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An Exclusive Interview with HXLT, Formerly Hollywood Holt

HXLT is how Chicago’s eclectic musician Holt is spelling his name these days. The reason why is one of the few things I didn’t think to ask him about, but I imagine it’s to make you wonder how it’s supposed to be said, to get you thinking, to ultimately make you remember it. In any case, his self-titled debut album as HXLT features songs that are all over the map, resulting in a record you will certainly remember even after just one listen. Just don’t expect a Hollywood Holt joint, Hollywood Holt being what he used to go by when he was exclusively making rap music. No, HXLT is an album that includes some hip-hop but also some R&B, hard rock and punk. And many of the songs are genre benders that are a combination of these things all at once. If you like albums that break the rules and don’t conform to any molds, you’re sure to love it. Especially if you read the following review with HXLT below and come to appreciate how open-minded and cool he is. From winning rap battles to hosting some of the coolest, most diverse parties in Chicago to getting signed by Kanye West, he’s done it all and has some very interesting stories to tell.

MM: I know you used to go by Hollywood Holt when you were releasing rap music. Did you drop the Hollywood to put distance between your rap music and your new music?

H: Absolutely. And, plus, I didn’t want to take away from the actual career that I did have. I enjoyed that career a lot. Hollywood Holt himself was like a character, a piece of my character. Hollywood Holt was very much me because that was very much a part of what I did, you know? I basically wanted to show a different name so people can differentiate my different styles. Part of me is very hip-hop. I MC, I breakdance, DJ and I can battle you in every element. But that’s also just a part of me. Like when I used to be in the hip-hop scene I was also very heavy in the punk scene. I was very heavy into lots of different genres of life. I’m a very complex person just like everybody else. It’s just that I showcase my differences. I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t want his mashed potatoes to touch his gravy. So, I wanted to make sure people understood that Hollywood Holt is a rapper and Holt is a different project. If I started making like Daft Punk music I’d call myself Spaceman Holt. If I did like a hardcore band I’d be Insanity Holt. Different kinds of Holts. But this project is just called Holt because it’s fully everything that I make. It’s everything in one. This is like me as a person. Every single element and aspect of my life is in this new music. If I ever rapped again, it would be a Hollywood Holt track. Also, if I put out this new music and I was still going by Hollywood Holt I would get tons of people thinking I was doing some rap rock shit.

MM: You were, or are, part of the Treated Crew collective. What can you tell us about that? Who’s in it?

H: I invented Treated Crew with my cousin Mano and my best friend Mic T. We’ve been best friends, all three of us, since we were twelve years old. Treated Crew was already a crew. We just added a name and really set it in stone not too long ago. Treated Crew is more of an artist collective. It’s not like Wu Tang or A$AP or something like that. A set amount of guys that are in the crew. Treated Crew is more of a brand name that solidifies that you know this is quality. Anybody can be in Treated Crew if they’re quality artists who make genuine music or fashion or art or film – whatever creative aspect you have, if you get to put the Treated name on it, you know it’s a quality name. That’s really what it is. There’s like a million guys in Treated Crew but you have to be put in through us.

MM: You started off doing battle rap. Who are some of the people you battled or beat?

H: Man, I can’t even remember. That was like a totally different scene. Like in the hip-hop scene in Chicago there was the beat boy scene and I would go battle in the beat boy battles. I would battle in the MC battles. I would battle in the DJ battles. Anything I could battle in, I would battle in. I was driving to Pro Am in Miami. I was going to B Boy City in Texas. I battled in the Rock Steady 25th anniversary battle in New York. I was going to all of these battles. Wherever there was an MC battle, I was in it. I’m sure there’s gonna be tons of random video popping up over the years of me in battles from 2002 and some shit. But, yeah, I pretty much battled everybody. I used to go Scribble Jam in Ohio and battle. I might have battled some dudes that are famous. I have no idea.

