Although The Outfit, TX was formed by three Dallas-natives in Houston in 2009, the group sounds like it materialized out of the paranormal Marfa, Texas Mystery Lights.
Dorian, one of the group's two producers, is primarily responsible for the group’s Unsolved Mysteries-esque production, which is a fine balance between what you hear in your head during an intense hip-opening yoga class and a dramatic soap opera score. But unlike the therapeutic effects of yoga and the suspense created by soap opera organs, The Outfit, TX’s records do not always provide catharsis. Instead, their Milky-Way song arrangements will keep your ears rerouting like a disregarded Global Positioning System.
Mel and Jayhawk bring gravity to the group, but only enough to keep The Outfit, TX in orbit. Their self-invented genre, Cooly Fooly Space Age Funk, requires active listening in order to penetrate the group’s ozone layer-like matte finished sound and appreciate the substance of their music. Once that desire is dedicated, listening to anything else other than The Outfit, TX is as challenging as an astronaut readapting to Earth after months in outer space’s microgravity.
Interview by Douglas Doneson (@droopydood)
Your name, The Outfit, TX, is partially a satire on the way many Texans reference their street names and neighborhoods?
Mel: Back home a common phrase is to put Texas on the end of everything, like “I am hungry, Texas.” It is an affinity for our state; maybe we are too in love with it. Forgive us, but it is what it is. We were The Outfit for the longest, but there is an alternative rock and roll band based out of Denver, Colorado and they go by The Outfit as well. They reached out to us via email on some legal shit. Because we didn’t want to deal with that, we added what belongs anyways, TX.
Where does The Outfit, TX currently reside?
Mel: Dallas, Texas. In 2006 we moved down to Houston for college at the University of Houston. We stepped foot in Houston during the zenith of that whole second wave of H-Town. We were there from 2006 to 2013. Once I graduated from U of H, we stayed down doing the music thing. Houston has a lot of good. We love it as much as we love Dallas; it is home.
Pick a street in either Dallas or Houston which best represents each of your personalities.
Jayhawk: I would say Buckner Street because you can get anything you want on Buckner, from speakers to food; clothes; insurance; and pawn shops [Laughs].
Dorian: In Dallas, I would say Malcom X, but the museum side of Malcom X because there’s a lot of art and I love to be around that sort of thing and those kinds of people. That is where I mainly get my inspiration.
Mel: I will give you one from each city. In Dallas, Lake June Road, because that is where I grew up. My mom and I stayed there for the first 13 years of my life. It stretches all the way through to Mesquite, which is where we moved and where I went to middle school and met Dorian. And that is where the story starts…
Take me down that “road” (if you will) and end on that street in Houston.
Mel: My mom was a single mother and we moved around a lot for financial reasons. My father was in my life but it was like a visitation thing. I tell people that I am Dallas because I have stayed in every part of it, but I always ended up coming back to Lake June. When my mom remarried we moved to Mesquite, where I met Dorian in seventh grade. We were in the cafeteria before school and I was talking about how my momma beat my ass on the side of the road. Dorian was the only person listening to my rant.
Dorian:It was funny. He has a way of captivating you with his personality and telling stories. We talked about stuff no other seventh graders would talk about, like funk records, Cee- Lo’s “Closet Freak,” and Stevie Wonder.
I just believe that Dallas has always been [considered] by the radio, local radio, and cities outside of 635 as one hits. They don’t take us seriously. We’ve had artists come through that nobody knows
Mel: Dorian started producing in ninth grade and I was just his friend messing around with the females and going to parties. We were in honors classes and every year in high school we had a math class together. By the time we got to graduation I said “Bro, let’s go to college. We’ve got to get out of Dallas.” We went to U of H and that is when we met [Jay]hawk. So, Lake June weaves through the story on how I got here today and the street in Houston would be Upper Kirby. I like the Rice Village area. It represents the dichotomy that is all three of us. Lake June is a lower income ghetto area. Upper Kirby is the opposite. But we are not ghetto kids. We are well read, educated, and artsy individuals. So we can go to Premium Goods in the Rice Village or be in a hole in the wall with Rice students and talk about science or whatever. We could also go down to the King’s Flea Market and post up at the Swang Parade and just parlay.
