Hailing from the east side of Memphis, 20-year-old Xavier Wulf (formerly known as Ethelwulf) is a man of many aliases and styles. When he emerged on the scene with his debut mixtape in 2012, The Wolf Gang's Rodolphe, his delivery was reminiscent to vintage Three 6 Mafia and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. But over the course of this year, he’s embraced a more melodic and nonchalant flow that is less dark and dated.
Xavier Wulf (also known as The Black Blood Alpha, Wulf the 14th Squad Captain, The Frozen Fang, and many more monikers) gained notoriety as part of the Raider Klan, an underground rap collective founded by Miami artist SpaceGhostPurrp. He left the group this summer due to creative differences and decided to establish his own musical blueprint. This is evident on his latest body of work, Sitting Wulf, a seven-song EP that’s relatively different from some of his earlier releases as a member of Raider Klan.
Although he's in the early stages of his career, he’s already performing paid gigs in places like California and San Antonio and has even been sought out by major labels such as Interscope Records, an entity that snagged fellow East Memphis representative, Don Trip, in 2011.
Xavier Wulf talked about how he got into rapping, what caused him to leave Raider Klan, his hate for every rap song on the radio, his appreciation for marijuana, what he honestly thinks about artists like Chief Keef, and much more.
Can you briefly tell me a little about your upbringing in East Memphis?
East Memphis coming up, it was in-between. It wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad. We had good times and crazy times. I had a few good friends growing up that made everything cool. They came to my house. We’d jump on the bikes, play outside, play basketball or whatever. It was cool.
How important was music to you when you were growing up?
It was important to me. I never thought I’d be rapping at all. I just really like music. I liked bobbing my head to a beat when it came on the radio. I liked doing that a lot. I love music, but I never thought I’d be doing it.
So what did you think you’d be doing as a career?
Probably being a photographer or something, because I’m good with pictures and Photoshop. I used to play with that a lot in middle school and high school. I thought I’d do something with that.
What initially sparked your interest in rap?
In middle school, I was at my cousin’s house and he had a Bone Thugs mixed CD with a bunch of songs on there. “Crossroads” was on there. “Resurrection” (Paper, Paper). Then he had this song called “The Righteous Ones” that was on there. It was a bunch of their albums mixed on the CD. I heard that, and I had never heard them before. Them folks’ music just did something to me. I just liked them so much. I went home, looked up all the lyrics, and learned all the songs. Bizzy Bone was my favorite. I just used to spend hours learning Bone Thugs songs, but I still didn’t think I would be rapping. I just wanted to learn all that for me.
So when did you officially go from listening to and learning rap songs to actually trying your hand at music?
Eleventh grade. I was at home chilling and one of my friends, he was trying to do some music, and he had this friend who had this studio in Cordova. We went there, and we ended up doing a song. We were just playing around. And I was like, ‘okay, I like how that sound a lil’ bit.’ Then the next time we went back, I tried a little bit harder. Then the next time, a little bit harder.
[Last year] rolled around. I got my own studio equipment at my house. I just started doing my own stuff. That’s when I did my first mixtape, The Wolf Gang's Roldophe. That was all me by myself. That’s when I started taking it for real.
Tell me the origin behind the name Ethelwulf. And why did you change it to Xavier Wulf?
I just recently started using my real name, Xavier, but back in the day, I pulled that. “Ethel” means noble. I just really liked the way that sounded at the time, and then the wolf is my favorite animal, so “noble wolf.” That’s how I looked at it. ‘I’ll roll with that,’ but then as I got older and started growing with my music and getting more into it mentally, I said I’m going to start using my real name. I’m still Ethelwulf but I’m Xavier Wulf.
[Ethelwulf is also the name of the king of Wessex, a kingdom in southwest England, in the mid-800s]
Although you’re from Memphis, I first learned of you through your work with Raider Klan. How’d you link up with them?
