It happened right under the noses of even the most aware connoisseurs of street hop: over the last year the Outlawz quietly released the most impressive music of their career.
Following Hussein Fatal’s rejoining the remaining ‘Lawz, E.D.I. Mean and Young Noble, after a decade-plus split, the trio unleashed two impressive original-material mixtapes, Killuminati 2K10 and Killuminati 2K11 , coupled with a relentless stream of equally impressive new viral videos.
After reestablishing themselves in the mixtape market and on YouTube, the seemingly constant underdogs, (who’ve had to live the last decade-and-a-half in the shadow of their legendary leader Tupac Shakur’s legacy), are finally preparing to bask in their time to shine with their aptly (and yet initially incidentally) titled sixth studio album, Perfect Timing, due on the 15th anniversary of ‘Pac’s passing.
When the Outlawz spoke to HipHopDX initially in June to coincide with what would have been Tupac’s 40th birthday, ‘Pac’s protégés described what they thought their mentor would have been doing if he had lived to be a middle-aged man. And in addition to addressing Dexter Isaac’s stunning confession to nearly killing Tupac in 1994, the ‘Lawz also revealed details of the never-before-discussed “underground compound” ‘Pac had planned to house himself and his loyal lieutenants.
Now, the New Jersey and Los Angeles natives, currently headquartered in the ATL, respond to the reports that followed their recent revelation of a smoke session with Tupac’s ashes, break down why Lil Wayne and T.I. can’t fill ‘Pac’s shoes, reveal if they think Soulja Boy can pull off portraying ‘Pac on the big screen, detail how telephone threats turned into recorded reconciliation with The Notorious B.I.G.’s right-hand man, and explain why either you buy their new album or they bounce.
HipHopDX: I just wanna start off by congratulating y’all for making – what sounds like from the snippets – the best album of y’alls career.
Noble: Absolutely, hands down, no if's, and's but's about it.
DX: This is definitely the biggest, broadest sound y’all’ve come with. “100 MPH” , “Fast Lane,” “Pushin’ On,” y’all got some serious smashes here if radio’ll let y’all in.
E.D.I.: We ain’t make it for radio, that’s the good thing about it. We just did it ‘cause that’s what we was feeling, and that’s what the music was saying to us. But, radio ain’t never been too kind to us, so we ain’t expecting ‘em to all of the sudden turn around now ….
Noble: Yeah, we don’t got a hundred-thousand to be paying the radio people right now, man.
DX: Y’all still gonna call it quits after this? You can’t bounce now, after an album like this. You gotta keep that “So Clean” shit coming!
Noble: Well, we never said we was calling it quits. We all gon’ venture and do solo albums. And then, we working on different projects: Fatal got a book, E.D., he writing some movie scripts, I’m getting into directing. So, we just – At this point, we like, If y’all don’t appreciate this real Outlawz shit, we probably gonna stomp out for a minute, until they actually appreciate it wholeheartedly. So really, it depends on how the fans react to this album. Everybody screaming they want some real music in the game, well here it is live in the flesh, the epitome of real music. If y’all don’t support it how y’all need to support it, then maybe we need to stop giving it to y’all.
DX: I know it was recorded for Kay Slay’s forthcoming Rhyme or Die album, but I kinda expected the historic “Bury The Hatchet” with y’all and Lil Cease to be on Perfect Timing too. Had y’all ever crossed paths with Cease prior to recording that joint?
Fatal: I ran into him a couple of times, just being from [New] Jersey and he right there in New York. I ran into him a couple of times, and it was what it was. It wasn’t no [confrontation]. Everything was smooth.
Noble: I think E.D., didn’t you meet him back in the day, when y’all recorded that joint?
E.D.I.: Yeah, I met Cease prior to the beef even [popping] off with the Bad Boy [Records]/Death Row [Records], [The Notorious B.I.G.]/[2Pac beef]. I met [Lil] Cease when he was still like a real youngster. And we was all youngsters too. We did a joint with Biggie called “Runnin’ From Tha Police.” It had me, Kadafi and Kastro on it, [along with] ‘Pac, Stretch, Biggie and Lil Vicious. … Just being around Brooklyn, being around Biggie and them – Cease was Biggie's right-hand man. He was his little nigga, so he was always there. Whenever we seen Biggie, we seen Lil Cease. Like, whenever you seen ‘Pac, you seen us.
DX: Did y’all reconnect to record this new song? Did y’all chop it up at all?
