“OUTLAST” is an incredibly clean and polished record with moments of brilliance, but the album’s greatest achievement is the construction of an identity for its creator.
The artwork that covers “OUTLAST” is abstract and monochrome. Swathes of black and white pollute the space, outlines of barbed wire tangle and writhe like loose threads. It’s a portrait of a man fractured, compartmentalised, divided. A suitable cover for an album which deals with identity on nearly every song, and tries valiantly to tie them all together.
“You don’t know shit about me, you don’t know where I come from, you don’t know about my team” sings London based multi-hyphenate FXLLEN on “Where I Come From”, the conceptual centerpiece of “OUTLAST”. In the hook, the singer melodically denounces those who wish to write his story for him. He strips away all of the facets of his background, leaving only loyalty and commitment to his chosen family and his craft; “me and my gang we don’t see colour, we see the heart of the man”. Though this could be seen as kind of redundant – it’s naturally expected that race shouldn’t play a part in judgement – the line is carried by the context of the song. FXLLEN isn’t addressing societal ills here, he’s asking for a personal blank slate.
Much of the identity created on “OUTLAST”, at least in the first half, focuses on love and commitment. “Looking at the Moon” is a forlorn call to the night sky, with light orchestral instrumentation and ghostly backing vocals that open the track with cinematic flair. “Tell myself that I’mma make myself a better man… just for you baby I do what I can” is maybe the most serious point on the record. “Looking at the moon” flows well from “Say to You”, a duet with Yxng E that serves as a basic statement of intent, at once addressing the listener and a love interest with the hook – “There’s a lot I’ve got to say to you”. This episode concludes with “Bestie”, which is vocally mild but wonderful in concept. Having spoken about her for the two previous songs FXLLEN gives the mic to his partner REDCVSTLE, who delivers an ethereal verse, lyrically mirroring FXLLEN on certain bars. This moment of surprise bookends the first half of the album on a high note.
On another note, the quality of the album’s sound is absolutely worth praise. The whole project sounds clean, polished and precise – there are absolutely no moments where a song is let down by the recording or mixing, and between tracks the level of finesse is consistent. FXLLEN absolutely lives up to his title as an audio engineer here.
As the listener crosses to the other side of “3.5 (Freestyle)” the album slowly begins to descend into madness. The confidence of “Where I Come From” is undercut by NULLY’s doubt on “LET ME OUT!”, a song of two parts. “I’ve been told by masses I should fucking die and leave this place” is a melodramatic line, contrasting the higher emotional points of the album. The heavy, sluggish drums and withering guitar notes add to an atmosphere of decay. As the beat warps into trap, in line with the rest of the album, FXLLEN comes through with some really well delivered lines; “I’m not being funny, you need to go and get my money, go and get my money right now” is nimble, almost panicky in its speed. “Fuck What I Look Like”, the eight track, could be more focused. It’s the only track without a clear goal, though in jumping between topics it does contribute to the growing insanity of the record’s latter half.
“OUTLAST” concludes with “Woah” featuring Mch6, a breathless collection of mantras that spin around, echoing, as crushed bells and blown out bass rattle underfoot. Mch6’s delivery is gruff and understated. The whole vibe is alien. It’s as if the moonlight cast over the album has cast some kind of arcane magic, with FXLLEN sounding almost possessed as he struggles for air between words. The listener leaves the story unsure if the protagonist was able to outlast the night or not.
Listen to “OUTLAST” here.
Album credits can be found here.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)