Show & Prove: BigXThaPlug
Words: Peter A. Berry
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

The beginning of BigXThaPlug’s rap career included a humble exercise in multitasking. Months removed from writing his first raps in a jail cell, he hustled to provide for his growing family. He’d ask customers to evaluate his earliest songs while working in a makeshift hotel room trap house. “I was telling people, ‘Hey, you can buy this, but listen to this,’” BigX remembers. “Tell me if this is good.’”

These days, bandos have transformed into full-fledged recording studios, concert venues and even his own home on the outskirts of the 25-year-old rapper’s native Dallas, where he’s currently handling this interview. His feedback comes in the form of stellar album reviews, growing monthly streams and TikTok videos featuring his music, signs of a dream in full bloom.

Since unloading his debut project, Bacc From the Dead, in 2020, BigXThaPlug has used a charcoal bass voice, witty charisma and a knack for vivid storytelling to become a new face of Texas street rap. The Dallas native’s video for his 2022 track “Texas” has collected over 19 million YouTube views, while the song has earned over 39 million Spotify streams.

Then there’s “Whip It,” a cut from the deluxe edition of his 2023 album, Amar, which could be on its way to reaching similar marks. The #WhipItChallenge—a new viral dance trend that features BigX’s song—is surging on TikTok. Recently, he even cashed in on his growing stardom by completing the Don’t Mess With Texas Tour, a trek traveling across the U.S.

“It is cool to see people other than the people in my state messing with me,” BigX says. “But other than that, everything really just the same.” He appreciates the recognition, but as a former football star from the Lone Star State, he’s used to Friday Night Lights-esque attention. As the hot-headed son of two street-dwellers, he’s also grown accustomed to a life of extremes.

At the age of 4 or 5, BigX, born Xavier Landum, remembers his mother holding him on her hip as she shot at a would-be thief in an attempted robbery. “Mama was a gangsta,” he says matter-of-factly. BigX calls his mother his best friend, while his dad was the disciplinarian. Their approach to parenthood was different, but BigX remembers them exposing him to their favorite music. He’d cruise around with his father in an old-school Cadillac, with classics from the Isley Brothers serving as their father-son theme music. BigX’s mom was from Houston, so she would play him UGK, and then some Drake and Lil Wayne. What he wasn’t a fan of was school.

By the time BigX was in second or third grade, he was already skipping classes, which led him to relocate to live with his father in Commerce, Texas at 9. When he wasn’t avoiding the classroom, BigX was getting into fights inside them. Luckily, he found football. “That was just away for me to get out a lot of aggression,” BigX recalls.

Eventually, his gridiron skills combined with a 6-foot-2, then-315-pound frame earned the attention of Division 1 football scouts. He became a student enrolled at Minnesota’s Crown College in 2016, after graduating from Ferris High School that same year. However, while there, he began selling weed to students, and eventually, police found the product in his dorm room, and he was given a ticket and kicked out of the school. BigX admits he didn’t care at first and even planned to pursue football someday. But he needed a job, and 9-to-5s weren’t his thing. He’d never held a regular gig for more than four or five months. “I never even filed taxes,” he notes.

Unfortunately, that aversion to the legal economy led the rapper to provide in different ways. After a period of robbing drug dealers, BigX ended up in jail after being arrested on an aggravated robbery warrant just before he turned 18. When he violated his probation a little over two years later, he landed right back in. But the rhymer missed his son’s first birthday this time, triggering an outburst that landed BigX in solitary confinement. There, he battled disappointment and boredom. “I was counting the bricks on the wall,” BigX details. “When I counted the bricks on the wall like a third time, I was like, Hell nah.”

Through the walls, he’d ask inmates how they passed the time. Some said poetry, but the term was a little too flowery for BigX, so he clung to a more palatable idea: being a rapper. Using a jail-issued medical form called a med line for medicinal requests, BigX wrote his first raps. Once out of jail about two years later, he returned to his hustle with renewed purpose and plans to become an artist. He paid for studio time with trap money and recorded the songs that would become his Bacc From the Dead mixtape.

After winning a contest that earned him free video direction from local video production crew HalfPintFilmz, he broke out with “Mr. Trouble,” the visual for which has gathered over 2 million YouTube views since being released in 2021. Around that same time, music distributor UnitedMasters came calling, and BigX was able to leave the streets behind. Thus far, the returns have been promising, with an upcoming joint tour with Kevin Gates being the latest fruits of BigX’s labor.

“[BigX is] extremely intelligent,” says Ebony Hadley, Director of Digital Marketing at UnitedMasters. “You mix that with the way he grew up and his passions and the type of music he listened to and the type of music he puts out, you just create a monster—in a good way.”

For now, BigX is focused on The Biggest EP, which arrived Dec. 1, and features subject matter more befitting of his current lifestyle. “Right now, we have convos to buy real estate, and [about] how we flipping our money and not just spending it,” he shares.

His newest hit, “Mmhmm,” samples the Whispers’ 1979 classic song “And the Beat Goes On.” Will Smith's own 1997 smash “Miami” also sampled The Whispers' track, which BigX's track is reminiscent of. BigXthaPlug makes his first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on Dec. 12 with “Mmhmm” debuting at No. 93.

The glitz of emerging rap stardom has moved BigX far from the trap, but he’s holding onto the notion that he’s still the same person inside. “I’m not a different guy,” he offers. “I don’t act different. My surroundings are still the same because I didn’t change. Nobody around me changed.” There’s only one slight difference: “We just got a little more money now.”

Get the bag.


Read BigXthaPlug's interview in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Latto and conversations with Killer Mike, Flo MilliDD OsamaMaiya The DonMonaleoMello BuckzzSexyy Red, plus more. Additionally, there's an exclusive interview with Fetty WapQuality Control Music's Coach K and P discuss 10 years into the label's growth, in-depth stories on the popularity of sampling in hip-hop in 2023 and the state of hip-hop touring, and the best moments of hip-hop's year-long 50th anniversary celebration.

See Photos From Latto's XXL Magazine Winter 2023 Cover Story

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