Tiffany Lam - Pulse Magazine
AS MEMBERS OF The Outsiders stood atop the stage at last year’s Easy Groove, hosted by Theta Delta Chi, they faced an audience packed with sweaty partygoers— excitable, a little tipsy, and eager to jam. To many newly formed music groups, this situation could be intimidating and stressful, the perfect recipe for an awkward performance. However, it was clear that nothing could stop The Outsiders from absolutely killing it, sparking an overwhelming energy from the audience.
Performing a selection of rap songs from their debut mixtape, O/X1, three members of the recently formed music label got every person in the room dancing. Some even attempted to rap along. The performance ended with a riled up audience repeatedly chanting “OUTSIDE” in support of the artists and their successful show.
It’s clear that last year’s Easy Groove took a dynamic turn (up) when The Outsiders entered the room. But, we wanted to take a closer look at who and what exactly The Outsiders are. We were lucky enough to sit down with two of the music label’s founding members, Elliot Williams and Tyler Brooks, to get an inside look at this diverse group of musical savants.
COMING TOGETHER, ON THE OUTSIDE
““[I] came to Stanford and found there was nothing for me, except 8 other people...after the same glory...we are the strangers, we are the dreamers, we are the weird kids.””
— Elliot Williams
For Elliot Williams, writing and performing these lines for the final song on O/X1 was honest to everything he believed about The Outsiders—a music label formed in March earlier this year, consisting entirely of nine Stanford affiliated artists.
In addition to Easy Groove, and a few shows at Berkeley, the group has performed at multiple events across campus, including last year’s Blackfest.
While every member in the group is from somewhere different, with hometowns ranging from Chicago to Nigeria; Rochester to Colorado, and back here in California, what ties them together is the “glory” that Elliot references in the mixtape’s outro, based not on fame or fortune, but on a genuine passion for music and an insatiable drive to succeed.
As Tyler Brooks put it, “We’re individual artists coming together under one singular business identity: trying to become an independent label.”
“We a musical family,” added Elliot.
When asked about the label’s origins, Elliot emphasized the coming together of extremely different identities, under the notion that in one way or another, they’re all “outsiders”— or “weird kids”, as he puts it in the mixtape—of some sort.
For Elliot, who dealt with bullying growing up, music played a huge role in his life starting as early as middle school. “Music was how I defined myself and set myself apart from everyone else,” he explained, crediting Childish Gambino for his inspiration to begin rapping.
For Tyler, it was the struggle to integrate his extensive background in jazz piano and intense interest in rapping. Ultimately, contributing to O/X1, where he both raps and plays piano for different tracks, helped him reconcile these two passions.
Additionally, Tyler explained that, being from Chicago, he has always felt like an “outsider” at Stanford. “The south side of Chicago is a complete flip from what Stanford is,” he explained. “Politically, historically, and racially— I’m not used to a place like Stanford.”
Even during their interview, Elliot and Tyler couldn’t resist dropping random lines from rap songs mid conversation. They also went off on multiple tangents about music and the music industry, from subjects like how Kanye West makes his music to Tyler, The Creator’s role in OFWGKTA, to Childish Gambino’s entire life story.
The two clearly know music—and are unbelievably passionate about it.
THE MAKING OF O/X1
The Outsiders’ first mixtape, O/X1, was released just one month after the label’s formation—an abnormally short amount of time to record and release 18 tracks.
While most artists don’t make albums at this speed, it was their unquenchable drive that drove the mixtape forward so quickly. Immediately after the label formed in March, conversations began about recording O/X1. By the end of spring break, the group had their first “24 hour lock in”, where all nine members literally locked themselves into a studio at CCRMA to make music for the mixtape.
“We wrote a lot of shit that day,” Elliot remarked. A week later, the group had another 12 hour lock in session. And what’s even more impressive is that every song was written, produced, recorded, mixed, mastered, polished, and arranged by every member.
“The mixtape represents The Outsiders and what The Outsiders means to us,” Tyler said. “It’s a compilation of individual artists coming together for the same vision, aesthetically and business wise.”
While O/X1 is an example of the successful collaborations that have come from The Outsiders, every person has their own individual mixtape or EP already out or coming out soon. According to Tyler, it’s all part of the bigger picture.
“That’ll be nine different artists with music from the same label,” he explained. “That’s a lot of music, so we’re hoping there will be a lot of attention.”
“It’s life right now,” he added.
This past summer alone, two members of The Outsiders—Jae and EAGLEBABEL—each released a solo project. Jae’s album, Eternal Summer, features eight tracks, while EAGLEBABEL’s album, Odes, features seven. You can listen to both albums on Soundcloud, embedded below.
While the members who’ve graduated from Stanford have already made The Outsiders a full time priority, the undergraduate members plan to continue with the label during the school year.
Given the success that The Outsiders has already had, we’re extremely excited to see what’s in store for them!
CHECK OUT JAE'S SOLO PROJECT SHE'S BEEN WORKING ON OVER THE SUMMER