Born Identity: One One Ten is an assertive statement from D.C.?s X.O.

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There’s never been a dearth of hip-hop talent in D.C.—only of hip-hop identity. Few local acts have developed a hip-hop aesthetic unique to D.C., one that translates the rich language of go-go but doesn’t over-rely on it. Enter X.O., an ’80s baby and thoughtful street lyricist with a string of well-received mixtapes and a full-length album with local supergroup Diamond District under his belt. One. One. Ten, his second proper full-length for Studio 43 (the area label that first put out Wale), plays like a stream-of-consciousness love letter to D.C.—quite literally, in fact, in the case of “City Loves Me Back,” a checklist of the city’s underground and black touchstones, from graffiti legend Cool “Disco” Dan and mambo sauce to one-time drug kingpin Cornell Jones and the legendary go-go venue Ibex. Go-go, you might think, would be a logical soundtrack for X.O.’s producers, who both came of age in crack-era D.C. But beats provided by AB and Diamond District’s Oddisee never explicitly touch that near-cliché. Like so many D.C. residents, both clearly have that conga thump burnt into their subconsciousness, and their percussion plods with a distinctively awkward go-go swing, cluttered but always cranking. They’ve also absorbed the city’s schizophrenic taste in hip-hop, fusing the synth buzz of current-day rap radio, the trunk rattle of the South, and the slop of post-J. Dilla underground hip-hop into something delicate and ethereally warm. Many influences are present, but none are defining or overbearing; it’s hip-hop production as a whisper. X.O.’s strengths are similarly subtle. He’s a storyteller with an eye for minutiae, be it in the cautionary fame tale of “Lime Light” or the Afrobeat-tinged ballad-cum-childhood-flashback “She ’Posed To.” Even his sex raps on the Raheem Devaughn–assisted lead single “Take Home” are cemented by small details about the lighting and soundtrack. Occasionally, he falls back on too-familiar rapper stereotypes, like bemoaning invisible haters and slipping an unironic clothes/ho’s rhyme into one hook. When he showboats, GZA-style, with the celebrity-wordplay track “Black Broadway” (“phones tapped like Gregory Hines,” “selling that Gil Scott Heron,” etc.), it almost seems beneath his skill level: His talents are best put to painting landscapes—like, uh, Bob Ross. One. One. Ten is probably too laid-back and insular to break nationally, but it is a very solid statement. X.O. doesn’t need to provide a hip-hop identity for the city as a whole; with One. One. Ten he has fully asserted his own.