The derivative, disposable nature of modern pop has long been a source of consternation for music-lovers, but old souls may want to start looking for something else to complain about; if the relentlessly creative Outasight‘s signing to major label Warner Bros. is any indication, the pendulum may finally be swinging back towards timeless tunes. Having spent years paying his dues on the underground scene, the Yonkers singer/emcee is preparing to introduce listeners nationwide to his innovative style, an eclectic fusion of pop, hip-hop, rock and reggae that he knows will endure From Here to Eternity.
Since making his Booth debut with “Another Late Night” back in summer of 2008, Outasight has been a fixture on our front page, bringing us numerous mixtape tracks as well as Booth-exclusive freestyle “Rehearsal Tape.” Fresh off the late-2009 release of breakthrough mixtape Further (which he re-released in digital EP form today), the artist is hard at work on his debut studio album, scheduled to hit record store shelves and online retailers this summer.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Outasight steps into the Booth to discuss how his time on the NYC drum and bass scene influenced his current sound, whether a collaboration with OJ Da Juiceman is in his future, and why those looking to imitate his stylish sunglass game should look somewhere other than Walgreens for their shades.
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Outasight Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Yonkers, New York native who we’ve been pushing to the masses for over two years. Recently signed to a major-label deal at Warner Bros., please welcome the man who brought us “Rehearsal Tape” in our freestyle series, Outasight!
Outasight: All right! That was a great intro. What’s up, everybody?
DJ Booth: Thanks. I spent at least 10 minutes on the intro alone!
Outasight: It sounded really good. I can’t lie. I was impressed, and I am flattered. Thank you.
DJ Booth: You’re welcome. Are you aware that you’re not on Wikipedia?
Outasight: [laughs] No, I am not, but I should be, right? I cannot write my own Wikipedia page, can I? That’s not good.
DJ Booth: You could! And now that you’re on Warner Bros., you should get someone on that. You need to do something about this. You need to be Wikipedia certified.
Outasight: All right, I will take that advice and, once we end this interview, I am going to stomp my feet and throw my weight around.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Sounds good! Now, obviously our readers are familiar with you and your music, but I’d like to kick off the interview delving a little into how we got here. You grew up in Yonkers. Did you listen to artists like DMX or The LOX and think, “Man, I like your music!” or, “Man, I want to rap too!”?
Outasight: I was definitely into hip-hop before DMX and The LOX, so I love their music, but it wasn’t really what got me into rap. You know, those guys rep my city, and I’m majorly proud to be where I’m from, and you couldn’t deny their music, especially when It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot was comin’ out, and I remember there was this mixtape called Let the LOX Go and it was insane, and they just had the city on smash. But for me, I’ve always been a hip-hop fan, I grew up listening to it, so it maybe pushed me forward, but it wasn’t the main influence.
DJ Booth: I hear you. Now, obviously we know that plenty of artists try to be the singer-slash-something or rapper-slash-something, but very few are actually able to pull it off successfully. Did you begin as a rapper who wanted to sing, a singer who wanted to spit a little, or just, you knew you were an artist and you wanted to perform?
Outasight: Yeah, that’s definitely it: I just wanted to perform. From a young age, I always enjoyed being creative, I was an only child with a big imagination, I would write songs and sing, I would write raps. To me, it was all about being creative, and that’s something that’s always driven me. And although singing and rapping for a long time, especially when I was a teenager, were very separate entities, as I continued to develop and harness the powers that be, they started to blend into each other.
DJ Booth: Before you became a full-fledged artist. I read that you regularly liked to attend events and parties that played drum and bass music, is that correct?
Outasight: [laughs] That is very true. I spent a couple years goin’ to drum and bass parties a lot. I really like the music and the sound. It kinda is like the hip-hop of the electronic music world. I even did a little emceeing for drum and bass, which really got my freestyle game up crazy at one point, ‘cause you would do a drum and bass set and you would basically freestyle for a half-hour, 45 minutes. You would have set lines, but then you’d just build off it. It was fun – I was livin’ in the East Village, in downtown Manhattan, it was a different scene, and it was cool.
DJ Booth: How would you say that drum and bass music which, for our listeners who are not really familiar, it’s basically electronic dance music, led to your current sound directly. ‘Cause I’ve been at clubs and bars that have played drum-n-bass music, and it’s, like, the perfect combination for a headache for me.
Outasight: Yeah – to be honest, more and more I don’t listen to it. Not to say that I’m turning against it, but I hear what you’re saying. For me, the particular type of drum and bass that I was a fan of, it was called Jump-Up, which is really melody-driven, and some of the best drum and bass emcees were really melodic. What it did was, it almost helped me create the sing-song flow. That really can be [attributed] to the drum and bass emceeing, a little bit.
