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Artist Spotlight: Aedan Outlaw

Aedan Outlaw is a young rapper who has been surrounded by music his entire life. With a sound reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest, the Meriden, CT native cleverly combines the old and new style of rap, prominently noticeable on his latest single, 3RD EYE OPEN. We caught up with Outlaw to chat about his football years, his interest in biking, and his strategy for creating and releasing new music.

Written & Photographed by
Jasmine Jones

You have an interesting history, with your mother being a singer and being able to watch her perform throughout your childhood. Can you tell me more about that?

She would take us, my little brother and I, to her shows in Hartford, like Hot Chocolate Soul, things like that. It was cool being exposed to that environment. I was always around adults, even at a young age and I could comprehend what they were saying, so I was really more mature for my age. I didn’t really like being a kid. When I was in school I used to get in trouble for being like, this sucks because it’s all kid stuff. I would say things like that because that’s just how I was.

What kind of music did your mother sing?

She sings R&B and soul mostly, but she does everything. She’s probably the best singer I’ve ever heard, honestly. I’m not just saying that because that’s my moms but, you know… you can probably find her [singing] somewhere. She just inspired me to do great things no matter what I did, regardless if it was music or not.

And how old were you when she would take you to her performances?

Right from birth, I mean, for as long as I could remember. I remember being about 4 or 5, just running around and not really paying attention, but then I started getting into it more when I was around 8 years old. My brain started developing and I started to understand it more.

"I was always around adults, even at a young age and I could comprehend what they were saying, so I was really more mature for my age. I didn’t really like being a kid."

Is that your first memory in regards to music? Watching and listening to your mother perform?

Yeah pretty much. That, and I remember her singing to me as a baby. She would always sing to me these songs, and that kind of thing absorbs. It might be way back in my memory but I can still hear it sometimes.

You were the starting quarterback for Wilcox High School. How many years did you play football and what caused you to stop?

I played football from when I was 8 years old all the way up to my senior year of high school. I played for the Meriden Raiders, and went to international championships, it was one of the best times of my life. Once I got to high school, Wilcox wasn’t the best football team to play on and I kind of had to do a lot of things myself, I got injured a lot. I was just sort of run into the ground because I was playing three games a week and practicing daily. Once I got hurt in my sophomore year, I tore my MCL and my PCL in my right knee, sprained my ankle, dislocated my shoulder, I really started thinking about other things. That’s why I went to a tech school in the first place, I wanted something to fall back on. I started making more music at that time, that’s what really pushed me into it, my injuries. Me and my boys would start making tracks because my friend Jake had just gotten a Macbook and we were 16 [laughs], so we just started making these little tracks. This kid in our school tried to diss one of my friends, so you know, we had to come at him with our first song. That was a diss track to him and everyone in the school was buzzing it up, and that’s pretty much how I got to where I am now. Now I’m doing it, not just for fun as much but for advancement in life, you know.

Where does biking fall into all of that? Since we’re meeting at a skatepark, I assume it was an important part of your life.

Biking definitely relates to my culture and how my personality is. When were in the off season of football - in the summer and even in the winter, we were just that crazy, we would be out there in our short sleeve shirts on just riding around. That really made me feel free. It also made me want to build a huge library of music to listen to, so my iPod had like, 5,000 songs on it because I was just biking all day. I just felt so free. Biking, for me... I always wanted to do something with it. Meriden, they took our skatepark away, and from the side of town we lived in, we would have to bike all the away across town just to get there. I always wanted to build a skatepark right in the center for all of the kids, indoor and outdoor. Just a nice place where everybody could go, stay out of trouble, and just have fun.

"Meriden, I call it The Dirty Den and it’s definitely a good name for it... It’s very, lost souls. My mom calls it purgatory."

So when did you stop biking, because I know you said you don’t do it as much anymore.

Once I started working. That’s pretty much what happened to all of us, our crew fell off one by one. Me and my boy Vinny were pretty much the last ones biking towards the end. Then it just got kind of hard, you know, in the end we ended up riding by ourselves and it just wasn’t the same. It just got to a point where it wasn’t as enjoyable anymore.

