Hip-hop was in a very good place when Outkast first hit the scene with “Player’s Ball” around 1994. They were contemporary with the likes of Wu Tang Clan and their infamous Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), A Tribe Called Quest during the Midnight Marauders period and Nas’s classic debut Illmatic.
Despite the climate, Outkast was still a very different sort of rap act. Between the funky instrumentals, southern slang and the sometimes odd flows, the group was fringe at best.
Of course the hip-hop community would come to appreciate Outkast’s distinctive style and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik would be recognized as a pivotal album for the south and hip-hop in general.
Widely considered among the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, ATLiens marks the duo’s transition into the mainstream rap sphere. If Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was something of a fringe hit, ATLiens was a full on success.
Outkast challenged hip-hop conventions of the time with lyrics about space and time travel, among other things of course. The album spawned “Elavators (Me & You),” one of Outkast’s biggest records and a 90s' anthem.
Like ATLiens, Aquemini was a critical milestone. The album is among the best Outkast has ever released according to many critics.That Aquemini has been so heavily lauded is especially impressive given other work released throughout 1998. Method Man dropped that year, along with Jay Z, Lauren Hill, Redman, DMX, Gang Strarr, Beastie Boys, and Master P. Not to mention some of the singles from that year. Even with the competition, Aquemini remains one of the best albums of that year, one of Outkast’s best projects to date, and a high watermark of quality hip-hop music.
Stankonia was the project where the Andre 3000 we’ve become familiar with began to surface. The fact that Andre 3000 was one of the few rappers to successfully sing and rap, combined with his increasingly eclectic clothing style marks him as an acme figure among artistically progressive hip-hop artists like Kanye West. But there’s more to this LP’s success and influence than Andre 3k.
This album featured several of Outkast’s most popular singles before Speakerboxx/The Love Below.
Below, two of the hottest songs of the 2000s’ decade.
Speakerboxx/The Love Below
Critically, this is the best album Outkast has released, even among their other lauded efforts. Speakerboxx/The Love Below won the Grammy for “album of the year.” Not rap album. Album. It is the second hip-hop album to do so, the first being The Miseducation of Lauren Hill.
After Speakerboxx/The Love Below, Outkast released Idlewild. The film and soundtrack recived mixed reviews and the duo hung up the Outkast moniker indefinitely.
Big Boi has released two studio albums since. Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty was his first solo album, though Speakerboxx was technically a solo record. The album was a critical favorite that year and was a refreshing return to form, even if it was just half the group. Big Boi also released the severely underrated LP Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors in December 2012.
Andre 3000 on the other hand has made sporadic (but always scene-stealing) guest features since Outkast’s split, focusing more of his creative energies on acting and philanthropy. However, the rapper just recently hinted at a full-on solo project in the works for 2014... which could see him change the game all over again.
Outkast’s influence stretches far beyond the southern rap scene they helped establish. The group has one of the most consistently incredible discographies in the business and have helped expand hip-hop’s sonic palette almost every time they’ve dropped a record. They’re one of the most critically acclaimed acts in urban music with several Grammys to their name, not least of them “album of the year.”
Looking through the group's catalogue, it's clear that Outkast's skill, creativity, and influence have earned them the title of Game Changers.
Still waiting on that new album though…
Next up in HNHH’s Gamechanger series is the eclectic southern duo Outkast.
More than any other artists or group (excepting Scarface) Outkast is responsible for the rise of southern rap. They were among the first acts to gain recognition from the region and remain one of the most commercially and critically successful rap groups to date.
The group has constantly pushed sonic and topical boundaries within the rap genre. They have, together, produced some of the most distinctive music rap has seen, and have individually released some of the most successful cross-over hip-hop records in the industry. They are also one of the few rap acts to sport several “classic” or masterpiece-tier albums in their discography.
With nothing further, HNHH presents Game Changers: Outkast Edition.