DJ Booth: I recently spoke with a fellow New York native, Jared Evan, who, like yourself, combines sung and rapped vocals over fresh pop/rock-influenced production. You guys are both immensely talented. He and I discussed the challenges of recording material for a major-label release, which doesn’t necessarily fit you into any specific genre or subgenre – you guys are, well, unique. With your debut right around the corner, how have you tackled the situation of making your music while not having to necessarily go by the book that the label’s set?
Outasight: Well, what’s cool is, I haven’t really felt any of that label pressure. I’ve been able to play my music, especially the records that are to be out in the future, and everyone’s really loved it. Now, certainly it’ll take some polish and some fine-tuning before you hear a finished product. I think with me personally, I have a desire and a want to make pop, accessible music, so I now more than ever am trying to meld my personal style with that certain accessibility. It’s a challenge, but I enjoy it. But for me, my goal on this next project is to create a sound and a style of music where like 20 thousand people in a stadium can rock with me. It’s a lofty goal, but I think that’s the funnest part.
DJ Booth: Does the thought of performing for 20 thousand people scare you or excite you more?
Outasight: It excites me. Like, if I think about it at night, I won’t be able to sleep, I’ll be so excited. It’s incredible just to think about, you know?
DJ Booth: There are obviously a lot of advantages, and some disadvantages of being signed to a major. Would you consider a potential collaboration with OJ Da Juiceman more of an advantage or a disadvantage?
Outasight: Not for me… OJ’s his own person, he has his own fans, but I would probably have to say that collaboration would not be for me.
DJ Booth: No Outasight/OJ Da Juiceman collabo? I was gettin’ excited!
Outasight: Yeah…. you know, OJ’s doing his thing, much props to him, but I think we’re on our own respective paths.
DJ Booth: [laughs] OK, let’s say you wanted to change up your stage name, incorporating a beverage.
Outasight: Ha! Ok…
DJ Booth: What drink would best describe your personality?
Outasight: Wow, that’s good… uh, the Five-Hour Energy drink. Nah, I’m just kidding! [laughs] Something with energy, maybe the Monster energy drink, ‘cause I’m a beast.
DJ Booth: OK.
Outasight: [laughs] You put me on the spot! But I’m definitely an energetic guy, and the music’s energetic, but something energy-drink wise would probably work.
DJ Booth: You know, if you wanted to think in terms of business and sponsorships moving forward, you might want to create this alternate personality and have the label pitch it for you. Maybe you can make some extra cash, just by having a secondary stage name.
Outasight: There you go. I’m takin’ that one.
DJ Booth: And I want 25 percent.
Outasight: I knew it! I shouldn’t even have told you.
DJ Booth: [laughs]
Outasight: I am not taking that one. I don’t like that idea.
DJ Booth: All right fine, fine. We’re gonna play a game, it’s called Title Mad-libs. I am gonna read a few sentences that include the names of songs off the recently-released Further street album. All you have to do is fill in the blank – cool?
Outasight: [laughs] Go for it. I hope I get this right.
DJ Booth: First one: “Everyone Gets Laid, if they would just remember to [blank].”
Outasight: [laughs] Everyone Gets Laid, if they would just remember to… this is now from two different songs, right?
DJ Booth: “Everyone Gets Laid” is the title of one of the songs on Further, correct?
DJ Booth: OK, so just incorporating that alone, everyone in the world could get laid if they would just remember to [blank].
Outasight: I have no idea… you have stumped me.
DJ Booth: You know, smile more, compliment her-
Outasight: Oh, OK! I thought there was one particular answer.
DJ Booth: No.
Outasight: Just have a good time!
DJ Booth: There we go – that wasn’t so hard!
Outasight: I thought the game was actually, getting a select line from my album, and I was like, “Wow, you’ve got me, Z.” [laughs] Yeah… have a good time, be yourself. If you’re a dude, ask ladies questions, compliment them on what they’re wearing, be nice, you’ll be all right.
DJ Booth: There we go. See, we broke the ice on the first one. The first one’s always the toughest one. Number two: “I think ‘Here We Go Again,’ whenever [blank] happens.”
Outasight: [laughs] Whenever I get one of those damn credit card or student loan bills in the mail, I’m like “God, Here We Go Again… I’ve gotta pay this thing again.” [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] By the way, you nailed that one. Perfect answer!
Outasight: Those student loan guys are mean, with those interest rates.
DJ Booth: Well, you know what? After your debut drops, you will not have to worry about them anymore.
Outasight: I like the sound of that.
