Label: Fortress Entertainment
Rating: 7.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
The Outlawz can claim one of the cruellest “hard luck stories” in Hiphop. Rhyming in New Jersey, they were just another corner clique… until 2pac came calling. A cousin of Outlaw member Kastro, 2pac fulfilled a promise he had made to them years before to put them on once he got his break. No sooner had they moved out to LA and started recording however, than 2pac was shot and killed in that infamous moment in Las Vegas. Soon after this, one of the Outlawz, Kadafi, was murdered in New Jersey. The group consolidated after the double tragedy, and released “Still I Rise”, a collection of songs they had recorded with 2pac before his death, but which unfortunately suffered from being released amid a glut of other 2pac “tribute” albums and books. After that, many in the Hiphop community probably figured that the Outlawz crew would quietly slip into obscurity.
Think again. Its 2002, and the Outlawz are still here – they’ve released another couple of albums, and now feature in this DVD, the latest in a line of releases from Fortress. Whether it stands up to the high standard of previous releases featuring Xzibit, Tha Liks, and Kurupt is another matter however…
“Worldwide” is a behind-the-scenes, warts and all expose on the 4 remaining members of the Outlaw clique – Edi, Young Noble, Napolean, and Kastro. (Knowledgable heads will also know that there was a fifth member – Fatal Hussein, the story on his departure is explained later.) This flick follows a similar theme to the previous releases – we get some concert footage, some “before and after the concert” footage, studio outtakes, and most interesting, scenes where the subjects REALLY let their guard down and let us into their world.
The first thing that really strikes you on viewing this is the massive amount of posturing on display. Despite being grown men, the four Outlawz usually behave like mini-2pac’s, putting on displays of false bravado whenever they seem to sense they’ve given too much of their REAL selves away to the watching camera. This is apparent throughout the movie, whether we’re following Young Noble to target practice at his local shooting range, Edi and Napolean as they show us around their houses, or the camera-shy Kastro talking about the 2pac Foundation. Its makes strange, and rather unsettling viewing – its as if they still don’t seem to comprehend that this time of behaviour is exactly what put their mentor into the position where he wound up being murdered. They also all seem to have a disturbing gun fixation – the previous mentioned target practice with Young Noble, and the incredible sight of Napolean showing off his gun collection while his little kids run around the house, all provide evidence of this.
Occasionally though, the guards do come down, and its here that the constant camera “surveillance” pays off. We’re able to witness Edi talk passionately and articulately about the music business and how the Outlawz at first got burned, and then went on to set up their own independent label. Later, his guided tour around his (paid-for-with-cash) Atlanta home provides proof that this man, underneath the macho exterior, has a sharp business brain and is able to provide for his family. We get to see another side to Napolean, as he visits a local mosque that he helps to fund, and travels to Puerto Rico – the birthplace of his parents (who were both murdered when he was four years old).
Young Noble’s visit back to his childhood home in New Jersey, provides stark evidence of how hard life was (and is) in the projects, as his mother explains how she and her sons had to go into business, selling crack from their house to survive. Even Momma Outlaw is not immune to the in-your-face influences of her son, however, as SHE proudly displays a large “Outlawz” tattoo on her wrist. To me however, this was less about her being proud of her son, and more about her encouraging and condoning his macho fantasies.
The gossip mongers amongst the Hiphop audience will have a lot of material to go on here too, as the Outlawz talk about their feelings on 2pac’s infamous ‘Hit Em Up’ diss towards several East Coast rappers. Worth pointing out is the appearance of Prodigy from Mobb Deep, who confirms on camera that Mobb Deep and the Outlawz officially have “no more beef.” We also get to spend time with former Outlaw Fatal Hussein, who provides the facts on his departure from the group, and spits a couple of freestyles.
There’s also concert footage here, shot at shows in New York, Tucson, and Germany, various radio appearances and signing sessions, and guest appearances from a host of stars from the Hiphop world – Guru, Fat Joe, Kam, Treach, De La Soul, KaySlay, Onyx and a ton more. All of this takes place to a backdrop of Outlawz hits, a number of which, ‘Black Rain’, ‘Thug Wit Me’, and ‘Worldwide’, also appear in video form. As with the previous Kurupt release, there’s also a bonus cd containing half a dozen cuts, including one from Young Noble’s ten year old daughter, Baby Girle, who shows a incredible confidence on the mic.
The Outlawz, for me, are certainly a strange topic for this type of feature. They don’t really have the history, or the strong catalogue of releases to justify a documentary, and the main reason for them being here – 2pac – isn’t around any more. Despite this, its a well put together piece, and if you’re willing to put up with some of the (at times, tiresome) posturing of the crew, then you may enjoy this.