Xanarchy in Phoenix: Rapper Lil Xan Goes for Image Makeover at Marijuana Fest

Lil Xan on stage at the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival on May 20.
Lil Xan on stage at the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival on May 20. Mike Madriaga
Rapper Lil Xan was 50 days clean of Xanax and Vicodin before performing at the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival on May 20.

At the eight-hour shindig, the rapper openly smoked weed, which many locals say keeps him clear from using the highly addictive substances that were once prescribed to him. But not only is the “Live or Die” rapper cleansing his body and mind as of late — he is soon cutting the “Xan” out of his stage name and pasting it onto the cannabis product packaging that’ll be coming to Phoenix dispensaries.

Phoenix New Times caught up with the 25-year-old, Southern California-based rapper at Legends Event Center in north Phoenix before he performed in front of some of the 7,500 attendees.

“I’m stoned as fuck, and I’ve only been here for like two minutes,” Lil Xan exclaimed in the New Times mic. “I love coming out to Arizona, man. We’re having a good time, man — out here, chilling.”

Once Lil Xan and his entourage pulled into the ballroom venue, a big cloud of smoke exuded from a hotbox machine. But, of course, many of the 100 vendors and their spokesmodels also hooked them up with complimentary pre-rolls and custom-rolled joints.

The new-school rapper shared the headline with rappers Mike Jones, Kurupt, and Luniz. Together, from 4 p.m. to midnight, they celebrated with the 56 Phoenix cannabis industry award winners, about 50 other musicians of all genres, and the music fans spread out in front of three stages throughout the classy wedding venue.

But it wasn’t as festive for Lil Xan two to three months ago. He detoxed for 30 days at the Vita Nova rehab center at Newport Beach, California, then transitioned into The Heavenly Center facility in Los Angeles, where weed consumption is permitted. The recent rehab stints helped him get off his then-daily usage of “20 Vicodins (hydrocodone) … and about 10 Xanax,” he said in a Steve-O podcast earlier in May.

Many Arizona cannabis consumers get Lil Xan’s recent movements. According to a recent Jointly-app study, some Arizonans consume marijuana to replace other highly addictive substances, and most consume marijuana to relax and refresh, to minimize the tension derived from anxiety.

Lil Xan is refreshing his stage name as well, saying he’ll eventually be billing concerts by his “Diego” birth name. The name change is to alleviate any future confusion to his fans — as antidrug advocates said his stage name promotes the “pill-popping” lifestyle. But he told New Times that “Xanarchy” is the opposite; it’s “an antidrug movement.” Many of the Phoenix retailers and concertgoers at the show applauded the “Wake Up” rapper’s 50-day sobriety of prescription pills, and gifted him weed and cannabis-related goodies.

Now, Xan is optimistic and also looking forward to giving back. “We want to help people struggling with addiction and, you know, get them in recovery,” he added. “Soon, [we’re planning] to have rehabs all over the world: Xanarchy Health Treatment Centers.”

When Lil Xan walked onto the stage that Friday night, he held his arms in an “X” formation, then pointed and looked up, seemingly past the venue’s high ceilings and chandeliers, and into the north Phoenix sky and beyond. He yelled into the mic: “Who the fuck is stoned right now?” The crowd screamed in response.
The first song he performed was “Slingshot,” where he raps: “I got weed for the low / I don’t pop fuckin’ Xans.”

click to enlarge The musicians linked up backstage to eat some “kid-friendly” cake made by Dabbs Delights. - DABBS DELIGHTS
The musicians linked up backstage to eat some “kid-friendly” cake made by Dabbs Delights.
Dabbs Delights
Afterward, a fan from on stage handed him a joint. “How the fuck don’t I have weed in my hand,” he said. “Keep smoking; let’s get high.” Next, he rocked “Color Blind,” a song by electronica-and-dance artist Diplo featuring Lil Xan. And lastly, he performed “Deceived” and then “Betrayed.”

“Betrayed” is a melancholy emo-rap song about clout chasing groupies — and his battle with addiction to Xanax and other prescribed drugs. The song goes, “Xans don’t make you / Xans gon’ take you / Xans gon’ fake you (yeah) / And Xans gon’ betray you.”

The accompanying music video, which garnered over 290 million views since its summer 2017 upload, was directed by Cole Bennett. Bennett’s impactful visuals of the real Nicholas Diego Leanos (aka Lil Xan) and accompanying post-production brought the already catchy track to another level. It peaked at No. 64 on the Billboard’s U.S. Hot 100 chart. “I wanna shout out to Cole Bennett,” Xan yelled into the mic.

After the performances, the musicians linked up backstage to eat some “kid-friendly” cake made by Kate Makris and Chad Dobbs of Dabbs Delights. “The cake doesn’t have any cannabis in it, just if they want to consume it strictly for the munchies,” Makris said. “I liked the concerts and the weed together; it’s bringing new people here.”

Lil Xan might bring something else to Phoenix when he returns. “We have a [new] cannabis flower company called Xannabis; look out for Xannabis, man.

"I love coming out to Arizona, man, like even when I was first starting to blow up in music, you know, we always made sure Phoenix or Mesa, all them were on the map when we came out here," he added. "Mad love for Arizona, mad love for Phoenix and the [New] Times.”

“I’m so proud of Lil Xan,” said Sheldon Cooper, the 33-year-old founder of All Access Phoenix and the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival. “It’s one of the best performances we have seen.”
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.