Noble: I had started choppin’ it up with Cease like years ago. He had just so happened to call somebody that I was standing next to, and I got on the phone with him. And the initial phone call, it was pretty much … drama. We was at each other neck like, “We ever see each other it’s gonna be a problem.” But, in the process of the conversation, both of us being grown men, we actually started talking. His intentions was pure; mine was pure. And, we just basically stayed in contact over the years like, “It is what it is. We ever see each other it won’t be no gunplay and it won’t be no drama, and we’ll shake hands as Black men.” You know, we lost the greatest rapper of all time, and he feel the same way as far as Big. … So just as grown men, in moving on and trying to make the best decisions for us and our families and the people who follow us, we just decided it’s time to let the world know that we actually put this to [an end]. I really get tired of muthafuckas mentioning them two legends in the same breath and either disrespecting one or the other. The ‘Pac fans to this day will still go hard on the Big fans and vice versa. So, I just think it’s time for the Hip Hop community and the people who support and love both of them dudes [to] let that go and honor them for both of [their accomplishments]. And besides great rappers and artists, they was two intelligent black men that died too early. … So we just trying to be leaders and do the right thing.
E.D.I.: A lot of our fans [are] like, “Well, how can y’all do a song with Cease? He had said ‘Pac ain’t get shot five times.” Or, he was saying this and that. And I really feel like, during the heat of battle all kind of shit gets said. Y’all heard “Hit ‘Em Up,” you heard what we said on it. Cease had to say what he had to say. But as far as right now, in 2011, we on that burying the hatchet shit, and so should y’all.
DX: Y’all gonna be able to bury the hatchet with Afeni after she had the spokesperson come out to suggest that y’all stole ‘Pac’s ashes to have that smoke session?
Noble: No doubt about it. That’s our aunt, and we love her to death, and we’ll do anything for her. And first and foremost, that was put out there because of the media [taking] what we said and [flipping] it. We never said she was with us. Afeni Shakur had no knowledge of what we did. She wasn’t present when we did it. She didn’t approve of it. She had no knowledge of it period. That was the media taking what we said and basically putting words in our mouth. But, for the record, Afeni had no knowledge of what we did, she wasn’t there, she wasn’t present, period. That’s his mother, we wouldn’t have brought that to her and asked her to agree with it or none of that. That’s stupid for people to even think she would’ve been there and had something to do with that.
E.D.I.: Like Nob said, that’s family right there. I been knowing ‘Pac, the whole Shakur family before I was even born. This shit go deeper than this rap shit with me. So anytime you got people commenting and saying, Aw, they this and that for doing this, it’s like, c’mon. If you can’t really respect our intentions, and the honor we was paying to our brother and our family member, then leave it alone and don’t comment on it. … This is really the end. This is the last time any of us gonna be talking about this subject, because when you bring shit up that people don’t really understand, they take it and run with it and try to twist it and put they own spin on it and add they own opinions to it, and really, turn something positive and something that was special to us into some negative shit.
DX: You guys gonna be with Afeni on 9/13?
E.D.I.: That’s the day our album drop. We’ll be working and promoting Perfect Timing.
Noble: We’ll be in Montreal doing a concert on that day.
DX: Y’all got some special tribute plans for the show or - ?
E.D.I.: Absolutely, but you gonna have to be there to see it.
Noble: Yeah, so all our Montreal people make sure y’all at the Telus Theatre September 13th.
DX: I personally can’t believe it’s been 15 years since Las Vegas Metro [Police] threw that murder file in the trash. Y’all care to speak at all about the long-stalled investigation?
Noble: Well, ‘Pac even said that when he got shot the first time [in New York that] police, they don’t care about young Black males. They don’t wanna solve crimes dealing with young Black men, and especially an iconic dude like Tupac who consistently said, “Fuck the police.” So at the end of the day, it’s still fuck the police and that’s what it is.
DX: I remember way back in ’03 I did an interview [for AllHipHop.com] with the [District Attorney] of Clark County, David Roger – who’s still the D.A. out there – and he told me basically that he ain’t never gonna have a grand jury convened to indict those two muthafuckas from that Cadillac that are still walking the earth no matter what evidence he sees.
Fatal: Oh them niggas ain’t dead? I thought them niggas was dead. Them niggas still out there?
Noble: I mean, that’s no surprise, man. What you’re saying is no surprise; we knew that before ‘Pac got shot. I mean, that’s just a part of the system that Black men deal with from the beginning. The system is designed for us to do football numbers, and that’s just how it is. And it’s designed for them to not care about – Obviously, they like locking muthafuckas up, so they like solving crimes when people actually step forward and talk and witnesses come forward and all that kind of shit. But, I mean, that’s no surprise, bro’. It’s no surprise at all, man.
