From the streets of New Jersey comes the latest release from "The Freshest New Jeruz Resident" and Kat Klaw Productions, "You Still Here?" by Outthere. Now you probably haven't heard of him yet, and that's okay, he's an independent artist currently moving his way up the ladder. He has a string of other independent releases to his credit, a formidable crew backing him up, and a certain flair that most rappers lack, the ability to create refreshing, unadulterated boom-bap.
The opening track is "Okay.Alright," a mellow head-nodder to get you primed for the album you are about to hear. This made for radio jam shows Outthere flexing some verbal muscle, addressing the haters and explaining on the chorus his standpoint on the way he converts the latter to fans:
"They be like "No wayyy, man this cat must be kidding" then it's..
"Okayyy, damn, he's better than I figured" now it's
"Alright, Yo, I'm loving when he's spittin'" then its
That's right, yeah he's got a new fan!"
However, many hip hop heads will feel inclined to forego the first 2 lines of the 4 step process, as Outthere's colloquially driven verses will certainly capture their attention. You can immediately tell that Outthere knows how to rock a show, but also how to get introspective, and let the listener get a crystal clear view into his life.
He shows his emotional side on the melancholy "Cold Weather" and the melodious "Many Roads" featuring Tree Natty, as he describes the many setbacks and problems in life. Tree Natty's soulful crooning on the hook of the latter song only enhances the Jamaican-influenced beat, but it is apparent that the real star of the show is obviously Outthere himself, as he touches on a variety of subjects at ties them together:
"I don't blame these cats for living but I got a different vision
When I think of car money I could use to start a business
Feel sorry for these day job fools who think they're pimps
Spending their rent following dudes more foolish than that chic
Whatever, so sad, we need to front that bad
With my dad he never flashed, he just made sure we had
Now that's a man, bigger than me, and better than most
And ain't no rapper or sports figure ever coming that close"
The concept songs are also executed with textbook precision and show that Outthere is more than just a one-dimensional rhyme writer. Though they don't necessarily break new ground conceptually, they are still highly enjoyable tracks. The self-referential "The W.B." details the extensive writing processes and slumps he goes through, while "Nite Driving" describes the rapture of a vehicular music listening experience, simultaneously and fittingly being the best driving song on the album, with it's layers of dope drums, keyboard and vocal samples.
"Appreciation" features a loop reminiscent of Collective Soul's "The World I Know." The morose backdrop is a perfect match for a heartfelt dedication to his mother, his children, and his own perseverance, easily making it one of the best of songs on the album. Peep some of the poetic outpour:
"From the start to the middle, my individual image
Was criticized from the left to the right, in the beginning
I held my head high, didn't see it as wrong
To have a love and hold on, I mean I seemed to be born, to do more
Then just follow a motto I made my own
But they just didn't get it, for years I was ignored
Or ridiculed for trying to be cool, to fit in
To do all the right things, but nobody one would listen
I was secluded in the vision of better time's prediction
In, over my head, the spin making me dizzy
The strain, on my heart, from the game was so rough
Made me change, step it up, till my name would blow up
And the truth is, I'm still on this road to prove it
I may be down now but I got a bright future
I may be broke now but I love this damn music
It's all about the man that can do it, yours truly"
The posse cut "The Main Event II" a collective effort featuring the talents of the New Jeruz Residents crew. Dirty Bert, Brad Luck, Terrorwrist, Bless'T, John Brown, Wrecknologe and Incursion all make contributions on the track, and balance each other out rather well, with no one really standing out in particular. This doesn't mean that the song is full of mediocre verses, not by a long shot. Sometimes all you need to do is flip a few simple rhymes and hold it down for your town to make a good track, and that is definitely the case here.
All the included music is extremely solid, and every song could be praised, but it would be more convenient to say that the aforementioned songs alone make this album worth picking up, yet the remaining six songs are all equally dope. Without ever trying hard to be some sagacious prophet or a hip hop purist, Outthere portrays the image of an intelligent, middle of the road, blue collar individual simply doing what he loves. He wonders why people are so consumed by materialism, yet ponders if he would be the same way if he had the funds to support that type of habit. It is the tackling of simple conundrums like these that make Outthere's music so enjoyable, yet his mellifluous speech and his knack for producing that make it so approachable.
Here, we see the independent artist complex at it's finest. An extremely dope rapper, creates an extremely dope album, and distribution is limited to an Internet company. Not that there's anything wrong with selling your music that way, but I would feel remiss if I didn't at least say, that this cat deserves something better in life. Flaws on this album, if there are any, would most likely be very subjective, because as the reviewer, I'm left shrugging my shoulders when asked to identify one. This is the type of album that gives me hope for hip hop, and makes me excited to be a fan of the art form. The hook on the first song has Outthere claiming people may think he's some kind of joke at first, but will eventually become a fan. The mere thought of this guy being a joke never crossed my mind while I listened to the album. Yeah Outthere, you've got at least one new fan.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 24, 2002