Back in 2012, when I got my studio equipment, the first song I recorded was this song called “1st Chapta of tha Phonk.” I did that song, put it out, and this girl named Amber London who was already in the Raider Klan, she heard it, because she followed me on Twitter. When she heard it, she hit me in the [direct message] and was like ‘I mess with that.’ I was like, ‘Oh, fasho. Thank you.’ Then we had a mutual agreement to do a collab next time. A few days later, me and her ended up doing our song called “Trillanation.” That was on my first mixtape. We did that and then after that, this other Raider Klan member named Key Nyata caught onto my music. He started messing with me. He liked my stuff. Key Nyata was like, ‘I’m going to show SpaceGhostPurrp this stuff.’ They showed Purrp or whatever, and then a month went by and then Purrp hit me up. He was like, ‘I mess with yo stuff. You’re invited into the fam if you want to rep it.’ I got into the Klan and then started going from there. Everything started spinning off.
How did joining Raider Klan change your career and life?
My Twitter used to be real boring, like nothing, and then I just started getting folks tweet me all the time, follow me all the time, and tell me how good my stuff was. Shortly after me and Amber did our song, I dropped my first mixtape, which was The Wolfgang’s Rodolphe. People liked the tape so much. They just went crazy. And I blew from that. Everybody was just telling me I was the best. I was this and that. I started getting free clothes. Later on that summer, we went to California and did a show with Trash Talk, which is Odd Future’s band. I met OF, and I became real cool with Left Brain.
After that summer passed, the whole last year, 2012, August, September, I was just going back to Cali, doing something, just working. I had my first big show on Halloween last year in San Antonio. It was my first show actually getting paid a lot and traveling to a show. That was fun. I went with my friend Chris Travis.
A couple months ago, you and SpaceGhostPurrp exchanged words on Twitter as a result of your decision to leave the group. What exactly influenced your decision to leave Raider Klan?
Just like little personal issues with some of the Klan. We cool now. We squashed all the beef or whatever. When I left, I didn’t intend to stir nothing up. I was just like, ‘I’m departing. I’m doing my own thing.’ Raider Klan is cool. They’re doing their thing. I just need to eat off my own plate. I couldn’t grow as much as I had the potential to and wanted to stuck under that right there. And then there were just some other little minor problems within the Klan. I just had to get away from it to better myself. Purrp was the only one who really made a big deal out of it. Everyone else was chill. At the time when I left, he was just on Twitter going ham. But that’s just how Purrp is. I know what type of person he is.
Do you see yourself collaborating with them looking forward, or are you just solely focused on your own music?
I’m focused on my own stuff right now, but if one of them came to me with a project, like they want to collab on something, I wouldn’t be like ‘nope’. I’d do it. We’re all still cool and their music’s good. So I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll work with ya’ll. I fuck with that.’
Would you ever consider rejoining Raider Klan?
So being in the group was kind of holding you back creatively?
Yeah, a little bit. The whole Raider Klan sound, image or whatever, old 90s, dark or whatever, which was like real Three 6 Mafia-influenced or whatever, and that’s cool. I had that locked in, but as an artist, I just want to try different stuff and branch out. For the stuff that I do now and what I wanted to do back then that I do now, it just conflicted. It was like a box that I was low-key stuck in. And I had to just get out off it.
What are your thoughts on rappers out nowadays?
I don’t listen to nobody else really. I hate all these rappers. I hate every last one of them on the radio. I don’t fuck with none of them. I don’t listen to none of them. I listen to my fellow underground artists. I got a list of them. I listen to them, because they keep it real. We’re all coming up together. And I’ve been cool with most of them for over a year now. That mainstream stuff just gets on my nerves. They don’t rap about nothing but Louis [Vuitton] belts, Gucci this, Gucci that, poppin’ a Choppa [Ak-47], strippers … bruh, I don’t want to hear none of that stuff. I don’t do none of that.
In your music, you’ve criticized people for being quick to shoot somebody rather than fight them. How do you feel about the rap artists who heavily glorify violence in their music?
