On this day, April 26, in hip-hop history…
1994: The album’s first line would establish a mantra that spans two decades, six genre-defying LPs and more than 25 million record sales. “Time and time again see I be thinkin’ about that future,” Big Boi zealously opens Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. One of the most forward-thinking acts of all time had arrived, pulling up in a ‘77 Seville.
Sixteen-year-olds Antwan Patton and André Benjamin met just two years prior at Atlanta’s Lenox Square mall, and soon began freestyle battling at Tri-Cities High School. They joined forces on wax as “2 Shades Deep,” but changed their moniker while recording demos in Rico Wade’s now-famous basement studio. OutKast garnered local recognition as part of Atlanta’s Dungeon Family collective, and was subsequently hired by LaFace Records to remix TLC tracks. Less than a year later, they became the label’s first hip-hop signing.
A $15,000 advance from LaFace lead to the release of “Player’s Ball,” the woozy, Southern-fried single that climbed to No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100. Proven to be commercially viable, Big Boi and Dre were set to drop their debut LP to a nationwide audience.
While later OutKast albums were praised for their eclectic instrumentation and unconventional songwriting, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was equally audacious for forcing Southern traditions of analog funk and languid soul into a mainstream dominated by East and West Coast Rap. But the South had something to say, as André would famously claim, and Southernplayalistic touched on everything from Old School whips to the moral weight of being a high school dropout. Sun-baked slang was introduced across the country, three charting singles were spawned, and OutKast’s coming-of-age project was bumped far beyond the halls of Tri-Cities. Big Boi smoked a dime; Dre smoked a dime.
OutKast would go on to discourage the hedonism of their debut on ATLiens, and promptly flip Southern styles for space-themed echoes and reverbs. Later releases Aquemini, Stankonia, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Idlewild would go on to even more critical recognition. Big Boi and Dre performed four straight cuts — “Hootie Hoo,” “Crumblin’ Erb,” “Player’s Ball” and the title track—from Southernplayalistic at Coachella last weekend, and on the album’s 20th anniversary, we invite you to “git up, git out” and celebrate the seminal debut.—Steven Goldstein