Interview: Xtaci (Grand Hustle)
By Kandis Knight
Part 1 of 4
It’s been nearly decade since the day fifteen year-olds Bola Akanni (a.k.a. Bola) and Jennifer Willis (a.k.a. Sunshine) sat restless in a 9th Grade English class in inner city Atlanta. Having many things in common, including both having recently relocated to Atlanta from Decatur with their families, these pint-sized young phenoms had a mission since day one.
As Hip-Hop versus, often Tupac and Outkast, flowed through their creative, young minds and fell from their tender lips, school became more and more a distraction. They both knew what they were destined for. . . Hip-Hop was their passion. As the teacher matched students together to work on a class project, she matched Akanni with Willis. This is where Grand Hustle’s adored, yet often misunderstood “femhop” duo Xtaci was born.
Xtaci is not what or who you think, a lot has changed. With a dense catalogue and polished features with top shelf artists such as Young Joc, Lil’ Scrappy, Princess (Crime Mob) and more, their upcoming Mix Cd hosted by DJ Drama and their debut album will prove they have grown into women while patiently waiting in the glaring spotlight of ATL’s Grand Hustle camp.
Often in the shadows however close to T.I., the King, they are apart of ATL's royal family for a good reason, in time you will understand. Soon music industry insider’s will begin cosigning as they emerge from the sidelines and head for center stage. “People underestimate these ladies, so they are the underdogs and I always fucks with the underdogs. They got a bunch of surprises for your asses, their music is fly and they were well groomed for this, this is their year!” explains veteran DJ and record breaker Bigga Rankin.
It is true, Xtaci is different from many girl groups in this manufactured era of Making of The Band. They have been tried by fire and proven that in the face of tribulation, they remain head strong keeping their label mates encouraged while waving the battle flag through the label’s most turbulent time.
The one thing that stands out most about Xtaci these days is that these ravishing ATL cele-butants are all grown up, and have grown close to each other through the process that refined their skills and their business savvy. Their unity is often demonstrated by the way the pair repeat after each other, often finishing the other’s sentences, they know exactly what they want to say and they find a way to say it together, through their music as well as in their real lives. They are a dual power on one accord.
“We have seen a lot.” They repeat over and over again and laugh, they bubble with excitement. They also admit they have grown into women while carefully being groomed by T.I.’s Grand Hustle family. “People don’t realize it but there wasn’t even a Grand Hustle when we first got with the guys, it was all of us, together rolling PSC,” proudly Bola pounds her fist on the table and smiles, her Southern accent is melodic, her personality magnetic. “And there was no studio back then. The studio was in Tip and Jay’s apartment,” laughter erupts. The entire restaurant is empty. I wonder if it was arranged.
Sunshine sits up to explain. “Back then people thought they were using us, you know, they heard we were down with Pimp Squad Click and they didn’t know, you know? But they raised us right. They used to tell us everything we needed to know, they would always tell us, “fuck them niggas!”
Bola adds, “Even though we saw what they did with women, we sat back and watched everything and learned.”
“They taught us how to be women. They taught us, this is how we treat women that act like that, so if you don’t want to get treated like that, don’t act like that. Kuntry, Dro, Mac Boney, they watched us grow as women from little fifteen year olds to now. When they met us we wasn’t even having sex,” explains Sunshine.
Through the year’s rapper Young Dro, developed the closest relationship with the ladies, and Grand Hustle’s super nova, Hannah Kang has also played an integral role in developing Xtaci as a product but also as strong women who have to fight insurmountable odds to make it in Hip-Hop.
Watching them sip their shots of Patron at the uber-chic Pearl Restaurant in Downtown Atlanta, their presence speaks volumes, these two ladies, who are very well the Queens of ATL’s Hip-Hop scene are cool under pressure and they are fun loving, light spirited down to earth Georgia peaches. “Just call me Miss Patron,” laughs Bola. Everyone can agree, Xtaci has a busy year ahead of them and the good thing is they are ready to make us all believers.
And in an industry where females are often shelved and duos crumble under the pressure, this duo vows to bring the heat in 08’ and emphasize their friendship is more important than stardom. “The Crime Mob girls look up to the girls (Xtaci). The girls will have longevity in this industry. Not only rapping, they will definitely branch into commercials, movies, you name it. Their new music is very grown and sexy! Now the world can get to see Xtaci in their full potential and I'll be there every step of the way,” said their quasi-manager and Bola’s sister, Shay Akanni.
“I have watched them involve from young girls to grown women. The experiences they been through have only made them stronger. . . they will be huge stars. They have always been stars and always very talented, that was the one thing that Jason seen in them. They are very different, their style is different as well as their music. It’s always about timing when it comes to super stars.”
The first thing fans will notice, is that Bola and Sunshine have truly come of age and regardless of all of the drama their new album has many features that are upbeat party starters. Their catalogue proves not many women in the industry are on their level. They have hundreds of hits stashed and their sound is unique and even groundbreaking. If you want an inside peek into their lives, make sure you check out their Youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/bossbola) if you don’t believe me. They are reality television already and have even been offered some reality television opportunities. This year, we will all witness the X Girlz step out from the shadows, their swagger speaks clearly, it is their time to shine, much like the day they met T.I.
To be continued.....