Fatal: Yo, when niggas get murdered, a lot of niggas get away with that shit. When they do that shit spontaneous, when niggas do spontaneous murders, when punk niggas just … When niggas do spontaneous murders, them is the easiest to get away with. Go do it, get it over with and bop. That’s it. Niggas always get away with murder, it just so happened the shit happened to ‘Pac.
E.D.I.: And Biggie.
DX: Y’all know better than anybody that we ain’t getting ‘Pac back, but I know if he was still here to be a “hope dealer” he’d be making shit exactly like “Reach For The Sky” [from Killuminati 2K10].
Noble: No doubt about it. That was my favorite song on the whole mixtape.
Fatal: Nob say that every fuckin’ night: “Yo, I’m telling you, if ‘Pac was here, that’d be right there!” I’ll be like, “I don’t know.” Nob’ll be like, “Dog, I’m telling you, listen to the little homie.” I be like, “Alright, nigga.” And sure enough, you just said that shit.
DX: I don’t know if we’re ever getting another ‘Pac. And on “Killuminati 2K10,” Noble you said, “It seem like all the real niggas always end up dead.” Do Lil Wayne, T.I., etc. gotta die to be ‘Pac, or do they gotta do something different while they’re living to fill those shoes?
Noble: I mean, no rapper ever will be ‘Pac. It was only one, and it’ll never be anybody to fill his shoes or duplicate him or anything like that. But Lil Wayne and T.I., they both great in they own right. Lil Wayne is gonna go down in history as Lil Wayne. Same thing with T.I. Those are both great artists that speak to they generation in the ways that they choose to and got a big influence in Hip Hop. But as far as Tupac go, nobody will ever be able to fill ‘Pac’s shoes. ‘Pac was the ambassador of hope and struggle, and he was a symbol of strength for young black men – not even black men, just men period across the world. So, ‘Pac represented something different than normal rappers represent. He represented something way deeper and bigger than Rap music. He represented never giving up and aspiring to be better. ‘Pac was a warrior, so it’ll never be nobody to ever come and be like, “Oh, this is the second Tupac.” Nah, it’ll never happen.
DX: I gotta mention, I love Fatal’s line on that joint too: “It’s only a matter of time ‘fore them nines come out / And them bullshit punch lines and shine run out.” [Laughs] I thought that was the quote of that song.
Fatal: I mean, that’s the quote of some niggas’ lives. This shit ain’t no fuckin’ game. It may sound like a cute little rhyme, but then when you get in your car and you be driving around where certain niggas be at that shit becomes a fuckin’ reality. … In my world and other people world, that kind of shit is a reality.
Noble: Basically, y’all niggas don’t go Hollywood with this Rap shit, ‘cause you will have to come down to earth one muthafuckin’ day.
DX: Speaking of going Hollywood, y’all think Soulja Boy is really gonna be able to pull off playing ‘Pac in this Tupac movie?
Noble: I don’t know nothing about that, man.
E.D.I.: We ain’t hear about that.
Fatal: Nah, I ain’t hear about that one neither. I mean, the nigga look like a little – He got a little ‘Pac in his face structure, with them eyebrows and all that. [Laughs] They give him the right haircut and he might can get it on, who fuckin’ knows?
DX: Have y’all been contacted for input into the screenplay?
Noble: Not at all. That’s what they need to do; they need to reach out to [his] boys.
Fatal: If they don’t do that it’s just gonna go down as another DVD. They just gonna tell the same fuckin’ story; they gonna switch it around and tell the same fuckin’ story.
Noble: And that be the problem a lot of ‘Pac’s fans [have]: whenever it’s something that got to do with some real shit dealing with ‘Pac, the ‘Pac fans be mad as fuck when they don’t reach out to us. Like, if y’all wanted to do anything remotely official you gotta reach out to [us]. If you don’t reach out to his family – his mother, his sister – [then] the next is the Outlawz. If you ain’t reaching out to us, then I mean, it pretty much ain’t official.
DX: I wanna end on a lighter note. At the end of y’alls “Cooley High” video there’s a sort of commercial for Outlaw Eyewear. So I wanted to give y’all an opportunity to tell the DX readers why they should spend 80 bones to rock them shades?
E.D.I.: They should go rock ‘em because if you rockin’ with the Outlawz and you got the Outlaw mentality, what better way to show everybody else that? But I know times is rough out here, so if you got it, go on ahead and cop them joints. If not, go to the Shell gas station and get you a $20 pair.
Fatal: I mean, I like the look of them bitches. But I don’t really do shades too much; I gotta keep my fuckin’ eyes open in these later years, man.