DAR Legends: OutKast

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
-Two MCs from Georgia. Formerly known as Two Shades Deep. Formerly known as Black Dog and Black Wolf. The humble beginnings for the Atlanta based legendary duo Outkast should be well known, but in case you're unfamiliar, now you know. When I first got into hip hop heavily, Outkast was just debuting with their debut album in 1994. I heard "Player's Ball" and instantly the rhythm and melody drew me in. I was taken aback by the soulful sound in production accompanied by the even smoother hook provided by Sleepy Brown. I didn't know much about Outkast, Sleepy Brown, or Organized Noize at that point, but as the years went by, I'd become more and more familiar. After their first album dropped, I remember sitting on the porch in my neighborhood during the summer of 1996 when a very slow yet smooth boom bap sound came out of the radio and it made me stop and listen. As the opening words of "one for the money, yessir, two for the show... a couple of years ago..." hit my ears, it was at this moment, I really became an Outkast fan. I was still really young, and I couldn't appreciate their lyrics the same way that I do now, but I knew their music was enjoyable. 

As a kid, I didn't own a lot of rap albums, I just listened to what I heard in on the radio and around family and friends. However, my cousin would end up letting me listen to the second album from the duo, and I couldn't put it down. The second album, ATLiens, is my personal favorite hip hop album of all time, and I think it's one of the greatest hip hop albums ever without question. My mother would end up getting me a copy of Outkast's ATLiens because I wouldn't shut up about the album (and being a child, not shutting up about something is usually the best way to get what you want... sometimes), and though she was a bit concerned about that parental advisory sticker, she let me listen to it with no (real) issue. She would even start to like the music herself. Her favorite song? She didn't know the name, and she still doesn't remember the name of it today, but she loved the hook of "me and you, your momma and your cousin too" from "Elevators", the biggest hit single from ATLiens. If you're reading this, you might wonder why I've taken a much more personal experience approach to this article than just speaking about Outkast as a group, and there's a method to my madness, as always. Outkast is my biggest influence as an artist and my all time favorite hip hop group/artists. Sure, Nas is the GOAT to me, and the best solo hip hop artist ever, but Outkast rests at the top of my list overall. My appreciation for them came at such a young age, and aside from 2Pac, there were no other artists that I listened to as much as a kid and honestly, as an adult. 

What made Outkast so unique to me and my personal favorite from the start was that their music just felt genuine, if you will. From "Elevators" to "Jazzy Belle" to "Crumblin Erb", the first two albums possessed songs that I could somewhat relate to, or if I listened close enough, I could learn from them. For me, the debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and the sophomore album ATLiens are truly where my appreciation for Outkast started, but it is not the entire story of their journey itself and not the entire story of my appreciation for Outkast. They are quite the legendary duo, and today, with Big Boi preparing to release his next solo album in June, we decided to kick off the month with a look at the greatest duo in hip hop history, and possibly music history (apologies to Hall and Oates). Let's take a look at the legend of Outkast. 

Outkast is without a doubt one of the most legendary names in hip-hop, music as a whole and pop culture. The tandem of Big Boi and Andre 3000 was the perfect mix of straightforward yet blistering lyricism in Big and more abstract, worldly lyricism from 3000. Both men were incredible lyrically and with the production of the legendary Organized Noize behind them with their bass filled, funk inspired beats, they couldn't miss.

Their first album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was written and recorded when the two were teenagers and yet the sound of the album and depth of the lyrics painted a picture of two young men wise far beyond their years and the title track was the perfect example of the type of sound they would pioneer going forward in their careers. Moving on to their second album, ATLiens, Big and 3000 used the title as inspiration and focused on more of an outer space feel to the production that still fit their individual and tag team styles perfectly and is frequently cited as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.

So what do you do when you drop a certified classic? If you're Outkast? You drop another certified classic. Aquemini marked the 3 straight classic record mark from the duo and with the commercial success of ATLiens, they were able to have more creative freedom production wise and further expanded on their sound. Giving us the classic "Rosa Parks", "Aquemini", and "Da Art of Storytellin' (Pt. 1)", just to name a few, this album was filled with bangers. One of the best tracks on the album is "Slump" and it's dropped right in the middle almost as a pallet cleanser for the last half of the album and just a testament to the quality they were putting out at the time.

From there we got Stankonia, the ridiculously good Speakerboxxx/Love Below and Idlewild. And not ONCE did these dudes miss. That's unprecedented for a solo act let alone a duo with a body of work that spans 20+ years. While 3000 has for the most part stepped away from music except for a guest spot here and there, Big Boi has been consistently dropping music giving us 2 incredible solo albums with a third on the way in June. And despite being a solo artist now, he still retains that classic Outkast sound and we're still sitting here waiting for Andre to give us an album. It says a lot about Outkast as a whole that the impatience stemming from the wait for his album is more because we know it'll be quality music rather than just waiting because we want new music. Outkast is and forever will be one of the greatest hip hop acts to grace our ears.

