The Outernet is a song you don’t hear much about when discussions of the “Overcast” album arise. I actually originally thought it a bit avant garde as one of the handful of selections on the “Overcast” EP vinyl. It seemed that “Clay” or “Ode To The Modern Man” were more likely options in terms of overall better songs. However, the content alone makes the case for its inclusion. It tackles the endlessly ongoing inner-struggle that Hip Hop faces with practitioners constantly blurring the line between the competitive nature of Hip Hop VS the unhealthy attempts at tearing down others who are contributing something viable to the growth of the scene…or at the very least, people wasting their energy on worrying about someone else’s actions and impact, rather than maximizing their own.
My interpretation of the “Outernet” is two-fold. First, I assume Slug is making a direct, but loose reference to the Internet, which was really starting to become a household word around this time and more and more people were starting to explore this strange new destination called the World Wide Web. Yet, secondly, he was altering the meaning to refer to the casting of a net over the living and breathing local scene, one that would set up boundaries that many were likely to become trapped behind. I suppose that captures the irony of the term internet in itself, as something with the sole purpose of reaching out beyond, not just your neighborhood, but your country and having no limits, the term Outernet seems more appropriate.
Per his specialty, ANT appropriately sets the tone with some eerie high pitch frequencies, somber undertones, and a sneakily treading beep noise. Slug comes in spewing the sort of battle rhyme bravado that was one of his trademarks at the time, “For starters, I contemplated on where to split ya…/Marked the spot with a dotted line and ripped ya/Used careful procedure/If you listen closely you can hear the ghostly moans of foes bleeding thru the speakers.” Say What??!! But, that constitutes just a few short bars, acting as a warm-up, building to his true focus, “Used to be on mission to destroy an MC’s existence/Now I’m trying to build, so we can make this s**t efficient/Strength is in the mind and strength is in the numbers/Too much length in your slumber so we linked the bees and stung ya/I brung ya three times as much as your f***in’ idols brought to you/But sense you know me locally, you dismiss me as an obstacle/F**k it, Rhymesayers already got the Twin Cities locked/Support’s overwhelming, ain’t no need for you to give me props/It’s time to reach out, grab the nation and the earth/Let’s see where your heart’s at, lets put the Outernet to work… (2Xs)” Clearly the braggadocio isn’t an abandoned tactic, but he reinforces its strength with an end goal that is grander than merely crushing the egos of would be competition…yet, still manages to do that in the process as well.
The next vocal section showcases another of Slug’s early unique writing methods and it’s moments such as these that best foretell his eventual mastery of conceptual songwriting that would continue to develop through out his career. He was inventive in creating compact mini-concepts within his verses, which allowed him to experiment with conversational tones, poetic inclinations, and creative use of space, “He said what? …he’s telling all of his boys that I can’t rhyme/then I guess the s**t’s a success if I’m even on his mind/He’s doing what?? Recording a project? Good he should be/I’m not impressed. It’s obvious y’all never understood me/I dwell in a land of 10,000 Hip Hop fans and every fan thinks he’s an MC/Heads are heavy…but they’re empty/I dwell in a land of 20,000 MCs/But only half of them are head influenced/Hence, confusion stems/Dem no need to worry about what the next man’s doing/That’s what keeps you from perceiving what I’m pursuing/Here’s a clue-in, kill your demo, I’m trying to make history/On a bus full of empty seats, now who wants to sit with me/In case you’re unaware, we’ve been doing this forever/And ain’t a damn thing changed, financial status nor the weather/However, lack of cash reinforces passion/F**k the rapping man, if I was wack, I’d promote the happenings/The difference between the average head and an MC is effort/Pick a side, either side, let’s begin to network (2Xs)…”
After spending the first two verses giving a critical analysis of the scene and the critiques that come from being a part of it, he spends the final verse being self-analytical, using those same writing tactics employed in the last verse, first as a rhyme writer and secondly in how he proposes to help build the scene, “As an MC, I run rhymes to distribute the fun times/As a lyricist, I promise to heat up your brain like sunshine/As and MC, my goal is to make the whole show dope/As a lyricist, I wanna spit that s**t that you can quote/As an MC, I provoke my producer to stoke your spirits/So as a lyricists, I can’t be choking on my lyrics/As an MC, I know the key is originality/And as a lyricist, I command other MCs to respect me/That’s it, respect, that’s all/In fact, the same respect I offer to you and your crew after y’all rip a set/I’m just a man, but I role with others and/we got this plan to let the voice expand across this tortured land/Education starts at home, 612, from there we roam thru headphones/ coming soon to your warzone/The aftermath’ll have to plant some gems into your passive ass/Amped to cut trees and branches, so ya’ll will have a path/The more you feed it, the more it needs to consume/If you’re coming thru the region, hit me up, we’ll rock a room/Let’s network, let’s work, let’s all get work/So we can build a overall networth...”Ah, the fine art of merged humbleness and ego, both essential components, or at the very least, expected characteristics, of a charismatic MC.
In those last two verses, there are so many lines and writing techniques that are worthy of specific highlighting. Also, a fair share of his comments that ring with, what I imagine is, the painful sting of truth to some, specifically those in local scenes the world-over who allowed ego to collide with judgment, to paraphrase another Slug quote. As impressive as the writing is on “Outernet”, I must admit that the noting of it eluded me upon initial listens. Truthfully, I never deciphered the true potency of it until today while writing this and I wasn’t really expecting to discover that. I was merely seeking to write about what I thought might be an unexpected song from Overcast. However, while there is no denying the writing showcased on “The Outernet”, I think part of what lends to its greatness now is how prophetic it has become in so many ways...
Written By Kevin Beacham
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