You’ve received a good deal of press comparing you to U.G.K., OutKast, and Three Six Mafia. But your compositions clearly exhibit styles of specific Dallas acts, such as Money Waters’ unique sense of humor and his nebulous song arrangements; Dorrough’s chant-like hooks; Chalie Boy’s anthems; Big Chief’s iron-fisted verses; and E-Class’ country intonations and Dallas poise. E-Class even has a song called “Fooly” and your self-invented genre of music is called, Cooly Fooly Space Age Funk. Why do you think the press you’ve received hasn’t compared you to any Dallas artists?
Jayhawk: Hold up mayne! That’s my big bro. Shot out to E- Class.
Mel: Check you out! Most press is unbeknownst of Dallas’ whole hip hop history. That is just a sad fact.
Why is that?
Mel: Two reasons. First, Houston has had a legendary history [going] all the way back to the Geto Boys. So they kind of overshadow us like a big brother. Second, infrastructure: for a while Dallas had an issue with properly organizing the movement like Houston was able to do. A lot of those acts you named are from different areas of Dallas. It takes synergy and we have not been able to have that synergy. The closest I believe we got [was when] we had D.S.R., Young Nino and Hot Boy Star, and a couple of North Dallas acts still hanging on.
Dorian: Outside of that, we had the Boogie Movement.
Mel: That’s a part of our culture, but it’s surface level. It’s like Bounce music in New Orleans; it’s there, but it’s not all the hip-hop New Orleans has to offer. The Boogie Movement is the best example of synergy Dallas hip-hop has probably seen, because all those different high school kids from the suburbs were getting on YouTube and putting their tracks up and having people dance to them in unison. The timing was there; the D.J.s got behind it; the radio got behind it; these kids were going off to Prairie View, T.S.U., and Grambling taking the music with them. I remember Tuck got to B.E.T. and “Tussle” played and I never saw it again. I remember “Caprice Musik” got number one! I started celebrating like it was New Years! It was getting ready to happen but just…it’s no fault to those gentlemen; they are legends. I just believe that Dallas has always been [considered] by the radio, local radio, and cities outside of 635 as one hits. They don’t take us seriously. We’ve had artists come through that nobody knows of such as Mr. Pooki, Mr. Lucci, Nemesis, The D.O.C., Twisted Black. Man, free Twisted Black!
What Dallas artists have influenced you?
Mel: Big Tuck, D.S.R., Nino and Hot Boy Star, o2 and Lil’ Richard. A lot of these people I am naming were really about the shit they were talking about. Hot Boy Star got locked up several times. Him and Young Nino were out of Oak Cliff and can be credited with the whole Triple D name
Jawhawk: They dropped that song “Oak Cliff, that’s my Hood.”
Dorian: D.S.R. had a direct and indirect influence on me. They were taking what Houston was doing at the time and making it Dallas. We were getting their burnt CDs from friends in high school. It gave us a platform. It showed us a way to be able to do it too. We started getting instrumentals, rapping over them, and screwing them up with our own swag.
What differentiates Dallas rap from Houston rap?
Mel: It is a different energy. Let me take it back to the early 2000s and late ‘90s. I had a Talking 2 Texas mixtape series and the only Dallas acts on there were Mr. Pookie and Mr. Lucci and the rest were just H-Town cats and those two records stuck out like sore thumbs. I love H-Town music, but the thing about Dallas is it’s more high energy. Pookie raps fast and is wild [whereas] Keke has a smooth butter flow and Fat Pat is like some Courvoisier.
Dorian: It’s that I-20 connection between Dallas and Atlanta too. Atlanta influenced Dallas’ sound a lot because of…
Mel: The radio…
Jayhawk: We had [DJ] Greg Street’s Six O’clock series on our radio and he was [broadcast] in Atlanta and Dallas simultaneously.
Mel: So there is a lot of Lil’ John influence. I will just put it simply: Dallas is more 808s, where Houston is more synth bass; there are more bass lines and it is just smoother. Now once you got to 2005 to 2008, Houston started going into more 808 sine wave bass line and it banged in the trunk.