The smell of cheesesteaks and the promise of the Philadelphia winter provided the perfect background as the ladies of XSO nestled in a Sprinter van that doubled as home for more than a month. They laughed, joked, and reflected on their first tour opening for Monica, and looked forward to their first release and beyond. Jaz, Mia and Paije were brought together by management, which includes industry veteran Devyne Stephens, who was instrumental in developing Usher, Alicia Keys, and Akon into superstars and household names. The high-energy young ladies of XSO are carefully following the blueprints to launch themselves into the same category.
While most girl groups are instantly compared to the likes of SWV, Destiny’s Child, TLC and others, XSO has a different trio in mind when it comes to comparisons: Bell Biv DeVoe. The ladies liken themselves to the New Edition offshoot because of the amount of energy that pours into their songs and their onstage performance, which re-creates a party-like environment that the ladies correlate with BBD. The group’s initial releases, “Why Not?” and “It’s Whatever,” offer that “hip-hop smoothed out on the R&B tip” the boys from Boston broke free with, and it seems extremely natural to who these young ladies are.
Not being lifelong friends doesn’t affect the group’s chemistry; in fact, their diverse backgrounds seem to enhance the dynamic between the young ladies. Jaz is an Atlanta native and fresh out of Georgia State University, while Mia, though a native of Atlanta, comes to the group from New York, where she was pursuing a career as a model. Paije joins the group from Detroit, where she was a budding fashion designer, adding a Midwestern appeal to the mix. Their influences are as varied as their geographic origins—they list Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Drake, Shania Twain, Madonna, Missy Elliott, Brandy, and Monica as their influences, which thrown together creates the gumbo that is XSO.
The ladies have been recording almost non-stop, putting together both and EP and their debut album, which they hope to have out by the summer. As they continue to learn one another and how their voices meld together, the music will reflect that growth and the commonality of women their age. They’re going to sing about new love and heartbreak, independence, and moments of loneliness, and give attitude along the way. But there will always be a lot of love, hence the name, a play on the universal shorthand for hugs and kisses.
Being out on the road with a veteran like Monica has given XSO an education in the business that many new acts don’t get so soon into their career; each night, each new city provided a learning experience in how to prepare for shows, dealing with the different types of crowds, playing to near-empty venues some nights and having to entertain a full house the next. They credit Monica and Rico Love with providing a great example and advice throughout their time on the road and are looking forward to the next opportunity to tour. But as headliners the next go round.
Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find Al-Lateef Farmer; Black man, husband, social documentarian, and slinger of Soul by the pound. His brand of social commentary, rooted in independent thought can be found at www.theworldaccording2teef.com and on Twitter @wrldacrdng2teef.