Denise Neil

Hip-hop artist making his mark

Editor's note: The following column by Denise Neil has been revised to correct information in the original version.

I want it documented here, in an official, public sort of way. On July 29, 2010, at approximately 3:30 p.m., musician XV, aka Donavan Johnson, said he'd take me with him to the Grammys when he's nominated.

Winning a Grammy is his goal, you see, and if there's one thing XV is, it's determined.

The 25-year-old singer/ producer just signed a record deal with Warner Brothers records, confirms local disc jockey Greg "Hitman" Williams of 93.9 FM, known more casually as Power 93.

XV is scheduled to record his first album in October, and awards can't be far behind, he figures.

"My next move is getting a hit single on the charts," XV said. "But my biggest dream is winning a Grammy."

XV started working toward a music career when he was 15, which is how he came up with his stage name — the Roman numeral for 15.

He met Williams when he was 16, and Williams shared tips he'd gathered during his years of radio work, he said.

His main advice: Make yourself known outside of Wichita.

"Being a big star in Wichita is not enough," Williams said. "We have literally hundreds of kids in our city making rap and hip-hop music whose scope of success is being big in their hometown, and that's important, but the really important thing is, 'How does your music play to people outside of Wichita. People who don't know you.' "

XV has spent the past decade getting his music in the hands of everyone he could. He's toured college campuses, which has earned him a college fan base, and he'd often pull stunts like traveling to Las Vegas during big convention times and distributing self-made CDs on the street.

He also has used the Internet, blogging and taking advantage of social media, and he's diversified by becoming a producer.

When I first met XV in 2004, he was making a living selling "beats" — the background music and samples that are the base of most modern hip-hop songs.

But over the past several years, the lifelong Wichitan has been focusing on performing, traveling the country to open for hip-hop acts and headlining his own shows as well.

He performs regularly in Wichita, most often at Rock Island Live in Old Town, and on Friday, he opened the 10th annual Freaknic Jam at Hartman Arena. The concert, which was headlined by Plies, draws hip-hop fans from all over the region.

"This is just the beginning," he said. "I feel like I've worked so hard to get to this moment, and now that I'm here, everything restarts."

Well, it can restart from say, noon on July 29, 2010. Because I'm holding XV to that Grammy promise.

Hear XV's music and see his tour schedule by visiting his website,