JayHawk Walker goes right for the jugular on the opening track of the Outfit, TX's latest mixtape, Green Lights: Everythang Goin’. Aggressive and menacing, his verse sets the tone for the 13 tracks that follow.
This is the year the Dallas trio of Mel Kyle, Dorian Terrell and Walker leave nothing on the table. In the week since the mixtape’s release, Green Lights received feature coverage from Vice’s Noisey, Complex’s Green Label, HotNewHipHop and HipHopDX. “We knew this was going to hit because I fuck with it like I do,” Kyle says. “I finally got to make something that paid me back and fed my spirit.”
When they started work on Green Lights, Kyle and Terrell were recovering from the stress it took to produce 2015's Down By the Trinity, a dark, brooding concept album that touches on personal and social issues. The music had come from a very dark place and that took a toll. “I’m not a negative person and couldn’t be if I tried. I’m not that dude,” Kyle says. “But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was I in that dark mode because I was continually inundating myself with this dark ass music?”
That changed at the beginning of the year when, while hanging out in their studio late at night, their new manager, Pooh, played some samplings from production duo Stunt N Dozier. “We were just kicking it, vibing, smoking, sipping, doing what we do,” Kyle says. “It was an intoxicated inspiration moment and we hopped on one of the beats. We were just fucking around.”
The next day, Terrell went back and recorded a hook on the track and made the song “Look Into My Eyes.” It received an immediate response from their fans and blogs, and made the group think about their next project in a different light.
In the past, all production, writing, mixing and mastering was done in-house. “We used to be very secretive and Dexter’s Laboratory about our shit,” Kyle says. “We were chefs in the kitchen who were real anal and private about their secret recipes.”
That approach had produced some ambitious, Southern-fried and often futuristic work — 2012’s Starships and Rockets: Cooly Fooly Space Age Funk, 2013’s Cognac/Four Corner Room and Down By the Trinity — but the group admits that it wasn't always accessible.
So for Green Lights, the Outfit tried a production-by-committee mentality, enlisting the service of DJs Situation and Haze from Dirty Glove Bastard, DJ Mr. Rogers and bemyfriend. “There’s a lot of energy there and it’s more easygoing and easier for people to latch onto,” Terrell says. “We needed to make it and we had to get it out.”
For Terrell and Kyle in particular — who had previously handled the production, leaving Walker to somewhat wait for the time to lay down vocals — it was a freeing change. That's particularly beneficial for the raps on the mixtape: In the past, the three members tended to keep their personalities in check to work toward the group concept. This time, they don't hold back.
“This is the first time you’re getting personality over beats and getting to see who we are,” Terrell says. “Moving forward, that’s what you’ll see more of.” Kyle’s charming persona and gift of gab fully comes through on the mixtape. And even though his smooth baritone is only on one track, Terrell makes the most of his hook and verse on “Look Into My Eyes” that reflects his tempered, man-of-few-words personality.
But the group says the real star of the project is Walker. “You get to see another side we’ve touched on, but now it’s fully realized,” Terrell says. “Hawk is fully out the cage.” Walker’s verses on the record are dominant, infectious and carry an air that is reminiscent of Dallas hip-hop legend Big Tuck at his peak.
Green Lights isn’t going to completely change how the Outfit operates, though. Terrell says he sees the full potential of the group now, but perhaps more importantly, Green Lights also proves the group can do more than explore their own niche. “We're definitely looking forward to taking this visceral baton and continuing to run with it but really growing up individually with it,” says Kyle.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.