Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tony D, Redman, Meth, Pace Won and Young Zee

So, I've blogged once or twice before about how the US end of Ruff Life Records dropped the ball on The Outsidaz full-length, leaving all the 12" singles and what-not to their UK division. But they did get one nice 12" out of their doors before closing up shop - or two, strictly speaking. A limited edition (though I don't know just how limited... it doesn't seem to be that rare or hard to find all these years later) double 12" single of "Who You Be," The Outsidaz album cut featuring Redman and Method Man.

These were their big, heavy-hitter guest appearances (and you'll notice, they only let their biggest Outz members on the track, too; no junior members), so I'm not sure why they relegated this song to a limited edition vinyl only release, as opposed to a major single with a music video and what-not.  I guess they expected mix-tape DJs to blow this up a lot more than they did. Plus the record label was dying, so that might've been all they could afford.

Anyway, the first record focuses on the album version. If the song feels like a Redman track with guest stars, as opposed to an Outsidaz song (and it does to me), that's because it's produced by two of Red's regular producers, DJ Twinz (yes, it's really a pair of twins). It's a little soulless, but ultimately a pretty effectively head-nodder with a hook built around each member bigging themselves up. It's got a cool freestyle flow, with the MCs passing the mic back and forth, everyone getting the chance to rhyme more than once, so it doesn't just come off like your "plug in your guest's acapella here" collabo.

Interestingly, it's Pace Won who really shines here. I mean, they're evenly matched enough that fans of any particular artist will probably prefer whichever MC is their favorite.  But Redman seems stuck on juvenile blowjob rhymes, Meth kinda phones it in, just relying on his delivery, and Zee sounds like he's saving his best material for other album tracks with a bunch of obvious (and now dated) movie references. But Pace gives one of his best performances, hard and lyrical, the kinda shit you wish he'd kick more often. Everybody sounds good, though, don't get me wrong. These are pros, and it's evident.

So you get the full break-down, with Clean, LP, Instrumental and A Cappella versions. But, while it's cool that this track sounds like it's ripped right off of a Redman album (because Redman albums are good shit), but there's definitely room for instrumental improvement, especially if this is gonna be a single.

And that's where the second record in this set comes in. It's dedicated to nothing but exclusive remixes of this track. You've got one mix by Ruggedness, a Philly producer who presumably also produced that test press-only "Keep On" remix. It's a little more high energy, but still has that tacky, studio-made feel where all the sounds are clearly computer-generated. Still, it's well done and the fake horns will pull you in despite yourself. It also does a really good job of matching the vocals, punching in around their vocals in a way that shows they definitely custom-made the track for these verses.

The second mix is by Newark underground legend Gov Mattic. This is kind of a weird one. The vocals are sped up a bit so everyone sounds squeaky. This is definitely aimed at clubs, which is strange, because this is not a club song at all. And it's another sample-free artificial sounding beat (except maybe for the actual drums), but that's what club music is, so that fits here. It's well made; I just have a hard time imagining who's the audience for this version.

Finally, we have the Anthony Depula mix. I kinda feel this would've received more attention, at least among collectors and more serious fans, if he'd signed it with his professional name, Tony D. This is the most organic sounding of any of the versions, including the album version. It's built around an ultra-deep bassline thudding drums and an eery string riff in the background. It's still not among Tony's best work... I wonder if everybody working on this project was instructed by the label that they couldn't afford to clear any samples, so don't use 'em. But this mix has a deep underground, street feel; like the kind of shit you find when you dig up a super obscure indie 12" pressed in the mid 90s. A labor of love produced by a bunch of struggling cats with cheap equipment and undiscovered talent.

So, Tony's is the winner for me; but I can't help like feeling the definitive music for this song, the one that could've blown up, was never recorded. Because there's an A Cappella in this set, other producers have tried their hand online. There's a Madlib one floating around out there, which sounds promising on paper; but he doesn't pull it off either.

It comes in a solid black (meaning: without the standard hole cut) sleeve with a sticker cover. Perfect mix or not, this should be a crate staple for any Outsidaz fan.

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