Las Vegas rapper who used to be homeless to play Life is Beautiful

The turning point was all the strangers shedding tears in the backseat.

A few years back, rapper Mike Xavier was working as an Uber driver in his native Los Angeles.

Times were tough.

The father of a young son, Xavier struggled to make ends meet.

They were homeless for a time.

Xavier poured all of his emotions — heavy as they often were — into his music, which he’d play for his passengers, sometimes delivering a cappella rhymes on the spot.

“I would ask them, ‘How do you feel? What’s your mood like? What are you going through?’ ” Xavier recalls at downtown coffee shop and eatery Makers and Finders on a Tuesday evening. “Then I’d dial up a song. If you were going through a bad relationship and I talk to you about a verse that’s about a bad relationship, it just hits you so much harder.”

Xavier was surprised by how emotional some customers got.

“I’m telling you, man, people just started crying. All of the time,” Xavier says with a mixture of pride and incredulity, frequently flashing a wide, bright smile. “I didn’t expect it to hit them that hard, to where they’re crying in an Uber. But they would.”

Though he’d been making music since he was a teenager, Xavier was never totally committed to working on and promoting his craft, even though he possessed a commanding, naturally assured flow.

But seeing his music get such a visceral response began to change all that.

And so Xavier got serious — about his music, and his life.

“My son and I were in a bad space, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not how life is supposed to be,’” Xavier says. “I think that I just kind of came to this realization that I didn’t want it to be the way it was anymore. All the reasons for not making an attempt to change your life for the better, because you talk yourself out of it before you even begin, I was just done with all that. Forget about why it wouldn’t work. Just try it out. Do it.”

And so he did.

Good ‘Vibes’

In late 2015, Xavier and his son relocated to Las Vegas, where Xavier’s sister lives, staying with her for a time as he found his bearings.

The following April, he began immersing himself in the local music scene, and in the two years since, he’s made substantial headway.

In 2017 alone, he released a full-length (“Visionary”), a live album and a well-received EP (“Resilience”).

Since then, he’s packed The Bunkhouse, held a standing gig at The Cromwell, performed at the inaugural Emerge music conference and landed a slot on this year’s Life is Beautiful lineup.

All of this momentum has culminated in Xavier’s new album, “Old School Vibes,” released last week.

As its title suggests, “Vibes” favors gritty, ’90s-style, boom-bap-influenced production values, with Xavier’s words hitting just as hard — emotionally speaking.

Keeping it real

“You gotta hold on,” Xavier urges on “Stay Strong,” delivering the album’s mission statement on a song brightened by jazzy piano runs.

“Vibes” looks to a better future by acknowledging how challenging the present can be. Xavier candidly acknowledges many of his own struggles, such as having just two dollars in his pocket and having to choose whether to put it in the gas tank or eat that day.

“All that stuff is real,” Xavier says. “I’ve had times where I’m like, ‘Do I pay rent? Or do I buy some food so we can eat?’ ”

Those times may be behind him, but Xavier continues to share his experiences to reach out to others dealing with similar issues: absentee fathers, homelessness, the financial strain of being a single parent, crippling self-doubt.

“When you’re going through it, you think it’s only you,” Xavier says. “People think they’re alone like that, but I realized that the more I put that out there, the more I talk about it, the more I realize how many people feel that way.”

While Xavier’s fortunes have turned, he sees himself as a voice for those whose fortunes haven’t.

“I’ve got a lot of different reasons why I do this, but one of the reasons is that I see a lot of people giving up,” he says. “That’s the mission: I’m inspired to inspire.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like