Outkast in 10 easy steps

With both members of the illustrious hip-hop act having gone solo for the time being, enjoy this retrospective look at some of their career highlights.

It doesn’t appear that a new Outkast album will be getting released any time soon, what with Big Boi’s second solo effort ‘Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors’ scheduled for release before the year is out, and André 3000 only seeming to crop up for guest spots here and there on other releases, like some sort of prophetic rap journeyman. It’s also been confirmed that a new collaborative effort isn’t in the immediate pipeline by André himself, who dashed internet rumours of a new Outkast release in an interview with GQ earlier this year, instead giving a teasing mention of his own solo material which is still yet to see the light of day.

While it’s always going to be interesting to keep up with each half of the duo’s artistic endeavours outside of Outkast, it’s dark times indeed for all of the group’s fans who’ve been dying for new work to be put out since their last record was released. It’s been six years since ‘Idlewild’ graced listeners with its presence, and their separate output up until now has been nowhere near as consistent. Big Boi’s first solo album ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’ came out in 2010, and while it most certainly carried on Outkast’s sense of cosmic energy and effervescent vitality, Dré‘s absence was felt, and the only way Big Boi could adequately make up for it was by bringing in a whole slew of well-renowned guests to accompany him throughout the album.

Perhaps it is indeed time to leave Outkast in the realm of distant memory (for the time being at least), but their most creative additions to hip-hop’s history should never be forgotten. Below we’ve pin-pointed just some of the most important musical moments from the duo’s wide-spanning career, ranging from past to present.

  1. Outkast – Player’s Ball
    Their debut single, Player’s Ball set the tone for what Outkast were very much about: truly soulful instrumentation, an undying affinity for all things Southern and a seemingly constant pre-occupation with having a very good time. As the first introduction to Outkast proper it remains an important signpost in their career, and whilst they most certainly began to think more ‘outside the box’ on later albums, Player’s Ball showcases Outkast’s original intentions of putting the true sound of Atlanta on record more distinctly than ever.
  2. Goodie Mob feat. Big Boi – Dirty South
    Having made the transition from merely a Dungeon Family hit to an all-out Southern rap anthem, Dirty South is not only one of Goodie Mob’s most memorable tracks, but is also another Outkast affiliated piece of work that has gone on to influence a whole other generation of Southern rappers. Big Boi’s appearance on Dirty South does see him focusing on some pretty crude lyrical content, although his skill is undeniable: not only is the Southern hip-hop ethos painted perfectly once again, but the song itself also enabled another Atlanta-based group – which included a then little-known Cee-Lo Green – to ride alongside Outkast in hitting the big time.
  3. Outkast – Jazzy Belle
    The group’s sophomore effort ‘ATLiens’ saw them progress by leaps and bounds in terms of maturity, and proved even further that Outkast could venture way beyond the bog standard subject matter of hip-hop, or at least approach it from a much more original perspective. With André and Big Boi’s frank observations on their experiences with women showing the conscientious side of the group’s nature, Jazzy Belle highlights their ability to weave truly poetic storytelling across one of the finest Organized Noize instrumentals to be a part of Outkast’s discography.
  4. Outkast – Da Art of Storytellin’ (Part 2)
    Deserving a specific mention purely because it’s easily one of OutKast’s most underrated songs, Da Art of Storytellin’ (Part 2) finds André and Big Boi fervently spouting concerns regarding Mamma Earth; their generation’s take on a theme which had previously been explored in the work of George Clinton’s Funkadelic. Clearly an influence on OutKast, Clinton has collaborated with the duo on various tracks, and the song in question establishes many of the lyrical tropes derived from that very influence, which were to become staples of OutKast’s career. It presents a defining moment on their seminal third album ‘Aquemini’, and is proof of their blatant originality: no other hip-hop group of the time would have attempted to write a song concerning itself with such a topic in the way they do on Da Art of Storytellin’ (Part 2).
  5. Outkast – SpottieOttieDopaliscious
    As one of OutKast’s most brilliant instrumentals, SpottieOttieDopaliscious is utterly irresistible. The fact that the main trumpet melody which eases its way to the forefront of the song isn’t a sample beggars belief, and for that reason alone it remains one of their most musically intriguing tracks. Neither member opts for a traditional rap style, but instead chooses a semi-stream of consciousness approach that helps to expose the zany side of their music more than ever.
  6. Outkast – B.O.B
    ‘Stankonia’ is arguably Outkast’s most experimental album, but it remains compulsively listenable despite its length and highly ambitious intentions. Because of this, it’s extremely difficult to decide on just one defining track, one that encapsulates the height of both the instrumental creativity and fresh take on lyricism that Outkast were so seamlessly striving for at the time, although B.O.B seems a natural first choice. Its initial, descending synth explodes into a truly primal groove, allowing for Outkast’s most technically impressive rapping to come to the fore, and it becomes a wholly incendiary track before you’ve even taken into consideration what the political acronym in the title might stand for. It’s also worth noting that the final minute or so, which includes the Bible Music, Electric Revival refrain, is most likely the greatest thing Outkast have ever committed to record.
  7. Outkast – Hey Ya
    A pivotal moment in the group’s career, Hey Ya signified an entirely new level of global success. Songs such as Ms. Jackson had given them decent transatlantic recognition before, but Hey Ya was the mish-mash of pop, hip-hop, funk and soul that had all disparately existed in Outkast’s music, moulded into one rather pleasant Frankenstein’s monster. Their most unabashed attempt at a chorus that could (and would) be liked by all, Hey Ya is widely considered to be one of the greatest songs of the 2000s, and it’s difficult not to see why.
  8. Kelis feat. André 3000 – Millionaire
    André‘s music production met all the high expectations one would have hoped for on Kelis’ Millionaire, and with its sweeping, quivering synths (keeping very much in key with his spacey pre-occupations) it couldn’t be more deserving of a Star Trak release. Kelis’ vocal accompaniment is unquestionably beautiful, and André‘s use of figurative, as well as succinct life advice provides the song with its finest lyrical touch.
  9. Big Boi – Shutterbugg
    Big Boi enlisted the help of hip-hop production royalty Scott Storch on possibly the finest cut from his first solo LP, and Shutterbugg makes for one of the funkiest examples of work to be inducted into his oeuvre. With lush instrumentation, a lethally addictive melody and Big Boi’s traditional swagger all contributing to the track’s achievement, Shutterbugg represents Big Boi taking Outkast’s Southern ideals and nuances, which propelled their originality in the first place, into an entirely new era, and stands as one of his best musical contributions both in and outside of Outkast.
  10. Frank Ocean feat. André 3000 – Pink Matter
    André‘s presence on Pink Matter not only helps to embellish an already magnificent song, but it also represents his finest feature spot to have surfaced in recent years. The song concerns itself with the wonder of women (familiar ground for André 3000), although we see a slightly more vulnerable side to the Southern maverick, as he details his lovestruck self to the listener, exploring how being enamoured with a certain someone is just as potent even when you’re someone of his stature. Pink Matter is vitally important for all OutKast fans – it proves that André still possesses the talent which has led to him being one of the world’s most renowned MCs, and yet also shows further signs of his ever-burgeoning lyrical maturity. One of 2012’s causes for celebration.

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