Earlier this year, OutKast fans' collective prayers were answered when we received word that Big Boi and his reclusive partner André 3000 would be reuniting for a string of festival performances, their first together since in nearly a decade. After years of wondering what it would take to bring the duo back together, the answer came in the form of a monumental occasion — the 20th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.
When they released the seminal album back in April 1994, the then-teens set the stage for the South to stake its claim in the hip-hop arena. Up until that point, hip-hop had been primarily dominated by either East Coast or West Coast artists while Southern artists were often relegated to regional fame. Miami’s bass scene was perhaps the most nationally well-known form of Southern rap at the time due largely in part to 2 Live Crew’s controversial image. However, it wouldn’t be long until OutKast would let the world know without a shadow of a doubt that "the South got something to say."
Things kicked off with the group in high school, when Antwan Patton and André Benjamin connected while students at Tri-Cities High School. They would go on to rechristen themselves as Big Boi and André 3000 respectively and eventually came to be known as OutKast. They penned songs based on their humble Georgia beginnings. They were the picture of duality, weaving tales of the pimp and gangster lifestyles they bore witness to with politically conscious subject matter. Their production team, Organized Noize, helped craft a distinctive sound for them, lying somewhere between G-Funk and Southern hip-hop. Citing influences ranging from NWA and The Geto Boys to A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, the two had to pick a debut single that would combine those influences and personal experiences together.
“Player’s Ball” would be that song. Originally recorded as a Christmas song to be featured on LaFace Records holiday compilation, the song initially included sleigh bells when it first made its way to radio and centered around Christmas Day in the hood. It wasn’t until it began to take off after the holiday season had passed that it was modified to the more familiar version.
Though the video was directed by Sean Combs, the introductory visuals were distinctly Southern. There was no doubt that Big Boi and André were 100% homegrown and proud of it as they paced back and forth in Atlanta Braves jerseys with the Georgia red clay beneath their feet. They were young, energetic and slightly unpolished. They also emanated the type of confidence that went along with knowing that they were on to something good. “Player’s Ball” went on to become the highest charting single from Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, ultimately reaching the top spot on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart, No. 37 on the Hot 100 and No. 12 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
The duo followed up the song with the album’s title track. With its deep baseline and head nodding factor, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” further made folks beyond the confines of the South sit up and take notice. Though considered one of OutKast’s signature songs now, it did not make as big an impact on the charts as its predecessor. The follow-up single, “Git Up, Git Out” was also an underperformer. However, it was the first official introduction to the general public of OutKast’s Dungeon Family comrades Cee-Lo Green and Big Gipp of Goodie Mob.
All hope was not lost, however. Aside from the singles, the album as a whole became a fan favorite thanks to other songs such as "Ain't No Thang," "Funky Ride" and "D.E.E.P." Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik climbed to the No. 3 on the Top R&B Albums chart and No. 20 on the Top 200 chart. It was named one of Vibe magazine’s “150 Essential Albums of the Vibe Era (1992-2007)" and earned the guys the Best New Rap Group honors at the 1995 Source Awards. The win elicited a fair share of boos from the New York City-based audience, thus motivating André to declare that the “South got something to say” in response.
OutKast would ultimately have the last laugh, as Big Boi and André would go on to become multi-platinum selling artists and six time GRAMMY winners. With each subsequent album, the duo would begin to explore and experiment with their sound. André has infamously undergone the greatest change of all, shunning the marijuana that he rapped about so passionately on “Crumblin’ Erb.” They would reach their pinnacle with their 2003 double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The album catapulted them into pop superstardom thanks to André’s infectious “Hey Ya!” and Big Boi’s “The Way You Move.”
We all know how the story ends, unfortunately. The two would go on hiatus following the disappointing release of their feature film Idlewild and its soundtrack. What began as a temporary break ultimately stretched into nearly a decade with the longtime friends seeming to drift apart. Big Boi launched a label and released several solo projects, meanwhile André dabbled in fashion design, a Cartoon Network show and acting, while also declaring that he no longer had a desire to make new music.
Longtime ‘Kast fans never gave up, however, holding on to the hope that the two would unite to make new music. While nothing new has been born of their recent reunion tour, with André even expressing some regret post-tour, us fans have been able to take comfort that for 40 dates in 2014, OutKast was took to the stage to remind us why we fell in love with their music in the first place.