With today’s post, I continue my anniversary music reviews with the debut album of one of rap music’s….hell, MODERN MUSIC’s most influential duos, Outkast. Now regardless of whether you enjoy rap music or not, let alone follow up its constant evolution, there should be at least ONE Outkast song that you remember growing up to – and enjoying the hell out of. Whether it’s the mellow sounds of “Elevators (Me & You)” from their second album “ATLiens” (1996), or “Rosa Parks” from their 1998 LP “Aquemini” (arguably the BEST Outkast album ever recorded), “Ms. Jackson”, “So Fresh, So Clean” or the epic, earth-shattering musical masterpiece “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” from 2000’s “Stankonia”, or even “The Way you Move” or the crossover SMASH hit that had women up to the age of 85 “shaking like a Polaroid picture” “Hey Ya” from the 2003 double album “Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below”, there’s literally no fucking way that you can say you NEVER heard about Outkast.
Formed in 1992 in East Point, Atlanta, Georgia, Outkast is comprised of two rappers: Andre (“Andre 3000”) Benjamin and Antwan (“Big Boi”) Patton. Thanks to their debut project “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” (a word which encompasses their passion for “Dirty South” hip hop, fancy cars and the player lifestyle), and its Billboard-charting single “Player’s Ball”, Andre and Big Boi became the latest torchbearers of the Southern hip hop movement. Though their album itself was well-received, Outkast was still being looked down on within the wider hip-hop musical landscape, then dominated by East and West Coast rap. At the 1995 Source Awards, they were booed when they came on stage to accept the award for Best Newcomer. Andre 3000’s famous response to his detractors was: “The South got somethin’ to say”. And from that point, Outkast has proven just that. Every album that followed after “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” saw the duo experimenting with a variety of musical styles like funk, rock, soul and jazz. On their second album “ATLiens”, Outkast change their musical personas from players to….well….extraterrestrials as a means of incorporating existentialist themes into their songs. 1998’s “Aquemini” (a portmanteau of Big Boi’s Zodiac sign Aquarius and Andre’s Zodiac sign Gemini) highlighted the duo’s growth as artists, as they explored other musical genres like gospel, reggae and blues.
In the psychedelically abstract (even by mainstream rap album standards), yet highly popular “Stankonia” (2000), the individual musical interests of Big Boi and Andre began to take shape. Big Boi stuck to his G-funk and soul-influenced hustler music, while Andre branched out to rock and funk, even opting to add more melody to his vocals and hooks. And 2003′ s “Speakerboxxx / The Love Below” saw the complete divide in their musical tastes, with Big Boi’s “Speakerboxxx” offering funky Dirty South hip hop and Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” offering pop, jazz, electro and a LOT of singing from Mr. Benjamin himself. After their fairly decent Prohibition-themed musical feature film “Idlewild” and its aight soundtrack album came out in 2006, the duo took a hiatus. In 2010, Big Boi came out with his debut LP “Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” (what a title) which, even though I wasn’t a personal fan of the album, gained critical acclaim. He followed that up two years later with “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours”, which was honestly hit-or-miss for me. Andre, on the other hand, appeared on a number of singles from artistes like John Legend, Rick Ross and Frank Ocean. To this day, a solo album from Andre remains to be seen, as well as a new Outkast album. But for now, we’ll have to accept that they are back together, only this time as part of a worldwide tour promoting their 20th anniversary as the duo known as Outkast.
Speaking of 20th anniversary, does “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” hold up after its release on April 26th 1994? Well….
1. PEACHES (Intro) – Early Outkast collaborator Peaches (not to be confused with the female half of the R&B/soul duo Peaches & Herb or the Canadian electronic musician Peaches) kicks off the album on a smooth note with a DJ-like spoken intro layered on top of a modal jazz piece. Short and sweet.
2. MYINTROTOLETUKNOW – On this track, Big Boi and Andre talk about where they hail from, what they’re interested in (Cadillacs, weed, making cheddar etc. etc.), how times have changed (black-on-black crime, people who were once friends don’t even associate with them anymore) and the hustler mentality they’ve adapted during the time of the album’s recording. The beat was pretty decent, and I liked the sampling of Andre’s vocals from the third verse of “Player’s Ball” (Oops….SPOILER ALERT). Clever title aside, “Myintrotoletuknow” is indeed an intro to let you know what to expect on this album.
3. AIN’T NO THANG – If I’m not mistaken, this is the ONLY instance in Outkast’s career where they blatantly rapped about gun violence. Big Boi and Andre (YES, Andre! The loveable guy who acted as the entire fucking band in that “Hey Ya” music video that YOU loved back in the day) lyrically threaten to bust caps at their enemies’ asses if they ever cross the line. However, the song’s CATCHY-ASS hook (“Ain’t no thang but a chicken wing / We having a smoke out in the Dungeon with the Mary Jane…..”) suggests that they’d much rather get high than ‘catch a body’ (murder someone). Hearing Andre in particular rap about shooting people is a bit awkward to listen to, but over the trunk-rattling, bass-heavy instrumental provided by Outkast musical providers Organized Noise, he sounds really convincing. And so does Big Boi, who sounds more at home on this instrumental than his rhyming partner. Entertaining track overall.
