Prior to Lee Perry and the technicolor Lucky Charms Coat taking over that Mormon bastion, the El Rey theater, I watched Pacewon and his DJ/producer/token white boy, Mr. Green deliver a capable, simple set of beats and rhymes. It was fine, but the entire time I couldn't help but wish I was watching an Outsidaz show. For those of you who didn't spend the 90s poring over overpriced copies of the Source and engaging in Mixed Up Files Of Basil. T Frankweiler-esque escapades at Fat Beats, Pace Won used to be a crucial member of Newark clique, The Outsidaz, one of the better, lesser known groups of the late 90s.
Best known for their debut on The Fugees' “Cowboys” and a one-time affiliation with Eminem, the crew released a couple of great 12″ inches, and managed to cultivate a modest underground buzz before the ham-handed hackery of Ruffhouse/Columbia (catalogued by Noz ) delayed their first LP, The Bricks, until 2000. Beyond the record's non-existent promotion, it didn't help that the pop averse, grimey Brick City rappers fit into nether the Rawkus-model backpack nor the Escalades and rims raps already entrenched at the top of the Billboards.
The Outsidaz' career seems dogged by “What Ifs?” What if they'd formed a few years earlier, during an era when their hardcore, pre-crossover raps would've meshed well. Or what if Eminem hadn't ditched them (and Royce) in favor of putting out the largely talentless, D-12? Or what if Rah Digga, one of the more skilled female MCs ever, hadn't been plucked away by Busta for the Flipmode Squad, thereby reducing their ranks and depth.
The Outsidaz: $5 Bucks If You Can Guess Which One Is Pony Boy
After The Bricks bricked, the crew dissolved, with Young Zee signing a deal with rap graveyard Aftermath/Shady Records and predictably never being heard from again, save for an appearance on the 8 Mile Soundtrak, where the label trotted him out like an exhausted prisoner of war for a propaganda shoot. Pacewon's solo attempts didn't fare much better, with few albums no one checked for and a beef track aimed at Eminem that seemed futile against Shady's overwhelming popularity at the time.*
Currently working the comeback trail behind his Mr. Green collabo, The Only Color that Matters is Green, I happened to like a good portion of pair's new material. Pacewon can still rap and while the performance wasn't close to mind-blowing, the ex-Outsida(z?) maintains the charisma and magnetism to work a crowd, even one that didn't have the faintest idea who he was. Despite the cheers Pace elicited, there was something a little sad to it. Not through the performance itself (which was good), but in it's context. Of course, it didn't help matters much either when Pace admitted mid-set that “I'm get older….I'm getting better…but I'm getting older.”
Rap generally shoves it's elders off on ice floes. Hell, not even the greatest of the Golden Agers remains commercially relevant. So in a way, it's nice to know that Pace is hanging in there and continuing to make music despite the slim odds that he'll ever make it back to the show. It's an uncomfortable reality, but most rappers just aren't interesting enough to be solo artists.** In reality, the wise move is to call up Young Zee and Rah Digga, and try to get the band back together. Perhaps they'll find BSkills playing Latin lounge music at the Ramada. I mean if if Camp Lo could get re-signed after hibernating for a decade and Kardinal Offishal can top the charts, there's always a shot.
*At least, Pacewon can take solace in the fact that in 2008, the only people who continue to like Eminem obviously haven't heard him rap during the G-Unit era.
** For further solace, Pace should understand that plenty of great rappers have never been able to hack it solo either. See Sermon, Erick.