Tupac proteges The Outlawz continue to carry the torch
To say The Outlawz are survivors is an understatement. Deep tragedy struck the veteran hip-hop group last month when member Hussein Fatal was killed in a car accident.
He joins fellow fallen members, founder and hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur and rapper Yaki Kadafi, who died within months of each other in 1996.
Remaining members Young Noble and E D I Mean have resolved to continue the group, which will take to the stage at The Music Room, Dubai, on Thursday for their debut Middle East performance.
You recently played a show in Germany, the first as a two piece after the death of Hussein Fatal. How tough was that show for you and E D I Mean?
We didn’t want to do the show because we still had to get back to America for Fatal’s funeral. But you know what? We needed to go there and feel the love from the fans and realise how much they honour us and love Fatal. The fans keep us going. All I can say is that we are moving forward in a positive manner.
Despite the tragedies The Outlawz have faced, you have always been consistently working. Where does the work ethic come down from?
We have never been signed to a major label, so our livelihood depends on what we do and what we put out. If you put all our solo stuff and mixtapes and albums together, we put out more than 50-something albums and that’s not even counting the features that we did for other artists around the world. That is just our motto, we try to stay positive and work through the tragedy and the pain.
You released your last album, Perfect Timing, in 2011. Are you happy with the way it was received?
I think that was our best album, musically and lyrically. But one thing I learnt is that you cannot satisfy everyone at the end of the day. People have their own idea about who you are and what your music should sound like. I mean, there are some people that are still stuck in 1996 with Tupac, and they want us to sound like that. We were children then and we are now grown men, and we have our perspectives and we are more in tune with who we are. At the same time, we want to make that transition of reaching to the new generation, but still being The Outlawz – which is about bringing that truth and OG angle to it. While people are out there making club music, you will always find The Outlawz on the other side, telling you to keep your head up.
Do you feel The Outlawz are still eclipsed by the shadow of Tupac?
Absolutely, no doubt about it. We can do the best rap song and put it out tomorrow and people will say it would be better if Tupac was on it. Which of course it would be, but that’s not the point – which is, when are you going to give us some credit? There are still people who think we are still around today because of Tupac. He brought us in the game in 1996 and that’s like 20 years ago. Tell me which associates of Tupac are still around today creating music and still performing across the world? You don’t just be around this long in the game because somebody as loved as Tupac introduced you to the game, you know what I mean?
How do you handle that frustration?
Our core fans. Those who support us every day and help us provide for our families – they know what time it is. They knew we were holding our own with Tupac when we were young. They don’t love Young Noble because he rapped with Tupac, but because his intentions are awesome. They know that when they hear Young Noble they will hear music from the heart that is raw. So yeah, back to what you said, we are overshadowed by Tupac but that’s part of being an Outlaw. It’s not meant to be easy and we may never get the credit that we deserve until we are all not here, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
The Outlawz have suffered a big share of tragedy during the years. Do you and E D I Mean feel more like survivors than veterans?
E D I and I were talking about this a while ago, and he said that considering all the stuff we went through we should have lost our minds by now. You go through so much stuff and you are traumatised and you don’t know it. I mean, we still didn’t get over Tupac’s and Kadafi’s passing and all the other homies that we lost as well. But we have children and families that look to us to provide and take care of, and to them our failure is not an option.
• The Outlawz perform at The Music Room, Majestic Hotel, Bur Dubai, on Thursday at 9pm. Tickets are Dh100 from www.platinumlist.net