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At least Outasight's relationship with Jay-Z is far less complicated. As a teenager who calls Hova's 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt "the soundtrack of my high school years," Richard Andrew idolized Jay-Z from afar. But being a peer has brought Jay-Z — or at least, the challenge he represents to a new artist — much closer. Sometimes uncomfortably close, in fact.
Outasight acknowledges the huge advantage owned by any performer who made his name before the digital era splintered the musical world into countless shards of MP3s. If that artist happens to be a master of branding and self-promotion — as Jay-Z assuredly has proven to be — then the bar for a newcomer trying to become known can seem impossibly high.
"Sometimes," Outasight admits, "it's like running into a brick wall. The game has changed so much. It was a lot easier ten or fifteen years ago, I'm sure, because you didn't have all these things to worry about."
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But as he celebrates the success of a recent mixtape, Further (available at iamoutasight.com), and prepares his Warner debut, Outasight tries to take heart from the continued dominance of Jay-Z, as well as more recent Internet-fueled success stories, such as the Canadian rapper Drake.
"Competition has always been the nature of the beast," Outasight observes. "And if you have records that resonate with people, then it doesn't matter how many people you're up against. I think there's room enough for everybody."
Perhaps. But as the testimonies of Memphis Bleek and Outasight attest, there will always be room for Jay-Z, at least.