The Making Of The Outfit TX’s “Fuel City”

How the latest release from the future Dallas rap legends came to be.
By    September 12, 2017

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Powerful music loses steam as soon as it surrenders to analysis. You can’t translate esoteric chemistry, primordial horsepower, or atomic fusion. No adjectives exist to convey the feeling of raw adrenaline converted into a reverberating boom. A banger is that universal auxiliary language that conveys strength and euphoria, propulsive rhythm and lethal voltage.

Hunter Thompson said it best: Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.

The Outfit TX offer that singular music to swerve and dip, the type to carry you across state lines on gasoline fumes and hammering volume. Play their music softly on weak ear buds and it’s like hitting the spliff without inhaling. Don’t drive this in the wrong gear. If handled correctly, that slab with the needle on empty can turn into a spaceship that warps to the strip club at light speed.

The Dallas trio’s fourth album, Fuel City, is meant to test the limits of your automotive, sonic, and nervous system. These are deep shattering grooves. Bass lines sound like cluster bombs. Drums rattle like a hemorrhaging threat. The lyrics are immediate but slightly ominous.

It’s title comes from the spiritual and physical crossroads of Dallas life. Fuel City is a Lone Star institution and mutation: a place where you can pet a zebra and fill up your tank for cheap. You can eat a taco and gawk at an oil derrick, an ancient windmill, and the drunken mobs that converge to pick up, stock up, and stunt.

In the words of Mel from the Outfit, Fuel City is almost like the stage in Paid in Full: “you can be one of those people that goes uptown and parties with the rich white folks or you can be at the most ratchet hole in the wall booty club, but you’ll meet at Fuel City.”

The Outfit occupy a similar nexus. Over the past four years, they’ve alchemized a narcotic blend of haunted interstellar crawlers and rowdy tear-the-club up music. Mel, Jawhawk and Dorian meld strains from Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Memphis, but have created their own singular genre of slightly paranoid party music.

Fuel City might remind you of bible material from Triple Six Mafia, 8Ball & MJG, and UGK, but they’ve crossed that point where they sound like nothing but themselves. Their latest gem is 10 bangers, best heard at obscene volume and velocity. This is The Outfit on Supreme Premium 93, a full sack of kush in the car and the Backwoods already twisted up. Do the dash, get in and get out.

It’s out now on POW Recordings. This is the story of how it came to be.

Mel:  In 2016, it felt like Hawk and I were running a marathon. We made a new song every day. Producers were pulling up at the studio with packs of beats. We’d get a handful and do our thing on those and rinse and repeat. One night, Franchise came through and after he left, Hawk recorded me doing hooks. That was one of the hooks that I did. Both of us immediately vibed to it.

We did four or five hooks that night, but that was the one that had the most power to it. That night or the next day,  Hawk came through and put his verse down. Then all of us reviewed it together. That’s sort of our process.

Over the years, we’ve transitioned from a more avant-garde process to a more focused one. With Down by the Trinity, I think out of those 13 songs, we might have made 20 to 25 songs total. With Starships & Rockets, we kept 12 tracks out of 30 or 40. With this, it’s 10 songs out of about 80 recorded.

As for the boxed wine in the video credit, I got to give my mama credit for that. She’s an OG sophistiratchet and loved her boxed wine. She actually prefers it. I was giving her shit for it and then drank some and got toasted in a short amount of time. It automatically screams ratchet shit, real country, trailer park shit.

Dorian: We definitely had a box of wine in the freezer when I was coming up. I never understood why the wine was being poured like Kool Aid, but now that I’m grown…

Jayhawk: At the same time, we’re trying to ball on a budget and make our dreams come true. You can make 34 glasses out of a box of wine, versus four from a bottle.

2. Phone Line

Mel: This was a similar process. We got a pack of beats from Free Band Hunter. It was one of those nights where we came to the studio from a show and most of the beats were mellow or some trap shit. We ‘ve enjoyed this current trap era, but some of it has gotten redundant.

We gravitate towards the wavy trap shit out of the pack, and we knew there was something in there with this beat.  We had a lot of company that night and we were jumping around in the studio, which accounts for the energy.