Did you ever see yourself having a future in biking? Or was it more of a hobby?

I definitely pondered it for a while. There were some things that made me feel like I could do it, but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t advancing fast enough in it. Football was probably my number one thing. When I was a kid, I kind of would discount my instruments for sports because I was more into it and I thought that’s what I was going to be. I thought I was going to be a big football star and go to college for it and all of that other stuff, but it just didn’t happen that way.

So you created a group with your friends called “Free $oul Block”. How did that come about? Are you still connected today?

That started when we were 16, pretty much from that diss track that we made about that kid [laughs]. We were just like, yo this kid is so wack so my boy brought his Macbook over and we were thinking of ways to just whoop his ass and trying to find the right beats. We ended up using an old DJ Premier & Jay Z instrumental and we ate that up. We had our upperclassmen friends that we still chill with today like Dollaz, he’s nasty. I mean, he was like the best freestyler. He doesn't rap anymore but he’s actually really big in the car scene. Free $oul Block went from a group and now it’s kind of like my movement, the way that I would want to promote things. Just because it touches every different culture. You think all of the dudes that went from bmxing in Connecticut who are famous, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Adam LZ or Stevie Churchill or Jimmy Oakes, all of those dudes used to bmx and now they’re all in the car scene. That’s how we are, we touch different aspects, we’re all multi-talented. Everyone that I know has something that they’re good at, something that they’re getting famous at. It’s like, we’re all growing together and that’s how Connecticut will be too. But I want people to know, with Free $oul, we just want to keep an open mind and to live outside of the norm. Don’t be afraid to think and ask questions, that’s basically what I want to promote with that.

Do you feel a connection between being an a team and playing football, to now collaborating with others to make music?

Yeah it’s definitely a team effort, no one person can be too powerful. You have to know how to compromise and have an open mind to things, and put yourself in other people’s shoes. People also have to have a vibe together, there has to be a connection. If you don’t connect it’s not going to be as natural, it’s not going to flow as well. I met Kev Blake, who I worked with on Deadly Presidents, at my first show and I just thought he was pretty chill. My boy Leroy was like, oh he’s pretty lit and I went over and talked to him. We linked up, I showed him one of my producer’s beat, he loved it, I loved it. Now I’ve built a relationship with the dudes over at Legacy Studio in Waterbury which is where I record and get my work done now. It’s just nice because now I’m making connections and I’m building a team around me where we can help each other.

Do you have any other family members involved in music or art? Are they supportive of your career switch from football to music?

My little brother is artistic, he just hasn’t unlocked specifically what he’s good at yet. His mind is very creative, I think he could be a great photographer or filmmaker. Ever since he was a kid, he used to make movies with his toys but they would be so detailed. He was really good at making storylines and scripts just in his head. He’s really supportive of course because I’m his big bro, but as for other people in my family, some of them are close minded. My grandfather was a person who was very creative as well but he’s very trapped in a lot of things. He’s young, he just turned 65, but he’s trapped in his own ways. He’s a person who was very influential when it comes to music because he used to play me Jimi Hendrix, he put me on to all of the classic rock. He gave me all of these VHS tapes of Woodstock ’69 or Jimi Hendrix’s last concert, he really influenced that vintage part of my life. He was always very creative, he just never really pursued anything, he just wanted to be normal.

You were born and raised in Meriden, CT. How does that influence your sound and style?

Meriden, I call it The Dirty Den and it’s definitely a good name for it. It’s one of the reasons why I started Free $oul as well, because it’s very, lost souls. My mom calls it purgatory. It’s really like a place between Heaven and Hell and where people are very strange. You can just see the people on the streets, you look at them and you’re just like, I really wonder what this person went through. You question a lot of things you see out there, a lot of dumb stuff, and a lot of people who are just held down by drug abuse. Obviously not weed, but I’m talking about heroin, oxys, prescription drugs. I feel like people really just need to unlock themselves. Plus, there’s a lot of washed up athletes in Meriden. There are dudes that I’ve known, they had scholarships but then all of a sudden you see them in the hood again and you’re like what the hell happened. And then you see them at the park and they’re 50 years old wobbling around but they can still shoot a hoop full court like Steph Curry. Those things influence me, I hope that my music will reflect how gritty it is in Meriden and just Connecticut in general. It’s not bad or as dangerous as it could be but Connecticut is very raw and gritty in the central part of the state.