4. WELCOME TO ATLANTA (Interlude) – Not to be confused with the Ludacris & Jermaine Dupri (REMEMBER HIM?!!) collabo of the same name, “Welcome to Atlanta” is a interlude / skit / watchamacallit where a bus driver takes his passengers on a tour through Atlanta. I was REALLY impressed by the sound design on this track. You really feel as if you’re inside the bus, with the track’s use of engine and air condition unit sound effects, as well as the driver’s voice which sounds like it’s spoken into a speaker mic. GREAT JOB…..for a sorta-unnecessary interlude. Yo, I said SORTA!
5. SOUTHERNPLAYALISTICADILLACMUZIK – a.k.a. the title track, the second single from the album, a word that needs to be added to the English dictionary, and one of Outkast’s BEST songs. Organized Noise’s groovy beat, with its wah-wah guitar pedals, jazzy trumpets and relaxed female vocals in the hook, perfectly compliments Outkast’s laid-back lyrical tribute to the Dirty South life. The Southern slang may sound a bit ATLien (HAH! Get it?) to the casual listener, but it grows on you with each listen. This song is GUARANTEED to have you throwing your hands up in the air like the extras did in the song’s music video (which was directed by, believe me or fucking not – P-DIDDY – formerly known as “Puff Daddy”. Now that’s just southernplayalistic!
6. CALL OF DA WILD (ft. Goodie Mob) – A far darker song than “Ain’t No Thang”, both sonically and lyrically. Andre and Big Boi, with assistance from rap group Goodie Mob members (and fellow members of the Dungeon Family clique to which Outkast is still a part of) T-Mo, Khujo and The Voice’s own Cee-Lo Green, rap about their worries, pessimism, stress, social pressures and paranoia over a beat that sounds like the perfect music to play during the end credits of a ghetto-themed horror movie (“Tales from the Hood”, anyone?). Though they’re out-shined (intentionally) by the evening’s hosts, T-Mo and Khujo do a pretty good job individually in the second and final verses of the track, and Cee-Lo’s one-line hook (“I hear voices in my head and they keep calling me”) manages to seep itself into the dark corners of the human subconscious – which is actually a good thing. If you’re looking for a homage to the Jack London novel of the sorta-same name (“Call of THE Wild”), look elsewhere…..’cause this is NOT it!
7. PLAYER’S BALL (Original Version) – Inspired by a pivotal scene from the blaxploitation cult classic “The Mack”, “Player’s Ball” was the FIRST Outkast single to gain mainstream attention. Primarily a Christmas song (yes, ladies and gents, this is a CHRISTMAS song), with its underlying sleigh bell jingling in the beat, but with a non-Christmas-sounding instrumental attached to it, Big Boi and Andre gives the listener a glimpse into how they “celebrate” the Christmas season in their neighbourhood. And yeah, they spend their time doing what they normally do throughout the year (hustle, make money, get high etc.) to the point that even Big Boi says in the second verse that “It’s just another day of work to me / The spirit just ain’t in me”. And believe me, we’ve felt that way at some point in time during Christmas. But the name of the song is “Player’s Ball”, and that means that our heroes are in “Goldie Mode” (‘Goldie’s the name of the pimp/ player/ protagonist in “The Mack” – which you REALLY should check out, by the way) as they spit game to the ladies. From start to end, this song fucking KNOCKS! The verses by Big Boi and Andre are sharp and witty (“This is ridiculous, I’m getting serious, I’m getting curious / ‘Cause the house is smelling stank, the chitlins old as bitches”), the soul-inspired, male-sung chorus fits the blaxploitation vibe of the song’s title, and the outro by Peaches (remember her?) sounds smooth over the groovy, head-nodding beat. Regardless of what time of the year it is, “Player’s Ball” is a perfect song to cruise to in your low rider, seventy-seven Seville, El Do, Cadillac….or scooter if that’s all you can afford.
8. CLAIMIN’ TRUE – After a brief, nocturnal-like interlude, Big Boi and Andre paint a grim portrait about their growth and maturity in the ghetto, from living a childhood without a father (a ridiculously prominent theme in one too many rap songs over the past two decades or so) to living the life of a hustler. Big Boi’s hook justifies the fact that even if their methods of making money back then were unlawful, they paid their dues to gain the respect they now have (“I wonder how you would react if you was in my shoes / I put in work and did the dirt, that’s how I payed my dues”). While I did appreciate the mellow, bluesy beat and the STELLAR verse by Andre and Big Boi individually, I would have preferred a third or fourth verse from either rapper, or even a guest spot on the track. But nope – the beat just rides out after Andre’s verse and Big Boi’s hook. Ah well. Can’t have everything, I guess. Sigh.
