Exclusive Interview!! with Outlandish

Hip-Hop has been viewed as one of the most influ­en­tial music­al gen­res today. As a form of poetry many of the artists use it as a way to draw on their own per­son­al exper­i­ences or con­vey dir­ect or indir­ect mes­sages to their listen­ers in a light hearted way. One group who have cer­tainly made their mark in the Hip-Hop Scene world­wide are the Dan­ish group Out­land­ish. Con­sist­ing of 3 guys from 3 dif­fer­ent con­tin­ents, speak­ing 3 dif­fer­ent lan­guages, not only have they provided us with highly enter­tain­ing music, but they also have the con­scious and eth­nic­al ele­ments to their music that enable them to be ori­gin­al and dis­tinct­ive.

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The Bi-lin­gual trio; Isam, Was­sam and Lenny incor­por­ate Arab­ic, Asi­an and Lat­in ele­ments in their music, cre­at­ing a sound that has world­wide influ­ences from the beats to the lyr­ics. Their music draws on social issues, from reli­gion to polit­ics in a light hearted, pla­cing them in the pos­i­tion to be able to encour­age con­scious vibes and pro­mote cul­tur­al diversity on a world­wide level.

Q.How did Out­land­ish come about?

We grew up in the sub­urbs of Copen­ha­gen. All of us lived in the same neigh­bour­hood and played foot­ball togeth­er and hung out as teen­agers. We used to per­form break­dance and rap at the loc­al youth centre. We developed a pas­sion for express­ing ourselves. The drive wasn’t fame or money because we didn’t know any­thing about that back then; it was just a love for music. We weren’t known as Out­land­ish at first; we had sev­er­al dif­fer­ent names, one of them being YGB — YGB means Young Gif­ted and Brown.… a really bad name!

Q.How did you come up with the name Out­land­ish?

It was 1996. We were at Lenny’s place and he found the word Out­land­ish in the dic­tion­ary. We thought that would fit really well with our music because we would take eth­nic samples and mix it with Hip Hop and we didn’t feel any­one else was doing that. Also, on the Dan­ish Hip Hop scene we felt we were quite unique.

Q.All of you come from dif­fer­ent cul­tures. How did this influ­ence your music? 

Our back­grounds have a huge influ­ence on the music we cre­ate because it’s what shapes us. We were born and raised in Den­mark, but our par­ents’ dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al back­grounds have also had a huge influ­ence on us and we talk about that in our songs.

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Q.How has grow­ing up in Den­mark had an impact on your music?

We often talk about this because people call us an inter­na­tion­al band, but we are actu­ally a loc­al Dan­ish band. We weren’t raised in the US, so the Hip Hop we had was from Den­mark. Like­wise with Indi­an and Pakistani music. Of course, there are expect­a­tions from you; from par­ents, from soci­ety. That can mess up a young man’s mind. We talk about this on the first album we did in 2000, espe­cially talk­ing about grow­ing up in the West with two cul­tures. But in our case, it has been for the pos­it­ive, it has given us so much.

Q.Who would you say your biggest inspir­a­tions were music­ally?

We nev­er only listened to Hip Hop; we always kept an eye and ear open for dif­fer­ent gen­res. When we star­ted out it was def­in­itely groups such as Out­kast, Fugees and Good­ie Mob. It was also artists like Shade, Tupac and Big­gie.

Q.Your music can be labelled as con­scious Hip Hop, which has a pos­it­ive influ­ence on your listen­ers. How has reli­gion influ­enced the con­tent of your music? 

As long as your music has an impact on people and makes them think and reflect, the job is done. It’s not a gim­mick for us; we don’t use reli­gion or polit­ics or any­thing else as a gim­mick to inspire our music or to get more listen­ers, it’s just some­thing that we do. It’s a mix­ture of many things. Hip Hop has always been a tool of expres­sion, express­ing your­self and your point of views about soci­ety. That’s how it star­ted out on the streets of New York. Our music is some­thing you can relate to, the whole rebel­li­ous thing about Hip Hop, not being sup­pressed, but tak­ing on chal­lenges and talk­ing about it in a dir­ect way, that is def­in­itely some­thing that we took to ourselves. Also, grow­ing up here in the West, there are some issues that you go through — so it felt nat­ur­al for us to talk about these things. We are world cit­izens, so things that hap­pen around the world have an effect on all of us. I don’t think we use reli­gion or polit­ics as a dir­ect way to say that we want to change the world, it’s more on a per­son­al, down-to-earth street-type of view, how polit­ic­al agen­das will affect you and me. When you come from third world coun­tries such as ours, reli­gion plays a vital part of your upbring­ing.

Q.You’re not afraid to explore con­tro­ver­sial issues, how effect­ive do you think music is in get­ting polit­ic­al mes­sages across?

We def­in­itely don’t want to paint a pic­ture of how per­fect the world is because it is def­in­itely not per­fect. Some things need to be in the spot­light. We did a song called ‘Look Into My Eyes’. Some say it was about the Palestini­an issue, but for us it was more a song about a teen­ager want­ing to do reg­u­lar teen­age stuff, but she couldn’t because there were obstacles where she was from and she was com­par­ing her life to the way we live our lives in the West. Music can always move people, but I don’t know if music can change the world. If it can change one per­son it is likely to change the whole world. We did a rendi­tion, inter­pret­a­tion of the song ‘Solo Le Pido Adiós’ which was on our Closer Than Veins album, called ‘I only Ask From God’. It is actu­ally a song writ­ten by a guy called Leon Gieco from Argen­tina and sung by a woman called Mer­cedes Sosa who is from Chile — these two coun­tries were on the verge of going to war back in the 70s and they wro­te this as a peace song and it became huge. Music some­times can be more power­ful than politi­cians because it speaks the lan­guage of the com­mon man.

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