Young Noble (Outlawz) [Interview]
Atlanta, GA – Young Noble – of Tupac’s legendary Outlawz – doesn’t front a persona that would make fans think he’s tougher, richer, or flashier than he really is. He simply is. The inspiration of his and the Outlawz’ music comes from that simplicity: in a scene where money, bitches and swagger seem to make an artist, it’s refreshing to find actual art. Not to say Noble doesn’t know the streets; he describes the Outlawz sound as “lyrical as hell, hard as hell, still genuine and still street at the same time.”
Noble comes hard in his rapping but displays vulnerability in his lyrics claiming, “we try to speak for the hopeless, for the lost souls.” He categorizes the work he and his crew do as “inspirational street music, ghetto gospel really,” explaining that “Pac called it that.” Noble and the other remaining Outlawz not only have a mixtape, album, and DVD being released soon, but he’s also in tune with what people need – both spiritually and practically – to survive in an ever-deteriorating world. “We’re trying to make positive be cool,” he says. “Instead of the tough shit, gangsta shit, the drug shit, let’s make being smart be cool, let’s make being responsible be the cool thing to do.”
“It’s like everybody’s doing the same thing…It’s either something for the clubs, how much money I got, how gangsta I am, something about the females, I’m the biggest drug dealer, I’m the biggest killer. It’s really disgusting…”
When Noble entered the game he walked straight into the turmoil leading up to and surrounding Pac’s death, but being under the tutelage of the legendary MC allowed him to learn from that turmoil and carry on a legacy: “When Pac died, he left a big void in the game as far as real music… from a hip-hop artist where you can actually feel the music to your gut.” He reminisces, “you had Pac back in the day, he could have put out a hard song as a single, then turn right around and drop something like “Dear Mama” or “Brenda’s got a Baby,” that wouldn’t get played in the clubs cause it’s not meant for the clubs, it’s meant for the message.”
It’s that balance that makes the Outlawz unique: “we’re gonna make you dance, make you get rowdy, make you think, make you feel. Our music touches souls, and that’s what’s missing overall in the game…” Noble recalls how young men serving life sentences in prison have sent him letters telling him how the Can’t Sell Dope Forever album with Dead Prez inspired them. Noble also reveals that “it wasn’t just about not selling dope forever…it was very real, since Stic-man’s brother was addicted to drugs and my mother was going through a similar thing.”
“Instead of the tough shit, gangsta shit, the drug shit, let’s make being smart be cool, let’s make being responsible be the cool thing to do.”
The timeline upon which Young Noble operates doesn’t move on the same progression as the rest of the hip-hop world: what was good then is still good now. Although he supports “young brothers getting money,” he expresses a disappointment with the recent hip-hop coming out: “It’s either something for the clubs, how much money I got, how gangsta I am, something about the females, I’m the biggest drug dealer, I’m the biggest killer, it’s like everybody’s doing the same thing pretty much. It’s really disgusting.” He has strong feelings about the messageless music that he claims the radio stations, DJs and video directors support, and states matter-of fact that “the kinds of songs these other guys make, we can make them in our sleep, with our eyes closed.” But to get that classic balance, “you can’t be too preachy either.”
Although the Outlawz have left a legacy, they are by no means dead and gone. Coming up is the mixtape Killuminati 2K10, to be followed by the album Perfect Timing -a reunion with former Outlawz member Hussein Fatal and an apparent example of the kind of soul-sticking music that people need. The album will have a notable list of guest appearances including Ottawa artist Belly, Scarface, Bun B, Lloyd, Krazie Bone, Tech9 and more.
“Our music is therapy to us when we’re making it, and I think that translates to the listener. I might have a rough day, a long day, ain’t no telling what I might have went through with family or friends, or just life issues and life drama, and we just try to bring that realness into the studio and convey a nice message to the people.” And perhaps the peoples’ need for that kind of message is what makes the new album so perfectly timed: “God has blessed us to release this album,” says Noble, “we’ve been through a lot with the labels but now it’s the perfect time. Just listen. Pick this new Outlawz album up if you’re looking for something new, something fresh, something inspiring in the game.”
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Outlawz – Fork in The Road
(Directed by LAFCO/Guerilla Epic)
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