MM: The first time I listened to your new album I was thinking it was a cross between rap and R&B as I listened to the first four tracks then it got to “Together” and went punk rock, which really surprised me. Is that the idea, to give people one impression and then turn it upside down:

H: The thing about this album is I didn’t have any kind of plans. I didn’t try to do anything. This is the most organic music. And this is what I think music should be in general. I feel like music is cheapened and music is thrown off because everybody is trying to make a sound that fits into this box. Everybody’s trying to make a hit. Everybody’s trying to make a hip-hop song. Everybody’s trying to make a rock song. And I feel like we’ve lost our way in creating music because we’re sticking it into these boxes. I heard this group from Chicago that started making this incredible music that I never heard in my life and then because they were playing shows and they wanted to be dancier and fit into this Italo disco scene they started changing the drum pattern and making it all sound the same. To me, it just, like, ruined it. Not unique, you know? So, my goal, I wanted to just make these sounds in my head. And I decided to do it with no rules. Think about it. Before rock ‘n’ roll was rock ‘n’ roll it was just a new crazy sound. Before hip-hop was hip-hop it was – you know what I mean? Why aren’t we still creating these new crazy sounds? Why are we sticking with, oh, I’m a trap rapper. I’m a hip-hop this, or I’m old school or this and that. Fuck all of that shit. Just make sound that comes to your mind and let it come out organically. So, on this album, I didn’t try to make anything. I just made noises that came to my head and sounded good to me. I realized, through making the project, that no matter what I made it was cohesive. “Together” is like very punk and “Tonight” is very R&B. It still sounds like me. And that’s the point.

MM: Yeah, that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

H: Think about David Bowie. Or The Beatles. The Beatles are the perfect example. You listen to one album and it doesn’t sound like the same song. If you listen to The Beatles Revolver album and then you listen to… What’s that one album with “Fool On The Hill” on it? Lonely Heart’s Band?

MM: Yeah, probably. [Editor’s note: We were both wrong, it’s Magical Mystery Tour.]

H: Like, dude, don’t sound like two different bands. That’s what’s cool. When you listen to David Bowie, he’s got like a gospel record and then you’ve got a hard rock record. And then you’ve got like a dance record. You wouldn’t think the same guy that made “China Girl” made “Major Tom.” So, I feel like – I didn’t do it on purpose – but I feel like I am bringing that back. So, honestly, if you listen to Drake, he’ll make an R&B song and it’s a straight up R&B song and then he’ll make the hardest rap song ever, you know what I mean? I feel like people are slowly stopping the rules. And I feel like I am the amalgamation of that. I’m just making sounds that come into my mind and they are coming out like this music. And it just so happens that some of it sounds punk rock and some of it sounds hip-hop because these are all the things that I like. These are all the things that I enjoy. The things that come into my mind.

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MM: How have your rap music fans reacted to your punk rock?

H: Honestly, I was kind of nervous that they were gonna be mad and not fuck with it but, actually, most of my fans I’ve gotten are because of my live shows. Like I only had pretty much one song out throughout my whole career when I was a rapper. It’s a song called “Hollywood.” It’s very like a chill, funny song. A lot of my real rap joints, if you heard ’em it’s because of my live shows. I was like crazy. But when you see my live show, even as a rapper, everybody was labeling me the punk rock rapper. I don’t think I’m a punk artist. I make punk music, but I’m just a punk guy. A real punk. I just happen to like different styles of music. But my energy in the way I think and the way I live is very punk. So, it comes out in my live shows. So when I started to make this new music, all my fans – because they used to come to my shows – they were like, yeah, this makes way more fucking sense than you rapping. Everybody I ever played it for before it came out was like, this is you. That rap shit is cool, but this is really you. Like even you, you can tell by the way I am on this phone call that this music makes sense with me, right?

MM: Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely something you were inspired to do and didn’t let genre distinctions limit you.

H: Yeah, fuck that shit. Like, dude, a painter doesn’t start painting and decide like I’m gonna make just this kind of painting. No, they just let the paint do it’s thing and then you have your own style. Every single human being that makes music should have their own style and sound of music.

