Though he never joined the Aftermath roster in an official capacity, some of Xzibit’s best work was crafted under the guidance of Dr. Dre. Prior to his involvement on 2001, Xzibit’s first two albums At The Speed Of Life and 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz solidified him as one of the west coast's most formidable young lyricists. With a battle rapper's intensity and a rugged sense of technical prowess, X quickly found himself in the Good Doctor’s trusted circle. Following the legendary Up In Smoke Tour (which yielded no shortage of amazing stories) Restless emerged with the biggest single of his career, the dark banger “X.” Earning himself critical acclaim and a hip-hop cult classic beneath his belt, X began work on his fourth studio album Man Vs. Machine. 

Once again executive produced by Dr. Dre, who provided production on two tracks and mixing engineer credits on seven, Man Vs. Machine emerged at the peak of Xzibit’s musical popularity. His work on Restless had ushered him from an acclaimed underground presence to a household name, an equal affiliate to Snoop Dogg, Dre, Eminem, and his Golden State Project groupmates Ras Kass and Saafir. With Man Vs. Machine, Xzibit continued to build on the foundation of its predecessor, albeit with a slight gaze toward a more futuristic aesthetic; such qualities were largely realized by Rick Rock, who contributed production on tracks like “Symphony In X Major” and “Break Yourself.” 

Official Artist Artwork

Though some have falsely attributed lead single “Multiply” to Dre, the infectious West Coast banger was actually laced by D12’s Mr. Porter, also known as Kon Artis. Featuring a memorable hook from the reliant Nate Dogg, “Multiply” found X riding the groove with notable confidence, his swagger at an all-time high. “Stacked with the wealth that you can't take with you,” he raps in the closing verse. “Long-range missile, if we got issues, I’ma squeeze this shit and nobody gon' miss you.” The edge is kept on the Dre-laced “Losin’ Your Mind,” which finds X riding another ominous banger from his trusted collaborator. Likewise on the MOP-assisted “BK To LA,” an unexpected geographical pairing produced by Ty Fyffe; closer in flavor to the former, X holds it down for Los Angeles with a brilliantly played road game. There’s even a spiritual successor to “Don’t Approach Me” in his fifth official Eminem collaboration “My Name.” 

Yet some of the album’s finest moments find X operating in isolation. The somber introduction “Release Date” flips Mobb Deep’s “Quiet Storm,” as X weaves a reflection of a prison stint on its last legs. Conceptual and delivered with conviction, Man Vs. Machine begins on an eerily bleak note, albeit one heavy with promise. The ridiculously bawdy “Choke Me Spank Me Pull My Hair” is another highlight, unapologetically pornographic fantasies delivered with a laid-back, pimpish cadence. Fans of early X classics like “Plastic Surgery” and “Three Card Molly” will no doubt appreciate the Golden State Reunion on “Harder,” a bouncy follow-up to the emotional, Toto-sampling “Heart Of Man.” If there’s anything keeping Man Vs. Machine from unmitigated greatness, it might very well be the inconsistent hooks. Slight blemishes aside, X’s fourth studio album is an insanely listenable, crisply mixed, and nostalgic reminder of a classic musical era.