Photo by Jennifer Deragon
Article by Noah Essenmacher

The Legend of XERO's debut EP Better Off breaks free from the traditional formulas of worship music. With an intricate hybrid of pop, hip-hop, rock and electronic, Jashae Slaughter (a.k.a. XERO) delivers a simple message: God is bigger than the darkness that we feel. 

XERO's youthful, energetic voice combines with relentless beats, moving listeners to dance as well as worship. While Christian music typically lags two or three years behind the latest secular trends, XERO sounds ahead of the curve. Drawing from several music genres simultaneously in his tracks, XERO says his eclectic NEO style gives him new artistic freedom. The complexity of his layered samples, guitar and introspective lyrics make this debut engaging.  

"I'm focusing on everything that is good," says XERO. "I'm trying to bring the good things out in life." XERO describes Better Off as the story of one man's transformation and a quest for knowledge, wisdom, understanding and love. He says The Legend of XERO is based on the human heart. "I saw that there was the dark [music] and there was the really bright and happy [music]," says XERO. "I'm [saying], where can we meet this in the middle where people actually live?” 

The title track "Better Off" opens the album with an invigorating melody that sets the tone for the rest of the album.  "It's me saying I've been through a lot," says Slaughter. "I'm better off as a believer because I've learned how to turn to God and learned how to give these problems to God. ... I think that makes me better off than the people who are going to fall to their problems. I don’t think that joy is circumstantial."  

The follow-up tracks "Glory" and "Salvation" raise the intensity in worship, and "Never Go Back" puts XERO's gritty, testimonial songwriting ability on display. "It's me, I think, at my most aggressive on the album," says XERO. "I talk about why it is I do what I do. It also has an underlying message of encouragement by example. ... I'm saying I’m never going back to that [party lifestyle]. I'm a grown man. This is what I found that was better.”  

XERO says that, as a performer, he is conscious of his message and what he feels is a moral obligation to his audience. "I'm not just on a stage," he says. "I'm on a platform. I'm almost behind the pulpit. ... I think people underestimate music, so to me it is a huge responsibility that I really have to be careful of what I am doing and what I am saying." 

XERO says there are many more opportunities to share his music in Grand Rapids and Detroit, but, as a Saginaw native, his heart is in the Tri-Cities. "Spiritually, we need some kind of growth because we're marked as one of the most violent cities," he says. "People are really downtrodden about that. But who is doing something about that? So I like to bring different styles together and bring different people together. ... Then, at least they are doing something together."

The Legend of XERO will be playing with Lifted at the Vault (505 Midland Street, Bay City) on Saturday, July 31st. The Legend of XERO will return to the Vault on Saturday, August 7th. For more information, visit his MySpace page at thelegendofxero and http://www.livestream.com/8trackrecords/video?clipId=flv_8ea1e481-1135-43cc-9aac-3f950ff3fd37

© Noah Essenmacher, 2010