MM: I know from your publicist’s e-mail that Mano produced one of the tracks on the album and you produced the rest yourself. Which one did he produce?

H: He did “Guitar.” That’s what shows you why it works. The fact that you couldn’t tell. I literally produced like every single song, wrote every single song. I created every single noise that you heard. Except for one song. One beat. I wrote the song for it, but only one beat was made on that album that wasn’t mine and that’s “Guitar.” The fact that you couldn’t tell which one it was shows why it’s on the album. He’s my best friend and my cousin and he knows me better than anybody. That’s why it was easy for him to actually make something that fit with me. I didn’t want anybody on it. I’m actually really particular. And I feel like it’s gonna become a thing with me, but I don’t care at all about working with other people, getting like better hooks. If it doesn’t make sense I’m not working with nobody. If you talk about having a super famous artist on my music, to me, that cheapens it also. Kathleen Hanna fit because of the sound of the music and what I was saying fit in the same vein of what she says and the kind of music she makes, so that’s why it happened. It was a natural fruition. I didn’t go, oh, I need a famous person on my song. It doesn’t make sense for me to have a rapper on my music when I am not making rap music. I’ll never be that way. With Mano, him being my cousin, and knowing my style and how I am as a person, he was able to create a sound that mimicked what I was making and it made sense. So, it was perfect. I didn’t want nobody on my album. And I still kind of don’t. But if I make something and I hear somebody on it and that person is down then I’ll do it. I’ll make a song and if I hear like Ashanti on it and Ashanti’s not down to do it, then that song’s never gonna come out. I’m not gonna be like, let’s get this person instead.

MM: Yeah, too many people do that. I mean, Kanye’s new album, for example, there’s so many guests on it that you kind of feel like you’re not really hearing from Kanye so much.

H: Yeah, that’s what I really don’t like. Obviously, Kanye has his own thing, but I never, ever want anybody to think I’m ever dissing anybody. Whenever I speak on another artist, if I disagree with it, it’s just my style. I don’t think they’re wrong or anything. But I personally think, when you put a bunch of people on your album, you’re inadvertently saying I need help. I need help selling my own music because this person or that person is gonna bring me more features. My personal opinion, I think my own music is strong enough that I don’t need another artist to help promote it. Like, man, when you see these rappers put an album out and they’ve got like fifteen fucking different features, you don’t listen to the album as a project. You’re just listening to each song to hear this guy’s verse or that guy’s verse, you know what I mean? It works for other people, but for me that doesn’t strike me as something I would ever want to do.

MM: You produced the album yourself, like you were saying, what programs did you use for that?

H: I use Logic. I sit at home. I have a partner that I make my music with, this one guy. Basically, ’cause he knows how to use Logic better than me. I just play the instruments and he records. Just somebody to session with. The kid’s name is Lefonz. and he’s a musical genius. So, me and him literally just sit at my house and he pulls up Logic and then most of it is live instruments. Or, I’ll use like a midi keyboard and just make the beats on the midi and he saves them and I’ll take my guitar out and we’ll do a plug in and I’ll play and then he’ll save that. Then we take those sessions to the studio and then really polish them with a sound engineer.

MM: How and when did you learn to produce?

