Labels mean less now than ever before. No, I don’t mean those labels, although yes, the bloated behemoths that were once the kings of the jungle are now wandering the music industry landscape starved and close to extinction. Instead, I’m referring to the labels that we affix to artists like a first-day-of-school nametag: hip-hop, r&b, singer, rapper, street, soft, etc. In the digital age more people are listening to more music, and more different music, and the result is a melding of skills and styles that no longer fit neatly into a prescribed label, at … ...Read the full album review
DJBooth Album Review
Labels mean less now than ever before. No, I don’t mean those labels, although yes, the bloated behemoths that were once the kings of the jungle are now wandering the music industry landscape starved and close to extinction. Instead, I’m referring to the labels that we affix to artists like a first-day-of-school nametag: hip-hop, r&b, singer, rapper, street, soft, etc. In the digital age more people are listening to more music, and more different music, and the result is a melding of skills and styles that no longer fit neatly into a prescribed label, at least without coming up with moderately confusing terms like, “Energetic hip-hop melodic soul,” which is how Outasight has enigmatically described his music.
The only way to begin to describe Outasight’s latest project, Never Say Never, is to describe the music specifically, without large, over-reaching terms, although by necessity I’ll be forced to rely on comparisons and, ironically, those same labels that Outasight so capably breaks.
(Re-reading those last two paragraphs I realize I may have gotten overly wordy, so let me pause for a quick simplification: There’s this dude named Outasight. Sometimes he sings. Sometimes he raps. It’s kinda hard to describe. He has a new mixalbum out, Never Say Never. It’s also hard to describe. It’s dope. You should download it.)
Where were we? Oh yeah, the music. There’s really no better place to start than the title track Never Say Never, which both sonically and topically serves as a musical manifesto for Outasight. Hemmed by a jazzy piano vocal sample this his frequent production partner and kindred spirit 6th Sense overlays with hip-hop drums, all topped off by Outasight’s “never quit on your dreams” lyrics, which float between singing, rapping and rap-singing, sometimes within the space of a few bars. It’s smooth, eclectic and heartfelt, much like the project as a whole. For those looking for more reference points, I would also direct you to Complicated, an up-tempo joint that takes Outasight’s soulful whine and gives it a breezy, summer vibe and the engaging Dear Heartache. For a song with the word Heartache attached, it’s a pretty bright tune, and if Never Say Never is any judge, Outasight seems thankfully incapable of wallowing in his sorrows. Every song, from the well-traveled She’s Leaving Home to the shaking Believe are undercut with waves of optimism and energy. If you’re looking for a bad time, you’re going to want to look elsewhere.
Although Outasight may often be looked at as a rapper who sings, at least on the pages of DJBooth - he did, after all, spit this freestyle - it’d be more accurate to say that he’s a singer who sometimes speeds up his crooning to a rapper-ish pace. (There are those pesky labels again.) He flexs his rhyme muscles most strongly next to XV on the good times drenched Lush Life, although he can’t help but break out in song mid-verse, but on the mixalbum’s only other rap feature, Near The End, Outasight sticks to nothing but heavily stylized, retro-rock vocals and leaves the rhyming completely to Gangster Gibbs, who sounds much more at home on The End than I would have assumed. Other than the aforementioned examples, overt hip-hop is relatively rare – it appears for a moment on Complicated and a handful of other tracks – but on the whole there’s no doubt that those who refuse to listen to anything but “pure” hip-hop will find Never Say Never sorely lacking. I feel bad for those people.
That’s not to say that Outasight can do no wrong, or that all of his musical adventures take us to exciting new destinations. Whether intentional or not, his delivery on Dizzy is so weighted down by Bob Dylan stylings it’s hard not to hear it as a Dylan impression at times, and Be Alright’s forays into modern pop gives it an uncomfortably weightless feeling. Still, these aren’t negatives so much as songs that didn’t fully deliver on their promise. Truth be told, I have nothing negative of substance to say about Never Say Never. While I’ve learned never to underestimate the depths of people’s bitterness, it would be surprising if anyone begrudged Outasight for his musical explorations. If you can learn to let go of the desire to affix everything with a label and just relax and listen, Never Say Never is one of the more easily enjoyable projects to come through my headphones in a minute. Let’s just call it “good music” and leave it at that. Agreed?
Listen to More: Outasight Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Another Late Night" (2008)
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