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The best kept secret in music


"OuterLimitz wants to create space of its own"

By Moira McCormick
Special to the
Published January 6, 2006

For local avant-rap outfit OuterLimitz, an unconventional hip-hop trio that pairs cerebral lyrics with slamming beats, what started as a classic young band's nightmare ended up as its first big break.

OuterLimitz celebrates the release of its latest album, "Suicide Prevention," Friday night at the Empty Bottle.

In the late '90s, the group won a talent show and the prize was a chance to perform at a Gulf Coast music festival. Getting to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi was an adventure in itself, recall the group members. The tour bus ferrying OuterLimitz and a dozen other area performers to the festival broke down in southern Missouri, so the travelers had to scrape together enough money to rent a U-Haul--no easy task for cash-strapped musicians.

Still, the group members figured they'd make the money back and then some by selling new copies of the group's first independent album, "Wrong Actions for the Right Reasons." But shortly after they arrived at the festival, OuterLimitz's box of CDs mysteriously disappeared.

"It was money out of our pocket," recalls MC Qwa (a.k.a. Qwazaar, also part of the Chicago hip-hop unit Typical Cats). "Money we didn't have." And while the gig went well and everyone made it back to Chicago via Greyhound bus, it seemed a serious financial setback.

But several weeks later, Qwa started getting e-mails and phone calls from fans in cities like Atlanta. "They were saying, `We love the OuterLimitz CD!'" Qwa recalls with a laugh. "We got on radio playlists, people were hitting me up from all over the South.

"Whatever had happened to our box of CDs, they'd started circulating--and because of that we were getting a name down there."

For this interview, Qwa, fellow emcee He.llsent (a.k.a. H.E.) and OuterLimitz's manager Corporate Avi sit in the boiler room of a South Side theology school, reminiscing about the early days. It's also the location of Qwa's and H.E.'s day jobs. "The hours are flexible, and it's peaceful," says Qwa of his maintenance gig.

"We call him the Genie of the Boiler Room," says Avi. It might've been sorcery, indeed, that's enabled Qwa and H.E. to turn OuterLimitz into one of the more head-turning musical groups in Chicago, or anywhere else. "Suicide Prevention," released in late August, has garnered favorable fanzine press and become one of the most high-profile rap CDs at Lakeview's Gramaphone record store.

"`Suicide Prevention' is a top seller here," says independent hip-hop buyer Justin Dawson, who attributes the CD's appeal to the intriguing tension between its seemingly opposing elements: "It's raw and clean at the same time; it can be very dark, but also beautiful."

Qwa and H.E. met as teens in 1992 at Dunbar High School on Chicago's South Side. "We were just rhymin' in the lunchroom," Qwa recalls. "Everybody'd congregate around the middle table, and if you were on the outside, you'd always be trying to get into the [inner] circle."

The two partnered in earnest, starting OuterLimitz after high school and seeing it through personnel changes and side projects--including Qwa's better-known outfit Typical Cats, which he says is still a going concern.

Current producer and deejay Silence came on board as OuterLimitz's third member. Qwa and H.E. were impressed by the unusual beats Silence crafted for Chicago's Frontline collective.

"He's the character of the group," says Avi of Silence, who besides concocting OuterLimitz's ominous, sometimes-eerie sounds, frequently appears onstage in outlandish getups, from a Freddy Krueger mask to swim cap and goggles. Silence recently moved to New Jersey but remains an integral part of OuterLimitz, and will appear at Friday's gig.

Qwa muses that "what OuterLimitz is doing definitely doesn't fit in with what you hear on the radio." But one thing's certain: "We just want to keep making beautiful music," says H.E. "Keep banging it out, and eventually it'll be heard."

OuterLimitz - Chicago Tribune

"Amazon FAN REVIEW (Typical Cats)"

5 out of 5 stars For people who love real hip-hop or music in general, October 4, 2005

Reviewer: kP

I have nothing bad to say about this CD. Every track has so much to offer from the music to the lyrics. Each beat has a nice mix of jazz, blues, and classical music combined with hip-hop beats that bring it all together. On every track the lyrics are so fluid and meaningful there's no way you can't feel this music. I personally love this CD and Typical Cats. If you love music, poetry, hip-hop, and art this CD is for you
- Amazon.com

"OuterLimitz - Suicide Prevention"

Chicago crew consisting of Qwazaar (of Typical Cats), Silence and He.llsent drops their 1st official release. Silence's unique brand of production booms in a new way. No looped breaks here, hypnotic low ends are complimented perfectly by the heavy drum sequencing. A breath fresh air in the land of copy cats.



Wrong Actions for Right Reasons - OuterLimitz (1998)
Typical Cats - Typical Cats (2001)
Walk Thru Walls - Qwazaar (2002)
Civil Service - Typical Cats (2004)
Lost Prevention - OuterLimitz (2005)
Suicide Prevention - OuterLimitz (2005)

Cold Crush - Qwazaar (pending)
Dirty Digital - Qwazaar & Silence (pending)


Feeling a bit camera shy


:::::::On the music side...hiphop in particular, there's alot of things that play a part in how i view music and my approach to it.too many to name, but if one thing caught my attention more than anything, it was the rhyme patterns that the late 80's/early 90's Emcee's were using.

::::::: I listened to cat's like Blacksheep, Slick Rick, Monie Love, the D.O.C. and Q-tip. I was so hyptnotized with how they made the words hit the beat that i'd write down the lyrics to their songs and practice spitting them till i had'em mimicked perfectly. Eventually it just made me want to write and perfect my own. So that's what i did.
so we teleport to 200NOW and here i am. still grinding and growing. Recording and Performing.

:::::::Typical Cats & Outerlimitz make up the small list of groups i roll with. I've released 2 albums apiece with each group plus a solo a few years back. A couple of them have been certified underground classics and i'm in the studio now working on the next couple of solo LP's , so the grind continues...

::::::::i have a strenuous relationship with hiphop music right now. I love it and hate it at the same time. It's like the industry doesn't want to take any risks with the music that's being pushed, and the artists don't want to take risks either...quick to want to trace someone else's sketch.

::::::::: truth be told i'd rather go gold being me, than go diamond as a bad impersonation. To me the spirit of hiphop has always been about having something to say and saying it in your own way. Being on your own shit. All I see and hear on radio and TV though is conformity. Which makes for some boring ass music at times.

Everyone's so concerned about soundscans , critics, peers, a dollar... etc., that they're too afraid to try anything outside the box.

**What i do , and the music i do in the future, will definitely be outside of that box**