H: See, that’s the thing. This is what changed my life. I’m a very punk rock dude. It’s like, you either do it or you don’t. I used to make punk jackets a lot. I don’t know how to fucking sew, I don’t know how to do shit. But I would look at it, I would figure it out, and I just did it. The same way with my directing videos. I didn’t go to school for none of this shit but I know in my head what I want something to be like and how I want it to come out. So, I’m gonna figure it out by any means necessary. For so many years, I think the reason why I was only rap is because people would fucking tell me bullshit like, oh, man, you’re not a producer, dog. I would come to my homies like, I got this beat idea. Can you help me make this? I’d be like, yo, the melody is like this. And they’d be like, no, no, you need to do it like this. They’d be like, I’m the producer, you need to just write the song. And so I would get discouraged and I thought, oh, I don’t know how to use the program, so I guess I can’t make beats. Even though I knew how in my head. If you put me in a room full of instruments and I can record the instruments then I can make the beats. Basically, what happen was I was rapping for so long and I made like two fucking album’s worth of rap music and I never felt fulfilled while making it. Because I felt like I was only doing just a part of me. So, I had this epiphany where I was like I don’t give a fuck what anybody says anymore. I’m not happy just doing this. I need to figure out how to fucking make my shit. So, I hit up this kid Lefonz – his real name is Alfonso Mayen – but his artist name is Lefonz. He’s a real kid. And I was about to go on Facebook and be like, yo, who knows how to use Logic and will shut the fuck up and help me make this shit? He wanted to get a placement from Hollywood Holt. So, he would send me a rap beat and then like a dance beat, like a rock beat – he was just sending me anything because he wanted to work with me. I just thought that was really cool, so I was like let me hit this kid up first. So, I said, hey, I got these songs in my head that I need to make and I know exactly how to make these beats. I literally said this – I don’t want to hear no shit. If you can come over here, pull up the program, let me make my shit and shut the fuck up we gonna be rich. [Both laugh] I swear to God, that’s what I said to him. And he was like, hell ya, dude, I’m down. He comes over to the house and the first beat we made was “Back To Black,” the Amy Winehouse cover. I sat there and said pull up this like 808 drum, like old school, like Big Daddy Kane. He pulled them up and I just started hitting these beats and I was like save that. Now pull up the bass line. I already knew exactly what kinds of sounds. I played it all out and then we made the “Back To Black” joint. And the rest is fucking history, dude. And the first actual song I made is on the album. It’s called “Work It Out.” That’s the first beat and melody that I came up with on my own. The lyrics and everything that I wrote. And once I made that, the feeling I got, of fulfillment, was incredible. I was like I absolutely know this is what I’m gonna be doing for the rest of my life. Fuck everything else.

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MM: Did they take the music from your version when they did the “Back To Black” cover with Beyonce on it? Or did they re-record it using your idea?

H: Kanye heard it, loved it and he took the record and just put Beyoncé and Andre 3000 on it and tightened it up for the movie [The Great Gatsby] and then mastered it. The production is exactly the same, my actual stems. I produced that. It’s the exact same production. It’s the same sounds that I made in my bedroom. When I’m watching the movie, the shit bugged me out.

MM: I thought that was very much in the trip-hop vein. Are you into trip-hop at all?

H: I love Tricky. With me, even if it’s just a little bit, I know a shit ton about all music. You can put me on a fucking music trivia show and I will fuck the game up. I know everything about rap. I know everything about new wave. Everything about punk rock. Everything about old school ’80s hip hop. I’ve got an original 12” of Levi 167 on B-Boy Records. I am that person. I can tell you every fucking indie rock band. There’s no genre, there’s no year, there’s no artist, no sound that I don’t fucking know about. Even in country I love fucking… Who’s the most famous?

MM: Blake Shelton? Keith Urban?

H: Old school, old school.

MM: Willie Nelson? Johnny Cash?

H: Johnny Cash, yeah. Everybody knows Johnny Cash. But like, yeah, Willie Nelson. I know enough to know the legitness behind the music. If I made a country record I wouldn’t be on some bullshit fake Shania Twain shit. Nothing against Shania Twain, she’s the fuck, but, you know what I mean? I know how to be authentic in everything that I do because it’s genuine.

MM: Who did the female vocals on “Moonrise”?

H: It’s a mix of two girls that I used to work with. I just hired two studio versions. I sang it out. I wrote the parts. And I was just like I need a female vocal on it. So, one girl sang too hard and one girl sang too soft. So, I actually mixed them so that the parts that are good soft are prominent and then when they’re too soft is when the hard parts come in. So, if you listen to it, the voices slightly change up and down.

MM: The chorus of “Reaper” reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” Is that an intentional interpolation?

