Monday, August 22, 2011

The Outsidaz' Idea of "Radio Friendly"

After The Outsidaz' killer EP, Night Life, they were making moves. their label was behind them, Eminem and Rah Digga were blowing up as solo artists, you used to see the Outsidaz van driving around NYC and even billboards. Now, you could blame the collapse of Ruffhouse Records on their fall from mainstream grace, and that was clearly a big part of the marketing suddenly drying up midstream etc. But really, the Outz were a large, ragtag collective (really, even The Outz themselves might have trouble naming all various members who came and left the group in a short period) of Brick City lyricists with a penchant for hard beats and sick (in all senses of the word) lyrics. Were they really built to compete in the post-Bieber hip-hop world?*

The advance version of The Bricks featured a different track-listing from the final, commercial version. And one song they added was this, their big, commercial single. This is the one they shot a video for. This is the song where they rap about relationships with an R&B singer on the hook with only their three, most recognizable members taking the mic. This is "I'm Leavin'," their radio single.

"I'm Leavin'" was produced by Hotrunner, a guy who's done a few other things before and since... nothing to get too excited about, but all of which sort of fits in that same weird gap of rappers not quite going commercial. The track is basically just a loop from a contemporary flamenco guitarist named Armik with the drums beefed up, which is effectively catchy in an offbeat way. It featured a hook by Kelis, who was just beginning her career, which includes a lot of hooks for a lot of rappers and a lot of terrible dance records (sorry guys, I'm not saying she isn't a good singer, but nobody should have to listen to "Blindfold Me" if they haven't committed some kind of awful crime against society).

But this single doesn't feature Kelis. No, she's been abandoned for the "UK versions," even on the US promo 12". Remember, by the time The Bricks was ready to drop singles, Ruffhouse Rufflife/ Ruff Wax was already dying. So here in the US, The Outz didn't really get any singles except a few promo copies. But Ruff Life UK hung on there a little more and actually marketed The Outsidaz over there, releasing this proper, commercially released single in the nice picture cover and all. And over in the UK, some girl group called All Saints was apparently semi-popular and one of its members, Melanie Blatt, was going solo. So they took Kelis off the track and gave the song a new hook by Melanie.

That may sound like a great injustice, and maybe it was to Kelis personally, and swapping out a black singer for a pretty white girl does reek of crass record label politics; but honestly, musically, the difference is pretty academic. They're both capable vocalists singing the same hook, which is a play on John Denver/ Peter Paul & Mary's "Leaving On a Jet Plane" (infamous in hip-hop circles more for its use in Stetsasonic's "Faye"). If you're not coming into this record as a Kelis fan (or Melanie Blatt fan), you're apt not to even notice the difference, much less care one way or the other. And apart from the hook, the song is the same. It's not remixed or anything... maybe it's mastered a bit differently, but it's the same Armik loop and all.

So this is what they made a video for (which you can see on the bonus disc hat came with Pace Won's debut, Won), sent out to DJs, etc. All upbeat and poppy for the soulless music directors, except... did they actually listen to this song? Young Zee spends his whole verse calling some groupie a nasty skank: "You're a virgin? You know you do this often. You're things so deep it could drown a school of dolphins." And there's a brilliant moment of unintended hilarity when they cut to Blatt vamping to the song, looking all cool, sexy and professionally model-y as Zee rags on the cleanliness of her vagina ("your things more dirty than the 'durty sowf'"). What a perfect music industry example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

And it gets worse! Zee at least keeps it to graphic sexuality, which often sneaks under the radar of commercial R&B and hip-hop. But look at Pace's verse:

"Yo, she fell in love with a star, the life, the car,
The Hu-Hu-HAAA!! had her goin'.
Open like: what? With a butt like Kim's.
When I seen it, made we wanna nut right then!
Yo, we got fly, she stopped by,
Spliffed the choc ty and passed it clockwise.
Let me knock the boots 'till I was cock-eyed;
And now she tryin' to act like she ain't got time?
I told her: think of this before you try to be foul:
There's chicks at the bar that could be buying me rounds,
And all type models that be eying me down;
I stay, and you say goodbye to me now?
Fuck that! Diss me, that's what's up here.
You better get yo' fat ass back upstairs!
And if you try to creep, I'ma tie you in the basement,
Catch your little boyfriend and beat is little face in!"

The music video censored the words "butt," "nut," "ass" and even the drug reference, but for some reason, stations still weren't giving this major rotations? What, they're not big fans of domestic violence? Gee, that really came out of left field. Hell, the music video cuts out Rah Digga's portion entirely, where she writes probably the first song in history about her an untrustworthy man cheating on her while in jail: "time to face the truth, when I really didn't wanna. How the Hell all these hoes keep getting my number? Who was it - a kissing cousin? Came to see you in prison, they sayin' you already had a visit! Leaving with these strangers, how do you explain this? Came this close to lettin' you put it in my anus!" This is meant to be their crossover song?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing these verses. The Outz kill it, keep it creative and edgy (although... Zee is capable of better), and manage to keep their integrity on what would normally be an embarrassing footnote in any other artist's career. I actually love this song! and while the video is censored to pieces (an exercise in futility), the 12"includes the Full Length versions, featuring all the curse words and Rah Digga's material untouched. It's also got the instrumental.

Being a UK 12", though... of course it also features some terrible, terrible dance remixes on the B-side. There's the Grunge Boyz Vocal Dub Remix, which is... well, I just can't believe anybody would choose to listen to this on purpose. Put it that way. Then there's the Oddsmakers Clean Remix, which is okay, but the vocals are drowned out by the overbearing samples. And it's not actually a clean edit at all (all the curses, etc, are present), which is nice. It doesn't compete with the original, but it's a cool extra to fill out our Outsidaz collections.

So I recommend you ignore your impulse to skip right over the blatant radio single and add this one to your collections - despite outward appearances, it's another ill Outsidaz classic. Especially considering their catalog is disappointingly small, we can't afford to sleep on anything.

*The shame of it isn't that they didn't continue to blow up bigger and bigger, but that they didn't dust themselves off and continue ruling the underworld as an unfuckwitable collective after Ruffhouse.


  1. never actually heard this but its been sitting in the shop round the corner from me since the day it dropped! Its a regular find in bargain bins in the UK though.

  2. here's D.U. of outsidaz on youtube