When I first heard Outkast, my homie Willie had their tape and he played it on my grandma's porch on his CD player. Our minds were really blown because we'd never heard that particular sound or style of music. I definitely had never heard any of those types of flows that they were using. I remember being proud seeing southern guys portraying what I see and hear everyday. From "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik" to "ATLiens" to "Aquemini" to "Stankonia" to "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below", you could clearly tell they had a love for music, especially old school. Having a gritty southern sound with heavy bass, live instrumentation, soul, funk, rave, techno, rock, electro, psychedelia you name it. 

Every time they came out, they amazed me with the direction they went with their music and how dope they were able to make it sound. All their first singles like "Player's Ball", "Elevators", "Rosa Parks", "Bombs Over Baghdad", all the way down to their solo singles "Hey Ya" and "The Way You Move" all wowed me when I first heard them. Their sales matched their talents and helped take the south to a whole new level which I feel they arent really credited for enough. They went platinum with their debut and started gradually gaining more sales with each album, finally shocking the world going diamond with "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below". 

Their fashion was always eclectic, eccentric, and throwback but forward and on point, evolving just as their sound and content. The name Outkast was fitting for them then and even now because they're in their own lane still. I couldn't even name a favorite album of theirs because all of them came at different points of my life that struck me differently, but I'll say "Get Up, Get Out" was one of those songs that stuck with me off the message it sent. Seeing a lot of guys just wasting away, that song spoke to what I was witnessing around me and I was like "I won't be like them". Being one of the most innovative groups of all time by pushing the boundaries of hip hop with classics albums and reinventing themselves without compromising who they were makes them legendary. The ability to be able to crossover into different genres and in film is what makes the everyone respect them. Outkast is a legendary group, duo, and movement. 

Duos have always been vital to hip hop because what is better than one incredible artist gracing us with great delivery, dope lyrics and well put together songs? Well…two of them. We’ve seen many duos emerge since the mid eighties in hip hop. The duos that would be deemed “great” each kept to a formula that proved to be successful: a powerhouse of an MC and a fantastic DJ/producer. This worked for many but in 1991 somewhere in Atlanta, Andre 3000 and Big Boi would join forces as two very skilled and innovative MC’s. They didn’t follow the “formula” we were accustomed to but they would continuously push their creativity and skills and deliver consistently incredible albums every couple of years. While their debut wasn’t an extreme mainstream hit (but it went platinum so it was still successful), by their second and third projects (and so on) they would gain an immense following and popularity. Outkast had established a standard that only they could meet and incorporated genres we hadn’t heard paired with hip hop before. 

I had heard of Outkast when they dropped “Southernplayalisticadillacmusik", but in all honesty, 1994 had a lot going on with releases that this one got lost somewhere along the way for me. It wasn’t until they dropped “ATLiens” that they were back on my radar. I loved ATLiens almost instantly! Since they were incorporating techno, funk, psychedelic, and of course electronic sounding beats that I hadn't heard up until that point, it intrigued me. Although this sounds like it would be a mess, Andre and Big Boi simply used these beats and sounds (produced by Organized Noize) as a backdrop to their lyrics which were refined, polished and a lot more mature compared to their debut. I was hooked! Outkast managed to make each track coherent and cosmic which in line with the title. As much as I loved this project, my most favorite and what catapulted Outkast to the top of my “favorite duos” list was "Aquemini". This was brilliant in every sense and yet another display of how innovative these two are. Their skills were prevalent as this project would be mostly produced by themselves, the lyrics, delivery and flow of the entire album was perfect. “Da Art Of Storytellin’ (Part 1)”, “Rosa Parks”, “Skew It On The Bar-B”, “Aquemini” and “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” are the stand out tracks but really are just a few from a solid list. Release after release would push the creative envelope a little further, with a new angle, new themes and of course new beats while staying true to their beginnings. 

Besides the obvious additions to the music industry, Outkast’s impact in hip hop was huge. At a time when hip hop was primarily embracing gangster rap and grimy street beats, Outkast emerged with a completely new sound that had never been heard before. They came with a story, they made sure their albums were fun, engaging and refreshing. The duo proved that innovation, creativity and “off the wall” rap styles had a place in hip hop.  The only thing Outkast didn’t do a lot of was solo projects. While Big Boi would drop some solo projects in 2010 and 2012, Andre 3000 never did and hasn’t yet. With a duo that is so great and has consistently put out excellence, it would be a gift to hip hop to have solo work from both of them but they have given us enough to satiate our appetites. 

