Everyone knows the worldwide phenomenon that was OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” OutKast seems to forever be directly linked with this mid-2000s song, and could possibly be seen as a one-hit wonder to people today.
However, this legendary hip-hop group is a southern hip-hop icon. Far from a one-hit wonder, OutKast has a long history of revolutionary hip-hop that gave the south a fighting chance against the established and influential heavyweights on the east and west coasts.
OutKast is a hip-hop duo that originated in the East Point section of Atlanta, Georgia.
It’s composed of Andre Benjamin (also known as Andre 3000) and Antwan Patton (also known as Big Boi). The two met and became a duo in 1992.
They’re largely marketed by their politically-conscious lyrics about black Americans in the south, and their characterizations of pimps, players and gangsters. Their sound blends several genres, including funk, trip-hop, dub and soul.
They released their first album in 1994, titled “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.” It would be followed by “ATLiens” (1996), “Aquemini” (1998) and “Stankonia” (2000). Of course, “The Love Below/Speakerboxxx” containing “Hey Ya!” was released in 2003, and their last album “Idlewild” was released in 2006.
OutKast’s first album, “Southerplayalisticadillacmuzik,” embodied the heavy funk and soul influence in southern hip-hop and OutKast’s particular style. Critics noted the clear influence of golden age east coast hip-hop, and the attention to live instrumentation in their present album. Notable songs from this album include “Git Up, Git Out,” “Southerplayalisticadillacmuzik” and the hit “Player’s Ball” that really garnered attention from music critics. “Git Up, Git Out” lyrically served as a call to action, particularly to black Americans, to pursue fulfilling and productive lives, while “Southerplayalisticadillacmuzik” frequently referenced southern ways of life and culture.
On OutKast’s third album, “Aquemini,” the duo had more creative freedom due to the previous album “ATLiens’” success. It featured a significant amount of instrumentation and less sampling.
The track “Synthesizer” features an electro-funk style reminiscent of P-Funk, and actually featured Parliament-Funkadelic legend George Clinton. Lyrically, it talks about the temptation to dumb down lyrics and increase album sales, along with the general theme of staying true to oneself, not living to impress others.
The track “West Savannah” features a sound highly influenced by soul with a singing hook. Lyrically, Big Boi talks about his hometown of Savannah, Georgia, as well as the misconceptions people have about the south.
The duo broke the east-west duopoly in hip-hop, and allowed for the southern region with a different flavor to become commercially successful.
OutKast provided lyrics that meant something, and presented catchy sounds that blended the best elements of soul, funk and many other genres in its music.