DJ Booth: Number three: “The biggest Celebration of my life will be when I [blank]”
Outasight: Win my first Grammy!
DJ Booth: There we go. And when do you anticipate that happening? What is the timetable?
Outasight: February 2011!
DJ Booth: There we go – don’t waste any time!
Outasight: No! Why waste time? Time is precious!
DJ Booth: [laughs] I agree. Speaking of Further you will be releasing a digital, EP version of the tape in mid-March, correct?
Outasight: Yes, sir.
DJ Booth: OK. Has the success from that mixtape, which I’m told has racked up up to 80 thousand downloads-
Outasight: Yeah, I think even more now.
DJ Booth: So we’ll say way more than 80 thousand downloads. Has that surprised you at all, or did you expect that success?
Outasight: I definitely was a little surprised. You know what it is, too, we’ve got different types of avenues to promote the project. Like, we had this huge YouTube celebrity by the name of Ray William Johnson help promote the project, and that was this whole ‘nother beast. The type of success we were startin’ to get and the numbers, it’s startin to trickle down with fans and audience…. it’s a great thing, man, and I feel really blessed, and I really appreciate it. It’s good to see your hard work start to pay off.
DJ Booth: Look who you’re tellin’ – every time we featured one of your songs, I’m thinkin’, “When is this guy gonna get a deal already?!”
Outasight: Yeah, man… thank you so much. I truly appreciate it. You guys have definitely been supportin’ from day one, for sure.
DJ Booth: That’s what it’s all about. And what it all leads to, of course, is your debut, entitled From Here to Eternity, which I’m told is set to drop this summer.
DJ Booth: Is this basically your way of saying, “I plan on doing this forever?”
Outasight: Well, somewhat. It’s more like, “This music will hopefully live forever.” And that’s the quest, and that kinda has been the theme through all my projects, whether it’s From There to Here, Further, and then From Here to Eternity – just one man’s quest to try and be timeless. You can’t deem something timeless yourself, but you can just work so hard, and really attempt to make something that is bigger than you. And that’s what I try and do.
DJ Booth: Well, we need timeless music, because we’ve had nothing but disposable music over the last decade.
Outasight: I completely agree, the ratio is definitely leaning in favor of disposable over timeless, but luckily there are few artists who have broken the mold, and hopefully I can be the same way.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. As I’m sure you’re familiar, From Here to Eternity is also the title of the 1953 wartime romantic drama starring Burt Lancaster, which won eight Academy Awards. So, were you hoping the title would bring you a little luck, in and of itself?
Outasight: [laughs] Sure, why not? You know, I think it’s an incredible title, and if you watch the film it definitely is a take on a man trying to find his way. And I am no different, Z.
DJ Booth: Well, you have certainly found your way into a great situation for yourself, and it certainly has not been an easy process, but a long time coming nonetheless. Give everybody a website, a MySpace page, some social network so they can find out more about you.
Outasight: For sure. You can still download my project for free at iamoutasight.com. Always feel free to hit me up on Twitter, it’s twitter.com/iamoutasight. And on my MySpace page you can hear some music at myspace.com/iamoutasight. And I think Z just hit me on Twitter, so you can just go to Z’s page on Twitter and hit me up, I’ll hit you back.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Last question before we go: I’ve noticed in most of the promo photos for all your projects, you’re rocking these Tom Cruise, 1980’s Top Gun sunglasses.
Outasight: I’m wearing them right now, Z.
DJ Booth: Right now, really?
Outasight: In the flesh, it’s happening.
DJ Booth: You’re in a building and you’re rocking sunglasses?
Outasight: I am rocking sunglasses in the Warner building like I always do.
DJ Booth: You are just too cool for school, my friend.
Outasight: I am very cool for school.
DJ Booth: Now, was that something where you were, like, in a Walgreens and you saw them and you were like, “This is gonna be part of my-
Outasight: Walgreens?! Z, these are Ray Ban Wayfarers, these are no Walgreens! These were worn by Jack Nicholson.
DJ Booth: Do you really think, from the promo photos, I can read the word “Ray Ban” on the side of the sunglasses? Come on, now.
Outasight: Well, they certainly don’t say [“Walgreens”]. Nah, I’m just messing with you. But I’ve always loved Ray Ban shades, so I just rock ‘em. I will say this, though: I’m not the guy who rocks ‘em in the club at night. I will never be that guy.
DJ Booth: OK, good. Thank God.
Outasight: You know, that guy’s a little out there.
DJ Booth: As long as he’s not you; that’s all I care about.
DJ Booth: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the Booth for the interview and, as always, nothing but the best of luck.
Outasight: Thank you very much, Z. Good speakin’.