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The Outfit, Tx - Little World Music Album Reviews

The latest album from the Dallas trio is a trove of middle-class rap flexes. It sounds like a dark realm all to itself, the full-on encapsulation of their long-running operation.

The Outfit, TX have been warping the sounds of Texas rap for almost a decade now, their music varying from smooth, split-screen introspection to deep, dank ghost whispers to “cooly fooly space-age funk.” The Dallas trio, consisting of Jayhawk, Mel, and Dorian, reinterprets the legacy sounds of Third Coast hip-hop through a wide range of tints. Their new album, Little World, a trove of middle-class rap flexes, sounds like a dark realm all to itself, the full-on encapsulation of their operation.

Their last album, 2017’s Fuel City, an homage to an off-kilter Dallas staple, was trunk-rattling rap with a hometown bent. Little World retrofits Fuel City’s firing pistons onto gnarled synth patches to power ominous crawlers, channeling the energy of 2015’s foreboding Down by the Trinity, a sound influenced by the heaviness of Deftones and the murkiness of Scarface—but entirely its own. This is still slab music, robust and booming, but instead of candy-painted, it’s matte black. Little World is an anomaly from previous TOTX projects in that it can be strobing and trance-inducing one minute and boisterous and disorienting the next. But there’s always a strong through-line facilitated by the disparate but complementary modes of its frontmen.

Dorian mixed and mastered the record, but he rarely appears as a performer. Though he is missed, Jayhawk and Mel have found a wonky sort of balance in their contrasting styles, performing in tandem from opposite ends of the spectrum. Jayhawk’s raps are in-your-face and combustible, so loud that, when the group was recording Down by the Trinity at Mel’s grandmother’s house, they’d have to cut sessions early for fear that he might disturb her. He chews up the scenery, always foregrounding himself in the mix, and his natural inclination is to be caustic. Mel is more withdrawn, quietly sinister, a mischievous tenor he’s characterized as “the purple devil emoji.” He lurches through like a prowler. So much of TOTX’s allure, and Little World specifically, is wrapped up in this disparity of sound: how they knife through beats at different angles, the ways their almost peculiar voice-work supplements their flows.

Whether going it alone or performing as a tag-team, the members of TOTX leave indelible marks on everything they touch; even as their words leave the mind, their voices linger. On “Name on the Wall,” Jayhawk rumbles through his raps, each utterance bounding between seismic ripples of the 808 drum kit. Mel seems to faze through the translucent synths on “Big Bet,” every syllable implying a certain intangibility. Often, phrases are merely a function of fluidity, waves ridden through the troughs of their immense productions. But even when setting up a specific moment, words ebb and flow, as on this casual Jayhawk scene from “The Woah”: “Lil baby booted up/On god, lil baby cute as fuck/I walked up rude as fuck/I said, ‘Is this your dude, or what?’” There is an immediacy to the writing, but the sensation of it lingers like an afterimage.

Thunderous, abnormal, and sublime, Little World is emblematic of The Outfit, TX as a group. Despite a stellar track record, they’re still fighting for bandwidth in rap conversations, but they will themselves forth with undeniable music, vowing to secure a spot for themselves and the Dallas scene they claim. “Looked straight at my nigga, told him we gon’ make it/Looked straight at my nigga, told him if not, we gon’ take it,” Mel declares on “Conviction,” a song about staying the course. With Little World, The Outfit, TX continue to expand their small but no less significant domain, existing proudly on the outer edges of Texas rap as they always have.

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