OutKast is a popular and successful American hip hop duo based out
of Atlanta, Georgia. Their original musical style was a mixture
of Dirty South and G-Funk; since then, funk, soul, electronica,
and rock elements have been added to the mix. The duo is André "André 3000" Benjamin
(formerly known as "Dre") and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton,
both from the Atlanta area.
OutKast is currently one of the two most successful hip-hop groups
of all time (the other being The Fugees), having sold 20 million
copies of their six releases: four studio albums, a greatest hits release,
and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, a double album containing a solo album
from each member of the group. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is one of
only three hip hop albums to go diamond, the other two being MC Hammer's
Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em and The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After
Origins and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
Benjamin and Patton went to Tri-Cities High School together in East
Point, Georgia, and battled each other lyrically on a regular basis.
They eventually teamed up, and were pursued by Organized Noize, a
group of local producers who would later make hits for TLC and Xscape.
OutKast, Organized Noise, and schoolmates Goodie Mob formed the nucleus
of the Dungeon Family organization.
OutKast signed to LaFace Records in 1992, becoming the label's first
hip hop act and making their first appearance on the remix of labelmates
TLC's "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg". In 1993, they released their
first single, "Player's Ball". The song's funky style, much
of it accomplished with live instrumentation, was a hit with audiences,
and "Player's Ball" hit #1 on the Billboard Rap Chart. Their
full length debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, was issued the
next year; follow-up singles included the title track and "Git
Up, Git Out", a politically charged collaboration with Goodie
Mob that was later sampled by Macy Gray for her 1999 hit "Do Something".
On this early material, both Benjamin and Patton contrast lyrical content
reflecting the lifestyles of pimps and gangsters with politically conscious
material commenting on the status of African Americans in the South.
OutKast won Best New Rap Group at the Source Awards in 1995.
ATLiens was OutKast's second album, released in 1996. The album hit
#2 on the US album charts, and helped the group earn more recognition
among East Coast hip hop fans in the East and West coasts, many of
whom usually panned southern hip hop artists. "ATLiens" was
the group's first Top 40 single, and reflected the beginning of Benjamin's
increasingly sober lifestyle: "No drugs or alcohol/so I can
get the signal clear", he rhymes about himself. "Elevators
(Me and You)", OutKast's first self-produced single, became
the group's first Top 20 hit the same year.
Aquemini and "Rosa Parks"
OutKast's third album Aquemini (1998) also reached the #2 position
on the charts; its title was a combination of the zodiac signs of
Patton (an Aquarius) and Benjamin (a Gemini). The album was widely
praised as an innovative, unique and refreshing album full of hip
hop with a progressive vision, both artistic and musically. When
reviewed by The Source magazine, it received the much-coveted "5
Mic" rating - the equivalent of a 5-Star or 5/5 rating from
another publication. Producing more material themselves, both Patton
and Benjamin explored more eclectic subject matter, delving into
more innovative sounds inspired by soul, trip hop, and electro music.
The album featured collaborations with Organized Noise, funk legend
and musical forebear George Clinton, and the Goodie Mob.
In 1999, OutKast and LaFace Records were sued by Rosa Parks over the
album's most successful radio single, which bore Parks' name as its
title. She felt the song misappropriated her name, and also objected
to some of the song's obscene language. The song's lyrics were largely
unrelated to Parks, save for a line in the chorus: "Ah ha, hush
that fuss / Everybody move to the back of the bus". The initial
lawsuit was dismissed. Parks hired lawyer Johnnie Cochran to appeal
the decision in 2001, but the appeal was denied on First Amendment
grounds. In 2003, the Supreme Court allowed Parks to proceed with her
lawsuit; the members of OutKast were dropped as co-defendants, and
Parks continued to seek action against LaFace and parent company BMG.
The suit was finally settled on April 14, 2005, with OutKast not having
to admit any wrongdoing.
The pair's fourth album, Stankonia was released to excellent reviews
in October 2000. It debuted at #2 on the album charts and would eventually
go quadruple-platinum. Stankonia's first single was "B.O.B.
(Bombs Over Baghdad)", a high-tempo jungle-influenced record.
