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.
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.
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.