H: I didn’t do it on purpose. The thing about artists, and I actually want to speak on this, it’s a very dangerous thing. Artists listen to music constantly. Artists also naturally come up with stuff. Sometimes you’ll be whistling something that you think you came up with and then [it] ends up turning out to be something that something that, like, you didn’t even realize, oh shit, that’s from that song? Oh, fuck. And then you have situations like fucking Pharrel getting sued by fucking Marvin Gaye just for it sounding a little too close. But all music is inspiration from everything. Everything’s been made already. Everything’s different versions. So, I do like Blue Oyster Cult. But when I was writing that song, that bass like that’s like dododum just made me sing scared to die. I didn’t even know why. I come up with a lyric word and then build on that. The song told me to say scared to die. So, I’m gonna write something in that vein. And then when I made that chorus the piano melody made me go, [sings] fear the reaper. It went with the melody. So, I just kept singing please don’t fear the reaper and it came into the song and then I remembered, oh shit, Blue Oyster Cult has it like that. I could’ve been like, I’m not gonna do that shit, but I was like, why not give them a little nod even though I didn’t come up with it purposely like that.

MM: Your album is on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label and I understand he personally signed you. How did you first meet?

H: I’m from Chicago, so since I was previously trying as Hollywood Holt, I’ve always gotten myself where I need to be in life. I’ve never been the guy who’s asked for hand outs like put me on dog, listen to my song. And I think that Kanye always noticed that because even before I was an artist I was well respected in the streets like nobody can ever tell you I did some sucker shit. Everybody has the utmost respect for me. From the politicians to the biggest gangstas in Chicago. Everybody knows I’m a man that stands on his word and carries himself in a respectable way. I know a lot of Kanye’s homies and they already knew me as being a stand up, legit dude. On top of that, seeing me be successful creating my own universe in music. They took notice to that shit. I’ve always just been around so there’s a mutual respect. And then I just randomly ran into Kanye in New York and we were both in the same bar or whatever and he was just like, yo, I’m going to the studio. He invited us to the studio. He was like, I’m working on this thing with Jay-Z. It was Watch The Throne. He played me the whole album and I was like, holy shit. And actually Rihanna was there, too. So, I was just this little dude chilling in the studio listening to all this fire and then he asked me what I was working on and I actually played him the Amy Winehouse “Back To Black” joint and he totally freaked off of that. It was like history from there. It was just me sending him more music and sending him videos that I was shooting and he was like, OK, and then I got a call like, yo, Kanye wants to sign you and then we just went through the process.

MM: Was there any pressure at all from the label to have guests on the album?

H: There wasn’t any pressure from the label to do any motherfucking thing. I don’t know, it’s interesting being on G.O.O.D Music because on one hand I get to do whatever I want and they leave me alone. I executive produced my own album. And created all my own visuals and did all my own art. I pressed them for an album date. I got it. I’m a very self-contained artist. I don’t need a lot of stuff, so I don’t ask for shit. I also don’t get any calls from anybody. I haven’t seen or physically talked to Kanye in years. It’s all an E-mail here and there. I don’t hear from them. I guess everybody’s too busy but that’s not a bad thing. But it’s an interesting thing, you know? It’s like I would rather this situation than having somebody down my throat every day telling me what I need to do or not do. I just came from that from my last deal. To me, it’s the perfect situation. I make my art the way I want to make it and not have anybody interfere in it.

MM: Do you talk to Pusha T [the label’s president] a lot?

H: Yeah, Pusha I talk to all the time and he’s the man. Like, anything I need, anything I’m working on, anything I’m trying to create, he’s there. And he responds right away. He’s on point. I love Pusha. Pusha, Virgil, all of the dudes, they’re like dope. Pusha’s been in my corner for so long.

MM: You have Kathleen Hanna on “Together.” How did you get connected with her?

