Definitely Captain Crunch, Big Head. Pollari, Chief Keef, I’ve got to work with Tracy since I’ve been out here.
I could definitely see you and Tracy coming up with some fire. Also Pollari has great melodies.
Yeah! We should all just make one big ass autotuned song!
Favorite food and drink?
I like burgers. I just had one before I got here. The only thing you can really eat out here are burgers, pizza, tacos, and chicken wings. And anyone who knows me knows I love apple juice. When it comes to drinking alcohol it’s not my favorite thing. I’ll drink it if it’s in front of me but I’m not trying to get wasted.
Drug culture has always been prevalent in music, especially now more than ever. With the recent death of Lil Peep how do you feel about this potentially deadly trend?
I dabble but I definitely make sure it’s on a level where I can handle it. And I encourage my friends to do the same. But I don’t think dabbling is bad.
What’s next for Xela?
We’re just gonna kill shit out here. I’ve been here for a month so I think I’m doing pretty well. We’re just gonna expand on everything and we’re gonna drop some music. Mark my words 2018 we’re taking over.
Why should people care about Xela?
Well I’m not gonna say I’m gonna bring a new sound because there’s people who do sound similar and want to sound similar. But I’m making it fun again. Music is in a weird place right now and it’s kinda fun but we bout to really have some fun right here. I want it to be entertaining. You’re gonna be entertained by it.
That’s the main thing I like about your music: The fun in it. Your shit does go hard but it’s not like you’re trying to be something your not. It’s real chill and it encourages people to be themselves.