I can't mess with it. Chief Keef out here, every song he’s talking about guns. And then he’s got these young niggas out here thinking that’s cool, and now they’re clapping each other. Like the Lil’ JoJo nigga that got [killed]. Like that shit, I can’t fuck with that nigga just because all of that dumb shit he’s on. Like Chief Keef, I don’t wanna be in the room with that nigga. I don’t want to eat chips, none of that shit with that nigga. Nothing. I just don’t like folks like that.
On another note, I noticed that you’re into Japanese symbolism and anime, and you’ve used that in some of your mixtape art and videos? How long have you had a fascination with the Japanese culture?
Since I was a kid, because I love Kung fu. Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li. Their movies were just so live. And how peaceful they be, the clothes they wore, and how they just live life. It was always so clean to me and just so neat to me. It just made me feel at ease, because it’s just so simple compared to how it is out here where it’s rugged, it’s rough, and people are how they are. And then like Japanese, Chinese people, just Asians in general, they’re smart people. They’re real peaceful. They’ve got a lot of wisdom. You can learn a lot from them. I learned how to basically live life from Japanese movies. It’s just so simple. Just do right. Don’t start shit. Chill. Do what you need to do to survive, and mind your business. That’s what they always portrayed. Jackie Chan didn’t ever go looking for a fight. Fools just always came to him and he’d whoop them and go on about his day.
Listening to your songs, it’s evident that you have a strong appreciation for marijuana. Does weed make it easier for you to create music?
I’ve never recorded a song sober. I’ll tell you like that. Every song you’ve ever heard from me, I done hit something. Music is so much better to me when I’m high off marijuana. It’s just something about it. I don’t know if it’s just for me or if it works for other folks.
How long does it take you to create your music?
It just depends. If I’m trying to do like something really quick, and I know exactly what I want to do prior to recording, I go in, do it, and it probably takes about a hour. But if I’m just starting from scratch, I’m just like coming up with stuff as I go. It may take like three hour, all day if I stop and go back and do something.
How often do you write lyrics and record?
I have the studio at the crib, so it’s whenever I feel like it. It’s got to a point now where it’s harder for me to even write lyrics. Sometimes I say the best stuff when I freestyle, but I’ll never remember it. I’ll be in the car just snapping and soon as I’m through, I’ll try and remember something I want to remember, and I’ll just forget it. So what I started doing is, when I hear a beat, I’ll put up the stuff for the recorder and then I’ll play the beat again and then record a freestyle. That way I’ll get the fresh stuff right off then. Sometimes I might write if it’s necessary. I used to write a lot. This summer, I just started this freestyling.
Who are you listening to right now?
I’m listening to Chris Travis. Black Kray. T-Bo. I’m listening to these Swedish kids named Sad Boys, and I’m always listening to my boy Young God. He tells the truth. He don’t lie about nothing. See I love that telling the truth shit. If I can listen to your music and go, ‘yup, that’s applicable, yup that can happen, yup, I can believe that’ then I’m in. If I can relate to it, I’m with it.
When you’re not making music, what are you doing?
I am eating or watching Cartoon Network. Or I’m with my fools out in the street somewhere. Or if not doing that, smoking, of course but I really don’t have to say that.
Although you’re an independent artist, do you desire to go mainstream, since you’re an independent artist?
I wouldn’t have a problem taking it mainstream, but it’s going to have to be how I do it because I’ve been with Interscope. They done did that: flying a nigga out and buying everything, putting me in a big studio and everything, but what they want you to do is, they put you in all that right there, get you whatever you want to eat, smoke, and they be like, ‘Look, I got these beats. Check them out.’ Whack ass beats! But they want you to use those beats, because those are the label’s producers’ beats. There's a lot that goes with it. I know the whole system. They can’t play me. That’s why I’m just chilling underground.
Who are some artists you would like to work with looking forward in your career?
Curren$y. I mess with Spitta. He’s not one of those rappers that rap about none of that crazy stuff. He tells the real story. Every time I listen to him, I'm imagining what he's going through. I would like to work with Lil’ B. Based God come on so we can make that heat.