Is there anything else that influences your sound and style?

A lot of people compare me to Q-Tip, they say I have a very Tribe Called Quest abstract sound. That’s just because I think I sound really good on those kind of beats, those very jazzy style kind of beats. I try to keep it flowing from different styles though, I don’t like to tag myself to one thing. That’s also why I made Free $oul a genre, I categorize my music as Free $oul on Soundcloud because it’s got it’s own type of sound. We sound like the Tribe Called Quest stuff but at the same time it’s very modern. Chewbie [his producer] does a really good job of making the old school sound very new. He influences me a lot too, his beats inspire me to make a beautiful piece of art, and I always want to make sure that I don’t mess up on it. I always ask him, do you really like this song? Because I’m rapping on his piece of art, it’s like me touching up something on his painting.

Are your latest singles, Deadly Presidents, Dump’A, and 3RD EYE OPEN, gearing up to be a new album?

Right now I’m releasing singles one by one, probably up until, I want to say July. It’s easier to get eyes on one thing than if I came out with an album and said, hey listen to 10 of my songs at once. A lot of people, they have to really, really like you to listen to 10 of your songs. So right now I’m just trying to get enough attention where people are like, wow, I really like this guy and I will take the time to listen to his whole body of music. When I dropped my EP, I didn’t see the results that I was expecting so instead of just dropping songs I’m really planning things out this time. I’m taking that avenue for now. Maybe at the end of the summer or middle of the summer there will be something, but I do have a lot of songs, so I may do a 5 track EP around August. I’m still thinking, just trying to find the best route.

That’s smart, you’re really taking a step back to look at your results from the first body of work and saying, now how can I improve. Some musicians just release their music on a whim but you’re actually taking in the results and putting them towards your next project.

Right, exactly.

"Even my name, Aedan, that means leader. Aedan is a shepherd, everyone follows you. I've always had that mentality, always wanting to do my own thing."

That kind of answers my next question, what did you learn from making your first EP “Winter Vibes, vol. 1” that you used while making your newer songs?

Creating that definitely taught me the business aspect of music. Now, I don’t need to focus on my art as much because I already have the catalogue stored away. Everything is ready to go, ready to drop, so right now I’m focusing on the advancement of my brand and catapulting myself out there. I don’t need to be mainstream or anything like that, I just want get to a lever where I can support myself making music. I’m the type of person… I don’t want to sound cocky [laughs] but I was born a leader. That’s how I was raised and even my name, Aedan, that means leader. Aedan is a shepherd, everyone follows you. I've always had that mentality, always wanting to do my own thing.

What should your listeners expect from those singles you’ve already recorded and are planning to release? What will they sound like?

There’s a mixture of a few things. 3RD EYE OPEN has a very trippy vibe, I think that’s going to be a song that pushes me to the next level. You can also expect some classic stuff, basic Chewbie stuff. Anything that really relates to that Deadly Presidents track, you’re going to hear a lot of that sound. I have a song that I made called AleXXXa, that’s very Tribe Called Quest. I also bought a few beats from Genshin, he’s a very famous underground artist. He’s from New Britain and he’s worked with dudes like $UICIDEBOY$ and Pouya. I also got a beat from GRiMM Doza, that’s got a really nice vibe to it. I pretty much say in the first line… It’s hard to trust all people / No one is thinking equal / I have to fly like an eagle / Be a scavenger like a seagull. Basically saying It’s hard to trust people and what they say, and how a lot of rappers need to step their game up with their vocabulary and their message.

What’s something your friends wouldn’t expect to know about you? A surprising fact about you or a strange interest that you have?