For some of us the year 2020 was a time for rediscovery. Amidst the uncertainty and feeling of hopelessness people found time to reflect, learn and also experiment with new ideas. The lockdown was fortuitous for many including YOUNG XAV, who used the accidental free time to begin writing music for his sophomore album, Dead By Dawn
As the Covid-19 pandemic emabrked on its world tour, shutting down Wuhan, Paris, London and other major cities across the world. YOUNG XAV knew the moment was perfect for him to finally start the creative process for the album he conceptualized several years ago. It’s an album he knew the world needed to hear.
“I began writing this album when faced with the same concerns the rest of the world had at the time. It came from a place of helplessness, in a time where it felt like the world was coming to an end,” he tells Creative.
The album, which is a follow up to his debut album After Dark finds him dealing with increasingly haunted thoughts of mortality. This reality may be too much for most artists to conceive, but XAV’s succes thrives off real life experiences and vivid storytelling. The Chicago native brings a refreshingly honest approach to his latest album serving up his vulnerability and woes in a platter.
“Dead By Dawn” sees the 24-year-old rapper get more introspective and personal than fans have come to expect from him, detailing his fears on the album’s title track and his battle with immense guilt on the album’s lead single “Mess I’ve Made.”
Heartbreak is a centerpiece of the LP. When aksed why he took this approach with Dead By Dawn, XAV replied candidly about how the album’s underlying theme mirrors that of ‘The Great Gasby’; “I think chasing love shares a lot of parallels to chasing the impossible. As human beings, it is in our nature to want more. To want the unobtainable. I believe being a hopeless romantic just personifies that goal and channels that pursuit into a single person. If we could obtain “that person”, we could obtain anything else we desire.”
What makes his music so thrilling is his self-awareness. YOUNG XAV exercises undeniable depth throughout the entire album. Take for instance “Secondhand Smoker,” a double-entendre song that explores the idea of a toxic relationship and guilt. Beyond that, he battles with his own mortality on “Lemonade On A Porch.”
“Dear you, wrote you this song in fear I’ll die with secrets/ It’s far from your fault. Just couldn’t bare to witness this disaster,” he croons sorrowfully.
The album is vaguely depressing in so many ways and I wondered a times if it was intentionally recorded to invoke a reaction from listeners. XAV’s music is relatable and to an extent a reflection of his childhood traumas, and as someone who had to deal with his own share of challenges and vulnerabilities, Dead By Dawn captures XAV’s steady progression of feelings and enduring struggles with reality.
However those vulnerabilities comes with a price that can be mentally exhausting and XAV is done. The Chicago rapper considers this album his Thanos after the snap moment. He has accomplished his set out goal and is now ready to recline somewhere far away where he can enjoy the Sun rise with a lemonade in hand.
Despite the album’s gloomy nature it still makes for an interesting listen. On “Life And Times Of Xavier Robert” he puts listeners into his shoes and narrates his adventures with a woman on the inebriated “Faded In Manhattan.”
“So this is like about a girl, see how sweet she is, this is based on true events, partially,” he says on the song’s intro.
On the album we are offered a little bit of everything about his life. XAV is able to convey his raw emotions without over flogging it. The final track “World’s Gone Mad” discusses his mistakes but with a more forgiving approach.
“An SOS wrote out to you, hearts and minds be trouble too/ Taste the rain, face the pain/ I don’t mind, I’m just a little bit lost.”
“Dead By Dawn” does exactly what it’s intended to do, it allows YOUNG XAV to tell his story from the shackles of his trauma. YOUNG XAV took us on a journey into his twisted mind and it’s as sick just as it’s intriguing.
Revisit the album below.