H: It was through some random chance. I was working on the record and it just really spoke to me. Like I was saying previously, these songs write themselves. When I wrote the melody I just thought it was gonna be some catchy shit and then when I started putting the guitar on it, I put the power chords on that shit, and it just told me to yell some shit or something or say some shit that I meant. I started writing lyrics out. Like what the fuck would I yell to a crowd if I wanted them to feel some shit, you know? I was just like chanting shit. And then when I wrote it, it was all like straight in your face, this is gonna need somebody on it. It needs to break up. Because it was just me going hell on people non-stop. I came up with just four names that would just kill it. It was Pat Benatar, Kathleen Hanna, Karen O and Debbie Harry. That’s who I heard on the song. But my main goal would be to get Kathleen Hanna, but I just assumed because she’s like such an O.G. in the punk world and she’s such an icon that she wasn’t working with no-fucking-body. I’ve probably got a better chance of getting Lady Gaga than getting Kathleen Hanna. She’s too legit, you know? So, we said, fuck it, let’s try, why not? So, we reached out. I sent out some feelers. And my manager found an e-mail or whatever that had her contact [info] and asked, like, yo, my artist is a monster fan of yours. He made this record that he feels like you would be perfect on. Sent it to her and we got an E-mail right back from her being like, hell yeah, this is awesome. She totally loved it. She thought it was amazing. She was like fuck, yes. And I was scrambling to find money to fly her out to the studio and two days fucking later I didn’t even have time to set it up and she sent me back the parts already. I was thinking it was going to take forever and shit. Fucking, two days, I get the parts back and they were amazing. I was like oh my fucking God. I didn’t change shit. I put everything she sent on the record and I added backgrounds just to tighten it up and boom, we were done. And she didn’t ask me for nothing. She was like, no. She didn’t want to charge me nothing. I told her, I’ll give you whatever the fuck you want. I told her, whatever you want, you’ve got. And she said no, I’m good. So, I split it with her.

MM: She’s famous in part for being a feminist and an activist. Do you consider yourself either of these things?

H: I feel like people should be treated equally. If you’re treating a woman – if you can have a conversation with a person and talk to them one-to-one and you can share the same view or enjoy the same thing, then why does that person need to be treated lesser than you. If I can communicate with you, then what makes me lesser of a person than you are? I don’t know if I’d call myself a feminist because I feel this way about everything. I don’t give a fuck if you’re gay, straight, transsexual, a woman, black, Mexican – everybody should treat people the way they want to be treated themselves. And to me I think that when you put these labels like feminist or racial activist it’s like all of this is bullshit. If you’re like, yo, we’re fighting for gay rights, they’re not gay rights, they’re human rights. They’re normal rights for any human. Just because they have a preference or they have a lifestyle doesn’t mean you should fucking demonize them or take away anything from them that you have. It’s just like civil rights. We’re not saying black lives matter because these are the lives that are getting fucked up. If Asian lives or white lives or any other lives were getting fucked up like more than one, then that’s what we’d be saying. I one hundred percent agree with everything that Kathleen Hanna says because it’s a human right. Why the fuck does a woman get paid less than a man if they’re doing the same fucking job? I think people who do a bad job are the people who should get paid less. If that makes me a feminist then, fuck it, I guess I am a feminist. If it makes me an activist then I guess I’m an activist. One thing I’m never gonna do is not stand on something I believe in. I don’t think anybody should be treated differently based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin, or any personal defects that they have. Even if somebody was born with, you know, down syndrome, or born with a defect or something. You don’t treat that person any differently. Fuck you, you know? So, that’s how I feel. If that makes me whatever, that’s what I am.

MM: What’s the music scene like in Chicago today compared to when you were growing up?

