bill bodkin speaks with Outasight before he takes the stage at The Governors Ball …
Outasight might look like your average hep cat who combs the streets of New York, but drop a fat beat and you will discover this is one of the bright stars in the future of the music industry. His insane flow is steeped in old school New York hip-hop while his sound is in tune that hip-hop/pop/electronic hybrid that is sweeping the nation right now.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with the New York native about his love for hip-hop, being discovered by Warner Brothers Records and of course, performing at Saturday’s Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City.
Pop-Break: How would you like me to refer to you throughout this interview?
Outasight: Outasight is fine. Some people call me “OU.”
PB: I don’t know if you were like “Mr. Sight” or something.
OU: Mr. Sight! [laughs] Yes! From now on, everyone must call me Mr. Sight. I might be introduce myself to Big Boi [at Governors Ball] like, “Hi, Big Boi, I’m Mr. Sight.”
PB: Who are some of the artists that were inspirations for your sound?
OU: I definitely was inspired by so much from when I was younger. I loved The Beatles and Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix. Then it was hip-hop — A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang Clan. Later, Kanye and, of course, Jay-Z. But I also loved punk rock and drum ‘n’ bass. So much different stuff. I think with this generation coming up now; we’ve all got such an expansive music library, it’s starting to come through in the music. When I make music, if it feels natural and it feels right, I’ll do it. So all those artists I named before are direct influences.
PB: When did you start performing as Outasight?
OU: I started writing and performing in my early teens. I was in bands in high school and doing hip-hop separately. Then eventually they bled into one. I went into the studio as Outasight in 2007 and put some of my songs up on Myspace. It took a little bit of time, but [the songs' popularity] continued to grow and grow.
PB: What is it about hip-hop that you love so much that you decided to make it your life’s work?
OU: When I was 8 years old I saw the video for “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest. [In the video,] I saw Busta [Rhymes] and Q-Tip rapping, going back and forth on the mic. I was so impressed by that. I [immediately] went out and got [A Tribe Called Quest's album] Low End Theory through my mom’s Columbia House subscription. Of course, living in New York hip hop was big with Jay-Z and Biggie. I’d go to concerts and see Black Star and The Roots when they came to town. There’s just something about it when that beat drops, when that drop verse is dropped. It’s really hard to explain.
PB: In 2008, you released the album Radio New York, a fantastic hip-hop album that you can tell has its roots in that old school New York hip hop sound. You currently have a new EP out, Figure 8 under Warner Brothers Records. How have you matured/evolved as an artist from Radio New York to Figure 8?
OU: [When I recorded Radio New York,] I was obsessed with Dilla [legendary late hip-hop record producer J. Dilla]. I just wanted to make all my music sound like Dilla — the singing and the rapping. Now, I think I’ve matured by leaps and bounds. I’m so much better at rapping, at lyrics, as a singer, I’m better technically, creatively.
Radio New York was my first mix — it was raw. It was me in the studio full time for the first time busting it. It was very raw. Figure 8 has more polish and gleam to it. Radio New York was poppy, it was hip-hop but poppy. Now I have a full band, I can do more stuff. I’ve become more and more and we’re able to do more and more things [musically].
PB: How did you get discovered by Warner Brothers Records?
OU: I did at a show at S.O.B.’s [in New York City] with my boy Ryan Leslie. Usher jumped on stage at one point. I opened up and I killed it. [After the show,] Kenny Burns brought Warner Brothers some of my music to them, which turned out to be music from my Further mix and I got signed.
PB: How has it been on the label?
OU: I’ve been able to put out a lot of music and to keep building everything up. I’m really blessed that they believed in my music from the beginning and are helping me grow.
PB: How hard has it been, since you have a unique sound, to gain an audience?
OU: You’ve got to think about today’s game and what helps an artist — a huge video, a big co-sign, a collaboration. I haven’t had that yet, so the the process has been very organic. Listeners today are bombarded with so much music that I just have to keep working day by day [to win them over]. I couldn’t tell you that this doesn’t get frustrating sometimes, but it’s great that I work with people who believe in the music I’m doing.
PB: How does it feel to be a part of the first-ever Governors Ball Music Festival?
OU: It’s an honor. Lots of festivals are huge and have hundreds of artists on the bill. This is such a select group to be a part of — a lot of these artists have had a great year, so it’s a real honor.
PB: Who are you excited to see?
OU: Big Boi. I am a huge fan of his. One guy who mixed for him, Chris Carmouche, mixed my record. I am definitely going to introduce myself to Big Boi when I get there and my boy Vonnegutt is in his backing band Purple Ribbon All-Stars. I’m definitely looking forward to Empire of the Sun. “Walking on a Dream” is amazing.
PB: For those that have never seen you perform before, what can they expect from an Outasight live show? Are you bringing the full band for this show?
OU: I am going to rock with the full band. There’s going to be a lot of energy and passion on stage. People are going to be sweating early.
PB: What can people expect from Outasight in 2011 after The Governors Ball?
OU: This summer I’ll be touring, so that’ll be fun seeing you in your respective city. There’s going to be some videos for the EP. We have our first official single selected as well for the new album, which we’re finishing off right now. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Outasight, who you can refer to as “Mr. Sight,” will perform on the Gotham Stage at The Governor’s Ball from 12:15-12:45 p.m. Saturday.
Pop-Break’s Governors Ball Series: