Launched from the small town of East Point, Atlanta, André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton have released five studio albums as OutKast, with almost every one changing the face of hip hop.
As the duo prepare to reunite and tour more than 40 festivals this summer, it is a fitting time to look back on this remarkable discography.
Their first album, Southernplaylisticadillacmuzik (1994) consisted of soul and funk influences in the production, below the lyricism about coming of age topics and urban life.
At the time, some responded negatively to the album, due to the stark deviation from past genre conventions, and to the west coast versus east coast rivalry of the 90s.
However, this album expanded the range of hip hop to incorporate different influences and more emotional lyricism, and it is now considered to be a classic in southern hip hop.
The events after this album resulted in a maturation that would greatly influence of OutKast’s subsequent work.
Confidence from their first large tour gave them a real sense of the influence that their music had on people. Big Boi also saw the birth of his first child, whereas André experienced the end of a two-year relationship and underwent lifestyle changes that included sobriety and vegetarianism.
Their follow-up album, entitled ATLiens (1996), reflected this personal growth and resulted in the creation of another classic.
It was more laid-back than Southernplaylisticadillacmuzik, and took influences from dub and reggae, but persisted in conveying the group’s ever-developing perspectives on life.
Though their first two albums gave a voice to the south and essentially established the entire subgenre of southern hip hop, the group somehow managed to top their previous efforts with 1998’s Aquemini.
Their lyrical and production skills increased, and this album represented a total package of 90s hip hop from any region.
Their first real mainstream hit, however, came off of 2000’s Stankonia. “Ms. Jackson” became their first single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
The group also began tobroaden their style even further, with André transitioning to his modern melodic style of vocals, and influences from drum and bass and rock starting to appear.
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2004) remains the only pure hip hop album to receive the Grammy for Album of the Year, even though it was basically two solo albums by Big Boi and André, packaged together under the OutKast name.
Unfortunately, 2006’s Idlewild marks the one low point in the groups’ discography.
Accompanied by a musical movie starring the two, the album and film were considered merely average and unfocused.Though there were high-points, it contained too much filler and not enough substance; this is especially true relative to any of their previous work.
While never officially breaking up, the two decided to go their separate ways to explore their own styles and skills with solo work.
They have not officially released any new OutKast material together since 2006.
With the group about to embark on a major tour in celebration of Southernplaylisticadillacmuzik’s 20th anniversary, however, hopefully that will soon change.