A brief note about Outkast

by iroqu0ispliskin


Outkast is the greatest rap group of our generation, and, by extension, probably the greatest group of our generation. They are the Rap game Beatles.

I will make use of this metaphor by way of explanation, not because rock furnishes the artistic template by which we measure all pop but because it is convenient way to get at the group’s creative dynamic. Big Boi is the McCartney: the effortless technician, the traditionalist. The one who possesses the flawless pop instincts and the closest connection to the soul elements of modern rap. It is possible that Big Boi was cool in high school. Andre 3000, naturally, is the one who pushes an otherwise-traditional rap group into cosmic directions. Like, I’m not sure if his rap and sartorial ideas were transmitted telepathically from Saturn but it would not surprise me. He has been known to sport a turban, and resembles Jimi Hendrix strongly enough that he could portray him in a biopic.

The genius of the group was really the way the music reconciled of otherwise-incompatible creative instincts of its two protagonists, blending solid rap traditionalism with sonic experimentation. The album arc even fits: in Aquemini-Stankonia, the mid-period masterpieces, you had your Rubber Soul-Revolver. The first is primarily under the sign of Big Boi and the latter under the sign of Andre 3k, and both are about as good as it gets rapwise. And then, as it always does, the creative nucleus spun apart for Speakerboxx/The Love Below, a highly successful rap white album heralding the dissolution of the group.

I won’t belabour all this: while Bombs over Baghdad is objectively the best Outkast song, I have a special place in my heart for Da Art of Storytellin’, above, which is maybe the most beautiful and touching song in their catalogue by virtue of Andre’s contribution. This video unfortunately includes Slick Rick’s regrettable verse, but as compensation it includes a Slick Rick Puppet.  Damn, I miss 90s rap videos.