Emerging artist Lil Xan puts on high-energy, intimate Boston show

Soundcloud rapper Lil Xan put on a high-energy and intimate show at Middle East Nightclub on Thursday, March 1 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

Lil Xan opened with one of his earlier songs, “Been Bout It.” The track was first self-published on Soundcloud over a year ago. When Lil Xan came onto the stage, the crowd immediately responded to his energy and reciprocated with pulsing vigor.

Lil Xan played many of his most popular songs, including; “No Love,” “Wake Up,” “Who Are You” and “Slingshot.” He closed the concert with “Betrayed,” his most well-known song and his only track that has reached more widespread popularity outside of the Soundcloud rap realm. “Betrayed” peaked at No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The venue was extremely intimate—small basement club underneath the Middle East Restaurant. The industrial and gritty setting was the perfect backdrop for the concert, given Lil Xan’s unrefined DIY style that is common of the Soundcloud rap scene. The small size of the venue also created an incredible dynamic between artist and audience.

$teven Cannon opened for Lil Xan and began to build up the energy of the crowd with an enthusiastic and hype performance. In addition to being part of Lil Xan’s collective, who refer to themselves as the “Xanarchy,” Cannon himself has built up a following through Soundcloud. Two notable songs Cannon performed while opening were “Xan Man” and “InXanity,” which both recieved positive and enthusiastic responses from the crowd. Cannon remained onstage throughout Lil Xan’s set, acting as his hypeman and backup singer.

Lil Xan, who’s real name is Diego Leanos, first began to gain popularity with the release of the music video for his song “Betrayed” in Aug. 2017. The platforms Soundcloud and YouTube led to his increasing fame and continues to be the main way in which he releases music.

Lil Xan has been creating music for only the past year or so. Before that he was a photographer, but after his camera was stolen he decided to try rapping. Lil Xan has become something of an emblem of the “sad rap” Soundcloud rap scene. He embodies this emerging genre, which is most known for its dream-like beats, simple lyrics and self-publishing ways.

Lil Xan’s name derives from the name of the prescription drug Xanax, which he admitted that he was addicted to for two years. After one of his friends died from a mixture of Xanax and fentanyl, however, Lil Xan quit and now claims that he is no longer addicted to the drug. Furthermore, Lil Xan began what he coined the “Anti-Xanax Movement,” which spreads awareness about the danger of Xanax and is ultimately trying to end teen Xanax addiction.

The anti-Xanax movement is especially relevant in the Soundcloud rap world, where Xanax is the most popular drug of choice. Lil Peep, a truly unique and talented Soundcloud rapper, died from a mixture of Xanax and fentanyl in Nov. 2017. At the Cambridge concert, Lil Xan paid tribute to Lil Peep, singing the late rapper’s song “BeamerBoy” and briefly touched on the importance of abstaining from recreational Xanax use.

Although it can be easy to dismiss Lil Xan as just another Soundcloud rapper, he certainly has a vigorous energy and focused mission that makes him stand out from the rest. While his lyrics are not intricate or artistic, his beats are catchy and the energy that comes from both his music and his live performance is palpable. While it’s unsure as to whether Lil Xan will ever break into the mainstream music world, his place as a celebrity in the Soundcloud rap world is secure and doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy anytime soon.


Lucie Turkel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lucie.turkel@uconn.edu.