3. Goin’ Up ft. C Struggs

JayHawk: We were in Atlanta and had a studio session with producer, Mitch Mula and let him know that we wanted a beat with a more sped up tempo. He made that on the spot for us. Ironically, the studio we were at didn’t have the capability to record, so we recorded some voice memos to it and went back home.

There’s usually a commonality to how we work. We’ll have a beat and a hook for a while, but if we keep on listening to it, we know there’s obviously something to the record.

That was one of those songs we just rode to. It had that energy and embodied that whole spirit of Dallas and the club.

Mel: We knew Struggs from conversing and checking out his videos online, so the collaboration was a long time coming. Struggs is the last of a dying breed around here and that’s what makes him so refreshing. Everyone now wants to sing progressive new wave and grow their dreads out and get them a purse, but Struggs is an artist that sticks to his 10 and 2. Everything about his soundscape is Oak Cliff. Within the city, he has a lot of OG support. He’s like good big bro, a one man Southern Dallas regional curator.

4. Baby’nem ft. Landstrip Chip 

Mel: Hawk prefers this version of me– the Purple Devil Emoji Mel. I’m cool with that, but I’m more than purple devil emoji. I made the bitch and we were listening to it and we thought about Chip, He’s a definite rap partner of ours and he shot it back to me in 24 hours.

Dorian: The thing that I personally love about what Chip brings to is that he brings that whole Atlanta wave. For me, it reminds me that we’ve got our lane and he brought that Atlanta lane to it.

5. Dez Bryant:

JayHawk: I remember one night I was going to leave the studio and DJ T Walk said when are you going to finish the “Dez Bryant” joint. It had that energy with that ad-lib talk at the beginning and there was something about it that I knew would wind up on the project.

Mel: I wasn’t so sure about it, but Hawk sold me. We have a board in the studio and we color code as we go — as we work on shit. The songs that are in red are basically unfinished, mostly choruses and hooks. Maybe Hawk will have a verse on one or I’ll have a verse on another. We might have 75 songs in red at any given time. I figured it’d be one of those but Hawk was adamant about this one.

6. Outta Control

Mel: The producer, Lil Mister and I are from the same neighborhood. He’s 19 or 20, and I guarantee you, no disrespect to any of the other producers – but because he’s so young and so talented, he’s going to be one of the biggest producers out of Dallas. He’s already been getting a lot of placements. He did most of Peewee Longway’s last tape, including “Reroc.”

Mister works in the same building as us. Same floor, just two or three doors down. The thing about our presence in Dallas is we’ve kind of existed in an avant-garde and alternative space. A lot of producers wanted to work with us, but until now they didn’t feel like they could. He’s one if the exceptions.

Him being young, he gets it — that’s rap to this generation. I say this with all humility, but we’ve always been ahead of our time and Mister fucks with us and prefers this space. I say all that to say, he dropped a beat pack on us, then moved out to Atlanta for a few weeks, and then came back and dropped another big folder on us.

We’d sat on it and toward the end of the process, we had all talked and Dorian was adamant about there being something missing. We all agreed and it was bothering me. Hawk and I were trying to figure out what it was and we unearthed a red record to see if that was it, but we realized it was redundant. It was just “Baby’nem with a different beat and hook

Then I pulled that beat up and got that vibe. I get a lot of cues from Hawk’s response. D’s a martian so you get nothing. If D blinks three times, we might have a hit. But you’ve got to be careful and watch for those blinks.

7. Told That Bih

JayHawk: That was towards the end of the process and if was one of the last beats that T-Walk played for us that day.  At first, it didn’t hit me like that. I came up with a melody but I didn’t jump out my seat.

I sent the melody to him which is at the beginning of the hook and he rocked with it. T-Walk liked it too and Mel was like, if I hear this melody I hear, ‘told that bih.’ He’d been trying to figure out other things but this just keeps hitting him.  I wrote the melody and he wrote the words.

I came up with that first verse off top, but Mel sold that record to me. His excitement and energy made me believe in the record.

8. Look Crazy:

Mel: That was the same night that T Walk dropped off “Dez Bryant.” At first, I was like this shit is hard, but I avoided it because it was almost too regional. It has this certain groove to it. It’s a real Louisiana and Texas record to me. I’d recorded a melody in the voice memo of my phone, and kept listening to a reference of me mumbling over the beat in Logic.

