Outkast: 20 Years And Counting?!
20 years ago, I had just returned home to Atlanta, GA from an active duty stint in the military. My cousin Kareem was attending Morris Brown College at the time and was heavy into the ATL night scene when one evening he asked me to join him to check out Das EFX, a smoking hot rap group at the time. Of course I was all in, however, I was in for an unexpected turn of events that would forever alter my hip-hop world.
Soon after arriving at the venue, a spot called the Warehouse on Marietta Street, the opening act hit the stage. Though unfamiliar with the music (often the case with an opening act), I was vibing to it anyway when it struck me that these two emcees on the stage looked very familiar. I ran through my mental Rolodex and realized that I went to High School with these guys. My interest was super piqued! By song three into their set, the fact of the matter had set in; they were good…really good! OutKast was here.
Three months later they released their debut album, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” to critical acclaim. While they certainly weren’t the first act to emerge from the dirty south (Geto Boys, UGK, etc.), their album had a certain texture that had never been attained by a southern outfit before. Think: the quality of A Tribe Called Quest project with the speedy wordplay of the Hieroglyphics, matched with the playarism of Too Short. These two emcees Andre (later adding 3000) and Big Boi, both a mere 18 years of age at the time, were rhyme-sayers to be reckoned with from the beginning. A four and a half mic rating from Source Magazine was bestowed upon the album, which later went platinum. Platinum!! And this was only the beginning…
Over the next 9 years, four more albums from OutKast followed, each attaining MORE status, sells and trophies than the previous albums. Their final collective project (not including the Idle Wild movie soundtrack), “Speakerboxxx/TheLoveBelow,” won the Grammy for Album of the Year-the highest honor in the music industry. This solidified the duo as the best rap group of all time in this writer’s opinion. And then…it all stopped.
From 2004-2013, 10 calendar years passed with zero new music from Outkast, sans a feature or two here and there. Hollywood saw both on the big screen several times (“Idlewild”, “Four Brothers”, “ATL”, etc.) and Big Boi stayed busy; releasing two albums both rich enough in content to keep the Outkast name and brand alive. Kudos to him for that. It’s an underrated fact. Meanwhile, Andre 3000 stayed mostly under the radar. Occasionally, he’d pop up on a high profile artist’s (Rick Ross, T.I., Young Jeezy) album to remind the world he’s still one of the very best to ever do it but he never did anything to suggest a solo album or an Outkast reunion was looming. Until now…
As many of you already know, a reunited OutKast is headlining the ever popular music festival Coachella this year. This speaks to the mystique and extreme “pedestal” status the duo still holds after 20 years in the game and 11 years after they last made music together. While it is not yet known if any new music is being cultivated for their headlining gig, having them as one unit again means the world not only to their fans, but to music as well.
Fast forward to present time, both Big Boi and Andre will turn 39 in 2014. As stated in my previous piece on this website, that age no longer means irrelevance in hip-hop, especially if you still “got it”. We all just want good, transcendent music, no matter the source. A lot has changed in the industry since 2003, some for the good, a lot for the bad. Can Outkast acquiesce to the now and return to prominence? For the sake of all of us who love them and rap music, I’d love to see them try. The time is now.”
My 10 Essential Outkast Recordings
1) Mainstream – ATLiens 1996
2) Benz or Beamer – New Jersey Drive Soundtrack 1995
3) B.O.B – Stankonia 2000
4) Players Ball (Remix) – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzick 1994
5) Elevators – ATLiens 1996
6) Return of the G – Aquemini 1998
7) The Whole World – Big Boi & Dre Present… 2001
8) Black Ice – Goodie Mob’s Still Standing 1998
9) Spottieottiedopalicious – Aquemini 1998
10) Roses – The Love Below 2003
-Jermaine Raetone Johnson
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