The Outlawz triumph at Dubai’s The Music Room
When The Outlawz were recently reduced to a duo after the death of Hussein Fatal in a car accident last month, it would have been understandable if the mourning rappers, Young Noble and E.D.I. Mean, cancelled their debut Middle Eastern performance in Dubai on Thursday.
The fact the group pressed on is an enduring testament to their survivor status (Fatal is the third member to have passed on after founder Tupac Shakur and Yaki Kadafi) in what is increasingly becoming a fickle hip-hop industry. Nearly 20 years in the game and The Outlawz remain one of the handful of active touring and recording artists from hip-hop’s second golden age in the mid-nineties. Playing to a nearly full house, the duo reminded us of the good times with a forceful set of vintage tunes ranging from original material in addition to some of Tupac’s biggest hits.
The night kicked off with the latter’s Hail Mary; what is a brooding track on the album sounded triumphant on stage with both rappers imploring the crowd to belt out that declarative chorus. Next up was the swaggering High Speed and it served as a demonstration of the chemistry both rappers share. Young Noble’s flow was gruff and raw with rhymes dropped like hammers. E.D.I Mean, on the other hand, added some light with his booming voice and playful delivery. E.D.I Mean also reminded the audience of his active solo career by dropping Thug Life. The 2013 single is his best offering yet, with his tight nimble flow delivered over gothic sounding production and a call and response chorus made for an ecstatic crowd.
Fortunately, not everything was relentlessly nihilistic, however, Thug Passion was a treat courtesy of that classic bouncy G-Funk production of bobbing bass lines and soul drenched keyboards. That said, it was only brief sunny respite as we immediately returned to the streets with a pair of Tupac’s most furious offerings; the first being the abrasive Homeboyz which had The Outlawz immediately turning up the intensity.
It was the ideal set up for the night’s biggest moment and set closer, the Tupac anthem Hit’Em Up. Despite the venomous diss track remaining absolutely brutal 19 years on, it somehow over the years transformed form being what is essentially a hate filled letter aimed at fellow murdered rapper Notorious BIG into becoming an unlikely street anthem. Despite one’s views on its artistic merit, Hit’ Em Up remains a landmark of gangster-rap and The Outlawz’s contribution to the original track has alone cemented their place in the genre’s history.
While Hit’Em Up was the night’s biggest moment, the best part of the gig came mid-set when The Outlawz directly addressed their suffering. Ever so stoic, Young Noble introduced the track Breathing by addressing his partner and childhood friend E.D.I Mean and stated “you know what? We are the last two breathing.” Not one for wallowing, the duo ditched any navel gazing discussion and responded to the realisation the best way they know how, and that’s by once again giving it their all to the crowd.