The second single, "Ms. Jackson", was about divorce and
relationship breakups, particularly Benjamin's breakup with R&B
singer Erykah Badu; the titular "Ms. Jackson" is Badu's
mother. The single became their first pop crossover hit, landing
the #1 position on the US pop singles chart, and the #2 position
on the UK pop chart. The album's final single was the Organize Noise-produced "So
Fresh, So Clean", featuring a credited guest appearance from
regular guest vocalist Sleepy Brown. All three singles' videos had
heavy MTV2 airplay, and OutKast won two 2001 Grammy Awards, one for
Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Ms. Jackson",
and another for Stankonia as Best Rap Album.
During the recording of Stankonia, OutKast joined with partner Mr.
DJ to form the Earthtone III production company, and began producing
tracks for the artists on their Aquemeni Records imprint through Columbia,
including Slimm Cutta Calhoun and Killer Mike, who made his debut appearance
on Stankonia's "Snappin' & Trappin".
In December 2001, OutKast released a greatest hits album, Big Boi And
Dre Present...OutKast, which also contained three new tracks. One
of these new tracks was the single "The Whole World", which
won a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
The following year, the group and Killer Mike contributed the lead
single "Land of a Million Drums" to the Scooby-Doo soundtrack.
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
In September 2003 OutKast released a double album, Speakerboxxx/The
Love Below. It is essentially two solo albums, one by each member,
packaged as a single release under the OutKast banner. Patton's Speakerboxxx
is, for the most part, a party record, tempered by more politically-minded
tracks like "War". Benjamin's The Love Below is a sprawling
and ambitious work that featured only brief instances of hip hop,
presenting instead funk and pop music inspired by Prince, Rick James,
Sly Stone, and Frank Zappa. Speakerboxx/The Love Below has received
what is perhaps the duo's most rapturous critical reception to date;
both discs were considered highly innovative and accomplished. The
album is also OutKast's biggest commercial success yet, having debuted
on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart at #1 and stayed there for several
weeks. The album eventually sold over five million copies, and, as
double-album sales count double for Recording Industry Association
of America certification, the album was certified diamond (10 million
units sold) in December 2004.
The first two singles from the album(s), which were released nearly
simultaneously, were Patton's "The Way You Move" and Benjamin's "Hey
Ya!". Both immediately exploded at radio: "Move" initially
becoming enormous on urban radio, then later pop and rhythmic, and "Hey
Ya" becoming a smash crossover hit on pop, rhythmic, AC, and alternative
rock radio then later on urban stations. "Hey Ya!" was also
one of the first songs to become a hit on the Apple iTunes Music Store,
replacing "Stacy's Mom" at #1 and staying there for months.
Despite a fall release, the songs' music videos (which were often aired
segued together) became two of 2003's most played on MTV, VH1, MTV2,
and BET, both having entered heavy rotation on all four channels at
one point or another. The digital video channels, MTV Jams and VH1
Soul also gave both videos the heaviest of play, MTV Jams having played
each almost once an hour at their peaks. Together, both singles spent
over ten weeks at number one on the Hot 100 singles chart.
Concerned with over-saturation, OutKast's next official single was
not released until the summer of 2004. "Roses", a track featuring
both members from The Love Below half of the album, did not meet the
level of success as either of its predecessors, but it became a modest-sized
hit on urban radio and the American music video networks. The final
singles were André's "Protoype", which was paired
with an unusual science fiction-themed video about alien visitors,
and Speakerboxxx's' "Ghetto Musick", which featured both
members of OutKast and a sample from a Patti LaBelle song.
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below won the Grammy Award for the 2004 'Album
of the Year. OutKast was one of the headlining acts at the show, and
gave two performances: Patton performed "The Way You Move" during
a medley with George Clinton & P-Funk and Robert Randolph and the
Family Band, while Benjamin performed "Hey Ya" as the show
closer. In February 2004, Benjamin's performance, which featured dancers
moving wildly around a green teepee in war paint and feathered headdresses,
was criticized by the Native American Cultural Center, which called
for a boycott of OutKast and of CBS, the broadcaster of the awards
show. CBS later apologized.
OutKast's Earthtone III recently founded Purple Label, a new imprint
to be distributed by Virgin Records. Its first signees were Sleepy
Brown and Bubba Sparxxx.
The sixth OutKast album, 10 the Hard Way is due October 11, 2005.
Intended as a throwback to the Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik days,
the album will feature ten songs, all strictly hip hop, and all produced
by Organized Noise. In addition, OutKast will be starring in a HBO
movie and will be doing a movie soundtrack album based on the movie.