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“Outernational sound as if Gogol Bordello and Dropkick Murphys were in a fistfight with the Red Brigade.”

One of the most difficult task an artist can embark on is how to create art that has a strong message, art that is meaningful without sacrificing the reckless abandon art sometimes requires. Great art comes from great vibes, and sometimes, placing the weight of the world on your shoulders can dampen the vibe needed for the cathartic release that creation is born out of. That is why the greatest artists in the world, the ones who’s art stands the test of time, are the artists who’s art revolves around revolution. Contrary to popular belief, it is the revolutionaries themselves, not conditions created by the oppressors the revolutionaries fight, that inspire great art. The arts and minds of revolutionaries are filled with the promise of great art, because revolution, like art, is how we showcase our humanity.

Founded in 2004, Outernational, a New York City based band featuring vocalist Miles Solay, guitarist Leo Mintek, bassist Jesse Williams Massa, drummer Nate Hassan and Dr. Blum on trumpet, is poised to be one of the most important bands of their generation. By deliberately crafting a soundtrack for revolutionary movement happening all over the globe, Outernational have tapped into something greater than being just a great rock and roll band; they are cementing themselves in the lives of oppressed people who don’t have the platform to have their voices heard. 

While definitely having all the makings of a great rock and roll band, Outernational’s musical influences have no boundaries. Drawing on their impressive knowledge of Latin music, reggae, world music and hiphop, Outernational has managed to create a sound that is uniquely their own but also belongs to the world. This musical mission has been outlined efficiently by the bands chosen name, Outernational. New Yorker magazine described Outernational as a band that “combines a radical position and contempt for stylistic rules like The Clash” while “striving to restore a virtuous indignation to rock and roll.” Identifying as a revolutionary, anti capitalist band, Outernational has sought out to break borders both politically and artistically.

I first met the band’s vocalist, Miles Solay at an event organized around freeing Mumia Abu Jamal, one of the most famous political prisoners in the world. Miles was a teenager then, and he was a staple at the many activist events I attended while starting my career. He seemed incredibly well informed for his age and he was always very studious in his approach to how music could be used to push solidarity amongst all people. I wasn’t the only professional musician Miles made an impression on. When he was 15 years old, Miles snuck past the security at 30 Rockefeller Center to get into the dressing room of guitarist Tom Morello while his band, Rage Against The Machine, was preparing to perform on Saturday Night Live. 

On that day, Tom Morello and Miles Solay formed a strong friendship that led to Tom producing two projects for Outernational. Titled Future Rock, and Here Is The Rose, these projects were released by the band independently. Preceding these releases Outernational released an album called Todos Somos Ilegales. Todos Somos Ilegales was dedicated to people who are dismissively called illegal aliens by the establishment. It featured appearances by Puerto Rican hip hop duo Residente Calle 13 and was recorded in the home of Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, who also appears on the album. Of Outernational, Chad Smith said, “I’ve never worked with more focused individuals who really want change to happen thru music.” Released to great critical review, Todos Somos Ilegales inspired Outernational to tour many towns on the United States/Mexico border. They spoke to farmers, students, undocumented workers and war veterans about immigration issues and played free concerts for the people of the areas that are ht hardest by immigration issues.

Never resting on their laurels, Outernational took their act globally in 2013 by performing at international festivals like Viva Latino in Mexico, Rock Al Parque in Colombia and Esperanza! in Belgium. After forming a relationship and partnering with the Villalobos Brothers, Outernational released a project called El Desafiante which was dedicated to 43 Mexican students of Ayotzinapa, who went missing day after day in 2014. Tom Morello, who released El Desafiante on his label Firebrand Records, refers to Outernational as an “uncompromisingly, politically, revolutionary band.” I agree whole heartedly, which is why I agreed to partner with the band on the release of their newest album, Welcome To The Revolution.

One may ask, what does Talib Kweli know about rock music? While I’m certainly more well versed in hiphop than any genre, I appreciate music based on the spirit it employs. The hiphop music that I have created thru my life wasnt solely influenced by rappers, it was also inspired by rock poets like Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins. While I was finding myself musically I was listening to rock groups like Operation Ivy, Bad Brains and Nine Inch Nails right along with De La Soul and Public Enemy. What I hear in Outernational is the same spirit I heard when I was introduced to Rage Against the Machine. It makes sense that Tom Morello also heard what I hear. I watched with admiration as Outernational began to release music and travel the globe, always remembering  how Miles Solay was the passionate kid that used to hang around my shows. When I involved myself more in movements for social justice, Miles, and by extension the band, were solid allies. When i organized free concerts in Ferguson Missouri after the death of Michael brown and the movement it spawned, Outernational rode into town with me.

Welcome To The Revolution is essentially the sum of all of the different parts of the the Outernational experience. Its a beautiful piece of art that places itself firmly in the tradition of the best that revolutionary music has to offer. Where Will You Go continues in the vein of solidarity with Latin music and people. Electric Avenue is a searing reimagining of a reggae classic. The title track, Welcome to the Revolution is a revolutionary definition of what a great rock song should be. As a whole, Welcome To The Revolution blew me away. I cannot wait until it does the same for you. You are indeed welcome to this revolution, and the soundtrack for it is Outernational.