outkast-2.jpgOutKast had 2004 wrapped up before the year even started. Already on the short list of greatest rap groups of all time, Atlanta’s Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton were in midascent to total pop-culture dominance when the calendar flipped. Released late 2003, their bold, double-disc opus Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was on its way to selling over five million copies (earning just the third diamond plaque the RIAA has ever bestowed upon a hip-hop album), while their twin tower singles—“Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move”—held the top two spots on Billboard’s pop charts for eight weeks running. When “Hey Ya!” finally dropped from No. 1, in February, “The Way You Move” replaced it. That same month, at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, they took three trophies, including the big one, Album of the Year.

It was all the result of a novel production process. Andre, bored with a rap game he’d been pushing the boundaries of for years, wanted to make another kind of music. Big Boi, always the duo’s tether to the streets, wanted to keep it hip-hop. So they recorded separate albums—Andre’s The Love Below, an eclectic collection of purple-funk love ballads and genre-melting hummables, like “Hey Ya!,” and Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx, a hood-certified juke joint full of monstrous 808s, state-of-the-art rhyming and smooth, brass-backed come-ons, like “The Way You Move”—and released them as one under the OutKast rubric. Together, they cast an awfully wide net. Pitched an awfully big tent. OutKast became that rare phenomenon in pop music—the act loved by everyone and their mothers. And everyone’s mothers’ dentists’ aunties’ plumbers. And…

Anyway, XXL got the guys on the phone recently to learn what that’s like.

XXL: What are your fondest memories from 2004?
Big Boi: The craziest was the back-to-back performances of “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move.” Whether it was on Leno or Letterman or the VH1 Awards, BET Awards or MTV—whatever it was—it was just back-to-back. At one point, we was running from one award show and going to the next one to perform. We were moving maybe nine to 10 pieces in each of our setups, to go change clothes and jump into your suit and go ahead and do it, man. It was a lot of fun.

How did it feel to lock down the Grammys?
Dre: Shit, man, that was amazing, to be honest with you. I mean, OutKast, we been around since ’94. But a lot of people, believe it or not, that was their first time hearing about OutKast. So a lot of people don’t even know that I rap, which is funny. To get that kind of award and have old OutKast fans be like, “Oh, y’all just now catching on?” You know, it’s kinda cool.

Big Boi: I flew like maybe 40 of my family members out there that never been out of Georgia—aunties, cousins, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandmama and everything. So to have my family and Dre’s family out there to enjoy it, and we win and celebrate after that, you can’t beat it. It was like a big-ass family reunion. I mean, the energy in the whole house, and when the music cut off and they announced “Album of the Year.” First rap group to win Album of the Year—period.

------- Read the rest of our OutKast feature in XXL’s September 2007 issue (#95)

XXL Staff Picks

Songs of the Year:
“Lean Back,” Terror Squad
“Slow Motion,” Juvenile featuring Soulja Slim
“99 Problems,” Jay-Z
“Tipsy,” J-Kwon
“Slow Jamz,” Twista
“Jesus Walks,” Kanye West
“Stomp,” Young Buck featuring Ludacris & T.I.
“Go DJ,” Lil Wayne
“You Don’t Know Me,” T.I.
“Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Snoop Dogg

Albums of the Year:

Encore, Eminem
The College Dropout, Kanye West
Kamikaze, Twista
Crunk Juice, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz
Straight Outta Cashville, Young Buck