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-Outkast represents the greatest form of hip hop to me: free flowing and creative. Andre 3000 may be regarded by many as the stronger MC of the two, and while that's probably true, Big Boi isn't far behind (or you could argue he's on the same level). Big Boi and Andre together are an unstoppable force, and as I was growing up, I would always turn to their music for inspiration in someway. When I first met Apollo in middle school, my two favorite albums were Aquemini and Stankonia. We bonded and became friends over our appreciation for Outkast. At the same time, shortly after Stankonia hit 4 million copies sold, my mother became a huge fan of "So Fresh, So Clean", one of the biggest singles from the album. I remember playing "Ms. Jackson" for my mother, and instantly she became a fan of that too. For me, there wasn't much besides Outkast in hip hop that I could listen to with my mother, and while that may not mean much to anyone, it meant a lot to me. The same could be said for other bonds and relationships I forged over the years, a common love and appreciation for the music of Outkast made us closer or able to understand each other more. Does that sound crazy? Probably, but common interests, especially in music, means a lot. Now, outside of my personal affiliations and Outkast related stories, the duo itself has amassed one of the greatest catalogs of all time in hip hop. 

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, ATLiens, Aquemini, and Stankonia are all four different albums as well as classics in their own right. The Atlanta sound and style embedded within SouthernPlayalistic is undefeated, while the spacey yet boom bap ATLiens sound is one of the greatest ever in hip hop. The live instrumentation vibe and feel of Aquemini along with the creative element and abstract lyricism makes it one of the best albums in hip hop history. The same could be said, to a slightly lesser extent, about Stankonia, which isn't regarded as a true hip hop classic by many, but to me, it is the risky album in the Outkast catalog. With a mix of hard rock, soul, funk, and other elements, Stankonia possesses tracks from the darker "Gasoline Dreams", the booming "We Love Deez Hoez", the closest thing to a love song in "Slum Beautiful", the true anthem "So Fresh, So Clean", and even something for the streets on the Atlanta banger "Gangsta Shit". Kast showed on Stankonia that they could bring you the most diversity and balance and with that, they created something special. 

Their final two projects were also interesting and exist mostly as combined solo albums, starting with Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which is one of the very few hip hop albums to reach Diamond status with over 10 million copies sold. It was a great blend of Andre and his new direction with the funk, soul, psychedelic, and R&B rock styled album on "The Love Below", along with Big Boi sticking mostly to the script on "Speakerboxxx", while bringing more funk and soul to the table inside the hip hop lane. This album was essentially the perfect way to show the differences in the two MCs, and it worked wonders. With singles like "Roses", "The Way You Move", and "Hey Ya", the album not only registered millions of sales, it also racked up a ton of awards as well, including a large number of Grammys. As rumors of a future breakup persisted, Outkast was stronger than ever commercially. 

The last chapter so to speak of the Outkast legacy came in the form of a movie and soundtrack from Idlewild. For me, seeing the movie and hearing another project with Outkast on the same page was a dream come true, but the movie is essentially all about the differences within them and the need to separate some. The soundtrack was similar to this, as both artists once again came with some great solo tracks and two tracks rapping together. Those tracks "Mighty O" and "Hollywood Divorce", hinted at the possible separation even more, but also provided a form of solidarity. Lyrically, the songs in "Idlewild" appear to be therapy for the group, as we hear solo perspectives on tracks like "Chronomentrophobia" (a solo Andre song with a rap verse) and on the superb "The Train" (Big Boi's solo), we see the two MCs are clearly at different points in life. Idlewild was essentially a great way to say goodbye to the duo and it was in some way, the best way to leave the legacy. That was 11 years ago. 

Today, we all clamor for one Andre 3000 solo album, which has been rumored for years, or at least another Outkast album, which seems to come up as a topic every now and then. Will Outkast ever fully reunite? We've seen them together with Run The Jewels recently, as well as on the Dungeon Family Reunion show together, and there was of course the Outkast 20 year anniversary tour that blew the minds of the world, but all in all, it seems as if we'll just see Andre pop up with a verse when he gets hungry to rap again, and Big Boi solo albums. Still, whether Outkast returns or not for another album or even a tour, the fact remains that their legacy is forever solidified. They never became stale, released a bad project, or followed the curve. Outkast helped to change the game and honestly solidified Atlanta (alongside the rest of the Dungeon Family) as a true landmark for hip hop. Outkast, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, are two of the greatest MCs and the greatest duo in hip hop history. They are, without a doubt, legends.



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