We kept moving and after a few weeks Hawk asked me about it and keep mumbling that melody. He was like, ‘that one…what’s that.’ We pulled it up and started working on it and finally played it for D just to check out what he thought. We have a lot of records like that – every artist does. You think about Prince or Badu. Everybody wanted Purple Rain Prince or Baduizm Badu for the rest of their career – but you only hear those glimpses.

For us, we’re born and raised Louisiana Texans. We’re blessed to be young, but caught the tail end of a missed era of regional music. We can easily pull that out of our hat at any time and make some Dallas boogie shit. We can make something reminiscent of 07 Boosie shit at any pot in time.

I know Prince probably had a hard drive of Purple Rain records, but as an artist you’re over that, we were afraid it was one of those records.

Dorian: I was like, ‘you think this hoe too country?’  Sometimes, you’ve got to trust that. That’s who you are. That’s the shit that we came up on. It’s hard nowadays because our region and our culture has kinda been ostracized into this forgotten land in our new digital society. If you go on Spotify, the legendary mixtapes that we can remember aren’t there. You can’t even find Webbie’s Savage Life on DSP’s/

Mel: It was just reminding me, that it ain’t country, it’s just dope.

Jayhawk: One thing that we can bring to the game is records for women that are more celebratory for them. We’re very comfortable in making records like that that praise a women in the aspects that we love about them.

9. Insumnia

Mel; Franchise produced that. We try not to give too much of the movie away, but that’s kinda like the bag on the project. Only because of how this is presented. Franchise is definitely also going to be very big. He works with Key! in Atlanta a lot and did the song with him and Gucci Mane on Kozy Tapes Volume 2.

We made this during one of those phases where we’d done so many straight up up tempo, rap songs. Anyone who knows us, just as much as we like to swim on the surface we like to dive to the bottom. Out of all the beasts, this was the most thought provoking

I put the chorus down and then did another one or two and then it was one those moments where Hawk’s reaction sold it to me. D was like that’s hard. If you can get D to say that then you’ve got something

JayHawk: A year before we made that song, I remember being in a studio sessions and Franchise was like, ‘this wave I’m working on next…people won’t be ready for.’ When I think about this record, it’s so different. It’s a whole different lane from what’s going on today. I just remember him dropping that gem, that omen, and this was how it paid off.

10. Really Off ft. Dorian

Dorian: It appropriately closes the record out. It has a whole other tempo and shows that even though we’ve done all these records in a different vein that what we’ve done in the past, this was a mixture of all of them — except with that new flavor.

Mel: The rant at the end was kinda unplanned. GTMusick pulled up on us and produced this. He’s a part of Ear Drummers, people don’t even know he lives in Dallas, but he does.

If GT pulls up on you with three beats, at least one is a smash. I called him towards the end of the process, and told him there was some things missing. He was like, ‘I’ll be there at 11.’ He came in there that night and listened to what we had. GT likes to listen and talk and get a feeling of what you’re aiming for, then he opens up his laptop, thinks about what you said, and plays you what you need.

That might have been the second beat he played. I was like ‘that shit hard.’ He left us with three of those beats and we ended up finding the missing piece in “Outta Control.” If might’ve been the last night we were working on the album.

D was supposed to be finalizing the mixes that night. I’m listening to that beat and riding to the voice memo I’d originally recorded it on. I call it a free drawing on the beat. I kinda did some shit on it and put it in the order that you hear.

Hawk is always ready to rap whenever, but when I finally finished this song, I was like ‘this hoe feel like an outro.’ Then I just pressed record and started free talking. I didn’t plan to keep it. If I did, I would’ve maybe been more tactful. But when I stopped it, I heard Hawk say ‘yuh, keep all of that. They need to hear that pain’

I was a little reluctant. It’s definitely the darkest moment on the record. Like Hawk said, it’s a sober moment on that record that’s needed. People needed to hear it. We’ve have laid our lives down on wax. We’ve been doing this since 19 to 20. We’re now in our mid to late 20s. I’m ready to see arenas when I’m young. I ain’t trying to be 30-something years old and mosh on our knees. I feel like we’re NFL ready. I mean that with all confidence.