9. CLUB DONKEY ASS (Interlude) – Hey ladies, if a guy came up to you one day and told you that you had a DONKEY ASS, would you take that as a compliment or kick him in the fucking nuts? Second option? Thought so. Moving along….
10. FUNKY RIDE – Andre and Big Boi figuratively remove themselves from the recording booth in this section of the album, leaving their R&B buddies The Society of Soul (a group affiliated with the Dungeon Family, with its two most well-known members being crooner Sleepy Brown and spoken-word poet Big Rube) to hold the fort. What they bring to the table is a song to…..ummm…. make love to. The lyrics from the lead singer (Sleepy Brown, I believe) aren’t Marvin Gaye-perfect but they are direct – in a “I can sing REALLY good! And that’s reason enough for you to fuck me!”-kind of way. The female moaning layered underneath the music (which, for some reason, always reminds me of the outro to the 1975 Major Harris soul song “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” – feel free to ask your parents about that song) stood out to me a lot the first time I heard this track – maybe because I didn’t expect to hear moaning throughout 7/8 of the song’s 6 1/2 minute running time (SERIOUSLY) and because I didn’t expect to hear a R&B SONG on the album! But the more I listened to it, the more prominent the funky R&B instrumental, the silky-smooth vocals and even the electric guitar solo (which reminds me of Andre’s guitar solo in the spacey, ethereal and fucking BRILLIANT R&B track “Prototype” from his album “The Love Below”) that pops up after the second verse became. Though it does feel out of place on the album, “Funky Ride” works as a nice change of pace from the rough rhymes Outkast gave us so far, and as a clear homage to the 1970s musical styles that influenced the album. By the way, it really must be a SKILL for a woman to fake sexual pleasure for at least 6 minutes on a R&B song. How do you ladies do that?
11. FLIM FLAM (Interlude) – This skit/interlude is among the funniest I’ve ever heard on any album. I’m not bullshitting you. While The Society of Soul were making girls moan, Andre and (I think) Big Boi are in their car, cooling out, sipping on some Henny, until a crackhead persuades them to purchase some stolen gold chains from him. Props go out to the guy who played the crackhead, because he is fucking HILARIOUS on this track. I enjoyed the dialogue he dishes out to the duo, and its underlining message about getting paid, and I appreciated the use of rap trio Parental Advisory’s (i.e. the first group from the Dungeon Family to drop a debut album) grimy, nocturnal track “Ghetto Head Hunta” in the background. And in case you were wondering, I never knew the name of that song until just now! Seriously! After years of listening to “Flim Flam”, I finally found out the name of the song, while writing THIS paragraph, thanks to good ol’ Google! Ah, Google – you make blogging so much easier for me to do!
12. GIT UP, GIT OUT (ft. Goodie Mob) – The slow-paced beat alone will have your head nodding throughout this 7 1/2-minute long (but still VERY entertaining) song “Git Up, Git Out”, the third single from the album, has, in consecutive order, Cee-Lo Green, Big Boi, Big Gipp (who had his fair share of mainstream buzz with his 2003 album “Mutant Mindframe” and 2007 collaborative album “Kinfolk” with rapper Ali from Nelly’s (REMEMBER HIM??!!) group, the St. Lunatics) and Andre rapping about – simply put – their need to get off their asses, get a job and make a living. Cee-Lo, who provides the song’s inspirational, anthemic chorus, delivers a potent, introspective look at his own life and the rough road he had to walk to achieve his dream of becoming a rapper. Big Boi talks about investing his time into making money instead of wasting it entirely on weed and women, and Big Gipp describes his self-motivation to get out the house and hustle, while taking into consideration the risk of getting arrested. But it’s Andre who brings the house down with a FANTASTIC final verse, where he reminisces on committing minor crimes to support his laid-off mother, being more concerned about looking good and getting girls instead of succeeding in high school, and paying the price of wasting his time by not graduating (which led to him dropping out of high school to pursue a rap career). Andre’s final two lines are quite crucial to the song’s message as he shows that regardless of what happened to you before in your life, you can still make something of yourself (“But it don’t matter though, I am a O-U-T-Kast / So get up off your ass”). This is, hands down, the greatest collaboration between Outkast and Goodie Mob, and one of the best Outkast songs EVER MADE! Period.
