After a rap career that most artists would kill for, Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin are one album away from being sewn into hip-hop history as one of the greatest groups of all time. So what do they go and do? Concoct the most boundary-pushing Outkast LP ever. Bless their stankin’ asses.
Words Bonsu Thompson
P R E F A C E
Twice upon a time, a teenaged boy met his twin for the first time. These brothers weren’t separated from birth, they were joined by bass. Though they both had different zodiac signs, their bond was too strong to deny their kinship. Both were outcasts of society who were harbored by the same guardian: hip-hop. But that’s another chapter. The legendary tale of the equinox-like duo OutKast has no epilogue, but while they’re certainly in the process of inking their most intriguing and dangerous story, they might just also be scribing their most triumphant one.
A C T I
Y A A A A A W N !
It’s noon in July and Atlanta is hotter than Ms. Jackme. It’s the second day of the video shoot for OutKast’s first single from their latest album, Stankonia, and the only place of solace is inside the trailers of set stars, Big Boi and Andre. Chillin’ in his trailer, getting his hair hot-curled by his stylist Precious, Big Boi’s sights aren’t currently set on his placement in hip-hop history. They’re on something else—a videotape of a 1998 episode of Rap City, that he and Dre headlined.
“It’s boring,” Andre says to host Joe Clair, about rap music at that time.
“Ain’t nobody doin’ it for you?” asks Clair.
“It’s a handful of folks who ain’t care if they stuff on the radio.”
“Radio’s good, though,” Big Boi interrupts, making sure that OutKast’s stance on airplay isn’t misconstrued.
“Radio’s definitely good,” Dre agrees, “but you start with what you feel first and if it get there, thank the listeners.”
That TV appearance was two years ago. Now, on the dawn of their latest effort and in the midst of rap’s ice age, one has to wonder, are these young rap veterans still so unenthused about today’s hip-hop scene?
“I don’t want to say it’s boring ‘cause I don’t want people to say, ‘What the fuck this nigga talkin’ about?,’ but…” a chestnaked Dre, sporting a newly pressed James Brown do, pauses and scours his empty trailer as if the words for the perfect response are scattered on its walls. “I could put on an older record and really feel that shit. I could put on a hip-hop record from now that’s cool, it’s good in the club, but I just can’t feel it as much. It’s not boring—it’s not inspiring.”
Back in his trailer, scolding the present rap game as “repetitious” and “stagnant,” Big Boi chooses to answer a little more directly. “It’s a formula, it go M=MC squared,” he lashes. “Like, ‘OK, I’ma have a dope beat, I’ma get the hottest rapper to rap on the hook and I’ma have a hip-hop song.’ But if that’s the way to do it, then that’s the way you do it. How we do it might be on some different shit.”
Saying OutKast might come different is like saying there might be a lie told in the Presidential speeches. As eighteen-year-olds they introduced the fly youth of the South to hip-hop with their debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (‘94), then took their million-and-a-half consumers to outer space on ATLiens (‘96), only to return home as masters of their art on Aquemini (‘98). Each album had its own identity, and Stankonia is another taste of fresh innovation.