H: It’s a hundred percent more diverse. I feel like I had a very big part in that because it came from the real big party scene of Chicago. Back when I was coming up, I met a girl on My Space, she invited me – she worked at a bar in Chicago called Funky Buddha Lounge – this was the first time ever I’ve been to a bar in my life and she was just a bartender who was like trying to get people to come, you know what I mean? I didn’t know that. I thought she was personally inviting me. So, I get to the bar and they’re telling me I can’t come in. They’re telling me I got to wear all this different shit. I gotta pay a cover. I gotta do all of this stuff. And I was like, why would you even want to come to this place? Also, I didn’t drink at the time. So, I was like what the fuck was the point of this shit? It stunned me about the club scene in Chicago very early on. So, I never went to clubs. And I would always go to these loft parties in Wicker Park before it was like this fucking yuppie ass bullshit. Back in the day it was like the straight up art scene. Hood niggas and, like, artists. Straight up shaving the side of your head, titties out, crazy, beating on your face artists. And there was all these lofts of artists above these stores up and down Milwaukee Avenue. We used to go to parties there and throw parties there non-stop. I started throwing my own parties because I was very popular in every sub-genre. Because I was heavy in the punk scene, all the punk kids would fuck with me mad hard. And because I was an actual nigga from the hood, all the hood niggas would fuck with me, too. And then the hip-hop kids, they would fuck with me. I was plugged in every single social genre. So, I would invite all of these people to my parties, just because they were people I knew, and I didn’t even realize that I was mixing and mingling people that would never talk to each other. This dude with a two and a half foot mohawk talking to hood ass dudes because they were all comfortable enough because of me. They were like, this is my guy Nigel’s party and if he’s here I’m gonna be cool. And I would book Djs like Josh from Flosstradamus and I was always like play Hall & Oates, play fucking Le Tigre, play fucking everything. Play Gucci Mane. Every kind of sound there is, I don’t give a fuck. Whatever people like. And because there were so many styles of people there and everybody liked the music it was always the coolest parties. They ended up becoming so popular that club owners in Chicago started coming to my parties at my crib and coming up to me. One of the first guys to do that was this guy named Arturo who owns a club in Chicago that’s pretty popular. It’s called Underground. He would come to my parties and be like, dude, I want this shit at my club. I’m like oh, word? I was like you can’t have no fucking dress code. You can’t have no fucking twenty dollar cover. You can’t have all of this shit because that makes people not want to come in. He was like cool, do you want to do it on Wednesday? His club started popping so hard that other clubs started following suit. And then it became a big deal. I got hired to be a diversity marketer for a bunch of club companies that booked several clubs and booked all kinds of Djs and it became the norm. It’s a lot easier for people to say they like different kinds of music now. In the ’90s and the early 2000s, if you came on the block talking that you like this rock shit and you’re supposed to be hood, niggas would be like, what the fuck? Now there are no limits. Even the hoodest hood niggas would be like I like rock music, I like Coldplay. It’s not so hard for people to be cool with each other. To be unison. Now all the artists in Chicago are down for each other. Now you’ll see some indie bands at some fucking Lil Durk show. The artists all fuck with each other because we dealt with so much of that hatersville, everybody in Chicago not coming together shit, that all the real O.G.s started being like fuck that. Like, dude, I’m super down for all of the artists in Chicago no matter what gang they’re in or what area they’re from. If you from the Crib, then we tight. The scene in Chicago is actually pretty good. There’s still a lot of fucked up haters. People killing each other and all that, that’s terrible. But as far as like the actual music scene it’s actually really good.

HXLT_HxltAlbumCover_FullRes

HXLT: THE ALBUM COVER

MM: At the end of our interviews we always ask a few random questions. Is that cool?

H: Absolutely.

MM: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

H: Man, that is a great question. Let me think about that. Everyone always asks what’s the first album that influenced you and that’s that Clash Combat Rock album. That was one of the first albums I ever bought. But I think the first album I ever bought was… Like I remember the albums that I remember having an impact on me. And they were like Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti, The Clash Combat Rock and Big L’s one and only album. But I think the first album I ever bought was a Smokey Robinson CD. It was Smokey Robinson’s Greatest Hits, yeah.

MM: What’s the strangest gift you’ve ever received from a fan?

H: Strangest gift I ever received from a fan? I’ve never been that famous yet. Oh, no, no, no. This one dude gave me a pair of spray painted jeans. That was weird. They were like really too big and just weird. I feel like some people just want to give you shit that they’ve got at their house that they just don’t want no more. [Both laugh] They just want to do something with you. They just want to have some sort of interaction so they’re like, here are my pants. This guy gave me his old pants.