13. TRUE DAT (Interlude) – In what sounds like a pirate radio broadcast set to some modal jazz (if I’m wrong, please forgive me. I’m now getting into old-school jazz music), Big Rube does an insightful spoken-word verse about the meaning behind the word “outkast” or “outcast” as it’s properly spelt. This is the first in a line of magnificent spoken-word verses that will become the staple of future Outkast albums (SIDE NOTE: His composition on “Liberation” off the “Aquemini” album is still his greatest thus far. Just thought you should know)
14. CRUMBLIN’ ERB – With its airy, dreamy instrumental, “Crumblin’ Erb” is designed to make you relax, kick your feet up, smoke a blunt or two and nod your head – or at least relax, kick your feet and nod your head if you’re like me. In their blunted mindstate, Andre and Big Boi rap about the seemingly endless black-on-black violence affecting African-American society, making the most of the time one is given, and opting to get high off weed…..and life…. as opposed to losing their lives over some bullshit. I loved the bongo drums and church organs that flow throughout this song, and Sleepy Brown’s laid-back chorus sounds perfect on this beat. A must-hear for the bluntheads out there!
15. HOOTIE HOO – Outkast’s tribute to White Owl cigar blunt wraps (Nope. “Hootie Hoo” is NOT a reference to the mating call of the cape eagle owl (Bubo capensis)) has the duo rapping over a lo-fi, minimalist instrumental that sounds okay for the most part – especially with the kick drums which breathe some much-needed life into the overall song. “Hootie Hoo” in itself sounds like a demo track, or a a B-side to a hit single, where it sounds like Big Boi and Andre are showcasing their skills for the very first time, before they unleash a better song – like say….hmmmm….. I don’t know….
16. D.E.E.P. – Now THIS is more like it! After an electronic-voiced intro that would serve as a precursor for their next album “ATLiens”, and a kick-ass chorus by Andre, “D.E.E.P” launches into full gear with a BANGING instrumental from Organized Noise., full of creeping pianos and hard drums. Andre and Big Boi slaughter the shit out this track, as they go “deep” into numerous black stereotypes and bash them accordingly. Both Andre and Big Boi dish out excellent verses, with Andre taking the lead for most memorable lyrics (my favourite being the one about his gold chain that’s really made out of bronze that “weighs a ton” and makes his “neck turn green”). An outstanding track, even if Big Boi’s line “Pimping way mo’ hoes than there’s peoples out in China” is a bit mean-spirited. And goofy.
17. PLAYER’S BALL (Reprise) – The shortest song on the album, and the BEST closer of any Outkast album. Yes, I fucking said it! Better than “Aquemini’s” “Chonkyfire”, better than “Stankonia’s” “Stanklove” and yes….even better than “The Love Below’s” “A Life in the Day of Benjamin Andre (Incomplete)”. With its warm four-note piano chord (that I really, REALLY love). kick drums, groovy beat and laid-back vocals by Sleepy Brown, this reprise to “Player’s Ball” truly embodies the 1970s pimp/player mentality, suggested by the song’s title, even more than the original song did. The vibe of this song really feels like you’re driving home from the Player’s Ball in your Cadillac ’64, thinking to yourself: “Man, what a night!”. In short, “Player’s Ball (Reprise) was the ideal way to close the album.
(NOT EXACTLY A BONUS TRACK, BUT STILL WORTH CHECKING OUT)
PLAYER’S BALL (O.N.P. EXTENDED REMIX) – If you’re one of those who truly enjoyed the beat for “Player’s Ball (Reprise)”, then you’ll be in southernplayalistic nirvana with this track. “Player’s Ball (O.N.P. Extended Remix) contains the Sleepy Brown vocals and chorus from the reprise, along with Big Boi and Andre’s uncensored verses from the original version of “Player’s Ball” (mind you, there’s only a few minor, unimportant cuts in that version), all of which are placed in a nice gift box of a gloriously extended version of the Player’s Ball (Reprise) instrumental and wrapped up in a neat bow provided by Peaches’ outro from the original song. Hip hop heads should take note that the drums on this remix were sampled on Kanye West’s hit single “Through the Wire” off his “College Dropout” LP. In retrospect, this remix would’ve made an even greater conclusion to “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”, but hey? Who am I to complain?
MY THOUGHTS: Like “Illmatic” which came out less a mere week before it, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” is an excellent debut album, and one of the finest debut albums to come out of rap music. The lyricism from both Andre and Big Boi, and the production by Organized Noise, still impresses. And aside from a few flaws here and there, the album has enough clever rhymes, dope beats, Southern slang and Cadillac funkiness to keep you satisfied. In short, this is an essential Southern hip hop album with the words “replay value” written all over it. If you’re an Outkast fan (even if you hated the song “Land of a Million Drums” from the “Scooby Doo” soundtrack), you need to have this album in your collection. And if you never listened to it, make sure to check out the Southernplayalisticadillac goodness as soon as you can. But players, when you choose it, you better make sure you don’t abuse it.
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Big Boi, Andre, Outkast…..forever. For-ever….ever? For-EVER….EVER???
MY RATING: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Definitely listen to this album”)