This guest blog comes from the big homie over at Beats and Bombs. Check it out below and after you let it marinate, leave some thoughts in the comments.
It’s easy for me to document when my interest in Outkast was sparked and that is with the video above, “Rosa Parks”. Watching these two on MTV was mesmerizing the first time. The different flow, look and sound all had me engrossed in the video although I definitely had some questions. So there is no boom-bap beat? They are going to play the down south country card in this very divisive East-West rivalry that was permeating hip-hop at the time? What kind of rap was it? Party? Street? And what the hell is with those pants? Are they a gimmick to make up for skill? Outkast had my mind racing in directions I hadn’t even considered before in my few years of listening to music. It was all settled for me when I heard them rap the name of my favorite sports team “Georgetown Hoyas” into the rhymes, these guys had to be the real deal (hey it doesn’t take a lot for a sophomore in high school).
The more I heard “Rosa Parks” the more I started to understand the duo and ultimately become a fan. Yes they were from the South and damn proud of it. My East Coast bias (and the internet only being in its infancy) had prevented me from experiencing what was going on in other areas of our country and these guys were going to rap and sound just the way they wanted to, f#%k everyone else! The song wasn’t necessarily street or party rap either it was more of a declaration to move out the way because a new sound was here to envelop your eardrums. Their skills too were not to be denied. The enthusiasm and skill that Big Boi brought to the mic was a spark plug that any song could use and Andre’s unique narrative style made you feel that he had more ways to describe the story but there just weren’t enough bars to do it.
Now there was some homework to be done on my end. I went back through their catalog and unearthed classics like “Elevators (Me & You)”and “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” and listened more to Aquemini. These dudes killed it! They made that feel good music with their funky basslines and choruses but also had a usually positive message to go along with it. They were fringe rap yet mainstream at the same time for me and I was one of the first ones in my high school in Maryland to embrace it and I loved it although it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Once Stankonia dropped senior year of high school it was all over. Everyone knew about “Ms. Jackson” and “I am for reaalllllllll” haha. “So Fresh, So Clean” and “B.O.B.” all became senior year staples and since many of us had cars we were bumping that ish all day. These guys were certified pop stars at this point with repeated album and radio success and it didn’t matter to me one bit. Despite the success, these guys were still doing their own thing and coming out with music that sounded years ahead of its time. College came and the success still continued to pour onto these two with the double solo album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below that further propelled their career, which I didn’t even think was possible anymore. Andre3000 & Big Boi were selling solo albums as a group and still killing it. That almost doesn’t even make sense but is the truth.
I had reached the stage too in college where I was so into music that I wanted to be on the next thing before you had even heard of it. This meant that a lot of the radio hip-hop acts were shunned unless it was from a select few artists and Outkast were easily in this group. It went against a lot of what defined me at the time and still to this day, which was/is my musical knowledge, but Outkast were just that damn good. The hip-hop head could listen while the 14 year-old girl would know every word on Z100 and they still didn’t sound like anyone else. As the game became saturated with the southern sound in the mid-2000s, Outkast was still the group that everyone strived to sound like in one way or another and yet no other southern group could come close to attaining it. They were its history and future and that is uniquely amazing feat.
Instead of rambling on and chronicling them album by album, I will leave the more recent ones for you to remember for yourselves and also reminisce over the singles which have featured them together or separately. This post was supposed to be what about Outkast inspires me but I couldn’t help but think that Outkast as a group is my inspiration. When I was asked to write this article all of these memories flooded back at once and I decided to show what an inspiration they were for me in my formative years of growing up and finding my way in hip-hop. Their early innovation stunned and intrigued me and sucked me into being a fan before I even knew the heights these guys would attain. My hope is that by recounting it all that someone else will be inspired to either look up some of their past songs or albums or even recount your own story of Outkast inspiring you. Or maybe there was that one party in high school or college where things got hype when one of their hits played? If this one group out of the hundreds I have listened to in my life can create so many positive memories for me then it’s possible they did the same for a lot of you.
After all, Outkast continue to stay fresh and push boundaries that other artists wouldn’t have even considered until several years later. They are one of the driving forces still together that pushes us forward as a culture and never backwards and for that they are pioneers and an inspiration to all.
P.S. Please drop a new album soon.
-Corey Riley, Editor-in-Chief BeatsandBombs.com