MM: I know you have a lot of tattoos. Could you tell us the story behind a couple of them?

H: Awe, man, there’s like so many. I have like a million tattoos. I’m trying to think. I never got a tattoo based off of — ooo, ooo, ooo, I have a really good one actually. I was in Miami for this Miami Music Winter Conference and I was having diner with a very close friend of mine, Caleb Gauge – he owns the company Overthrow and they build like big parties in LA for Coachella and in Miami and all over the country. He’s a really close friend of mine and we were having lunch, me, him and his girl, and I was dealing with some whack shit and he was like this too shall pass. And I was like, that’s a dope fucking line. And he was like you know where that’s from? And he told me the story of King Solomon. Have you ever heard that story about the ring?

MM: I vaguely recall it. I read the Bible when I was much younger.

H: Well, the basis of the story is the King sends Solomon out to find a ring that made the biggest king sad and then the poorest person happy, some dope shit like that. The ring said this too shall pass, meaning no matter what you’re going through, whether it’s good or bad, it will end at some point. You see what I mean? It really hit me. And, no joke, after we ate dinner I was a DJ at this great house I had my gig at and there happened to be a tattoo artist doing tattoos during the party. And so I literally got it on my chest like an hour later.

MM: I’ll ask you one more question because I believe you have another interview at five.

H: [Laughs]

MM: Do you listen to music in any foreign languages?

H: That is the awesomest question ever. You know why?

MM: Why?

H: I used to be obsessed with foreign language hip-hop. When I was like a heavy, heavy MC, like super underground hip-hop, I would try to find like every compilation CD of foreign rap. I got this compilation CD from Sam Goody that had fucking French rap and Japanese rap. I love Japanese rap because I remember the first time I heard dope Japanese rap was “Long Island Wildin” by De La Soul. And I memorized that shit and could spit it like I spoke Japanese. I just loved foreign rap music. There’s an artist from Spain named Janette who’s super raw. Anything that sounds good to me, I’ll listen to even if I don’t speak the language. I listen to all music.

MM: There’s a few French rappers I was wondering in particular if you like. One guy’s called Mc Solaar.

H: Yeah, yeah, yeah – he’s dope.

MM: Do you know Stomy Bugsy?

H: No.

MM: He’s really good. You should check him out, he’s on Spotify in the U.S.

H: There’s a group from France. They have a record I love. While I was there, my good friend his homies are from Sexion d’Assaut. I actually did like a freestyle dance routine like working out to it and I put it on You Tube.

MM: Do you know Supreme NTM? They’re like this cool collective.

H: It’s Supreme NTM?

MM: Yeah, the NTM stands for motherfucker. Literally the translation is nique ta mère, which means fuck your mother. Some of those guys are in jail now, I believe. They even did these albums where one guy was versus another because they hated each other or something.

H: [Laughs] They had these tracks on the same album?

MM: Yeah.

H: That’s genius [Laughs]

MM: It was like a rap battle on an album.

H: That’s incredible.

MM: Yeah, you should check them out. They’re on Spotify.

H: I will do so.

Special thanks to HXLT for taking the time to do this interview and to Ryan at Biz3 for setting it up!

Connect with HXLT:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/HXLTMUSIC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HXLT-85199705095/

Buy HXLT on Amazon.

Listen to HXLT on Spotify.

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Written by

Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

1 Comment to “An Exclusive Interview with HXLT, Formerly Hollywood Holt”

  1. DJ says:

    I liked his Hollywood Holt stuff, but this new stuff is great, too. He sounds like a very energetic, passionate guy and that shows more in the new punk kind of songs. I don’t get why he had to change his name to HXLT. Why couldn’t he just go by HOLT so people would know it’s him. People are gonna see HXLT and probably have no idea it’s him. I wouldn’t have unless I came across this interview.

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