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Digging In The Crates: Outkast- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Digging In The Crates: Outkast- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik


Posted in Digging In the Crates

Git up, git out and get something

​Think back to when you were in high school; what sort of bullshit did you occupy your time with? Chances are you were probably trying to get your hands on some alcohol, trying to figure out how to get laid, or just sitting around getting high. Well when Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton were in high school and not, presumably, succeeding wildly at all of the above, they were spending a solid chunk of their time recording Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Benjamin and Patton, better known to the world as Andre 3000 and Big Boi respectively and OutKast collectively, succeeded wildly at that endeavor as well. There is nothing unpolished about Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, nothing about its quality that would betray the age of its creators. I’d actually been listening to the album for years before I fully realized just how young they were when they made it. I still can’t listen to it and wrap my head around that fact; it’s honestly just not possible, some sort of voodoo had to be involved. So many music legends have mythical origin stories, whether it’s Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil or Jimi Hendrix becoming the toast of The Beatles, The Who and Eric Clapton within a week of setting foot in London. I don’t know of any such stories surrounding the origin of OutKast, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were mixed up in something. 

What’s even more impressive than the quality of an album made by a pair of teenagers is its content. At a time when most of mainstream rap was occupying itself with the glorification of violence, OutKast took a different approach to the reality of the subject. Within the realm of rap there is a stark stylistic dichotomy that exists between gangster rap and rap which makes a point to be more socially and intellectually aware. While the former style was enormously popular as the 80’s turned into the 90’s, the latter was beginning to gain traction. Groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul were deliberately making music with a conscious, with chiller vibes and without the hardcore beats of gangster rap contemporaries like NWA. Strangely, the two styles shared quite a lot in terms of their world view, but the approach and mind-set of the artists behind them couldn’t have been more different. While both camps created fantastic music and did their part to influence and advance the hip-hop genre, rap was lacking a middle ground. Q-Tip was a down ass dude, but no one would label him a gangster. Likewise, Eazy-E and Ice Cube possessed an intelligence that extended beyond street smarts, but few would call them level-headed. What the rap world needed was someone from the streets, a legitimate gangster that the hustlers of the world could relate to who at the same time possessed the moral compass and consciousness that represented hip-hop’s new direction. What the world got was OutKast.

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik opens with the spoken word intro “Peaches,” which rightly promises that the album with be “nothing but king shit,” but more importantly establishes the group’s southern street vernacular and geographical ties, shouting out to various parts of the Atlanta area. The two members of OutKast haven’t even made a peep yet, and there is still no doubt that they are for and of the people. The next track, “Myintrotoletuknow,” makes it clear that while they may be hustlers, they aren’t oblivious to the problematic nature of their peers. Big Boi’s opening lines of the album may be among its best; the teenager admits that he’s often preoccupied with his the direction his community is headed (“Time and time again see I be thinking about that future”), and takes all of three lines to indict the state it presently finds itself in, calling its occupants “vultures” who must resort to violence to prove themselves, a practice that “don’t be sounding like king shit,” to the young MC. 

“Ain’t no Thang,” is most recognized by its use of the southern phrase “ain’t no thang but a chicken wang,” in the chorus. The gift of OutKast to the world at large, the phrase has come to define the southern flavor of the record, a record which was released at the height of the East Coast vs. West Coast feud which had come to dominate the rap game. The feud unfairly characterized the genre as a two sided affair, giving a purpose to its participants while leaving quality artists from elsewhere, like Houston’s UGK for example, on the outside looking in. “Ain’t no Thang,” in many ways, has since become the hip-hop anthem of the south. Lyrically, Big Boi once again makes the strongest impression, particularly in his first verse where he makes it clear that hustling isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity. Despite the best efforts of his mother, Big Boi turned to gang banging because it was the thing to do, the only way to prove one’s manhood on the streets, an undertaking that could only be survived through an utmost confidence in oneself and, as Dre points out in the song’s opening verse, a reliance on those who you know will stand by you. 

The album’s title track is the best example of what makes it so musically remarkable. Like many great hip-hop albums, the songs of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik possess a common musical thread which runs throughout; a track off the album is easily recognizable by its funky, soulful beats, which remain smooth despite demanding that you bob your head along with the rhythm. By making use of live, in studio instrumentation, the album’s three-headed production squad Organized Noize tie it to its old school musical roots. 

“Call of da Wild” features fellow Atlanta natives Goodie Mob and an introspective verse from Andre 3000. Struggling between the life of a gangster and the task of graduating high school, Dre decides that the public school system is just an extension of the systematic oppression and control of his community; “To graduate is really becoming a very stressful journey/I feel like a steering wheel for them is trying to turn me.” Speaking directly to the establishment (“y’all know y’all had us down for some years”), Dre’s verse makes it clear that a life on the streets is the only option for those who reject the inadequate status quo. In reality, the “Call of da Wild” really was too strong; Andre Benjamin dropped out of high school his senior year. 

Complete with sleigh bells, the group’s first single, “Player’s Ball” is perhaps the best hip-hop holiday rap-a-long ever put to record. Scoffing at typical holiday traditions, OutKast can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit; they don’t want to sing carols and they’re pissed about the liquor store being closed. Instead, Big Boi and Dre prefer chilling at the Player’s Ball with some “coke, rum, and indo” and the “hoochie waitin’” back at the hotel. Honestly, who could blame them? 

After the brutally honest “Claimin’ True,” a brief interlude promises something “long and slow,” and that’s exactly what we get. The six and a half minute “Funky Ride,” baby-making music at its finest, features the talents of Society of Soul, an R&B group made up in part by the three members of Organized Noize, as well as some sweet in studio shredding.

After “Flim Flam,” another interlude featuring someone unsuccessfully trying to get their hustle on, comes the remarkable “Git Up, Git Out,” which also features Goodie Mob. The chorus of the track is such gold it deserves to be reproduced here in full:

You need to get up, get out, and get something,

Don’t let the days of your life pass by,

You need to get up, get out, and get something,

Don’t spend all your time trying to get high,

You need to get up, get out, and get something,

How will you make it if you never even try?

You need to get up, get out, and get something,

Cuz you and I got to do for you and I

Whether its Cee-Lo fed up with his money making options (“Cuz every job I get is cruel and demeaning/Sick of taking trash out and toilet bowl cleaning/But I’m also sick and tired of struggling/I never ever thought I’d have to resort to drug smuggling”), Big Boi realizing from an early age that if he wants something in this world, like a sneaker upgrade from his “fucking Pro Keds,” he has to take it, Big Gipp hearing voices in his head giving him some much needed motivation as he digs through the ash tray for some smokable herb, or Andre 3000 realizing too late the wisdom of his mother’s advice, the message is clear; Git Up. Git Out. And Git Something. 

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the next track, “True Dat,” lays out the heart of OutKast’s message in straightforward spoken word. While the lyrical content of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik may seem just as violent and vulgar as that of Straight Outta Compton, for example, the sentiment is entirely different. Though they participate in the lifestyle mandated by their surroundings, Big Boi and Andre 3000 want their listeners to be just as aware as they are that it’s far from ideal and nearly inescapable. Nothing beats hearing “True Dat” straight from the mouth of Dungeon Family member Big Rube, though, so just give it a listen. 

“Crumblin’ Erb” is one of the best tracks on the album musically. A poignant, pretty hook ties the verses together, and the beat leans on some bongos and another great guitar lick. If “Git Up, Git Out” didn’t motivate you on its own, Andre 3000 uses the first verse to remind listeners of their mortality and preempt their excuses. The ultimate message of “Crumblin’ Erb,” though, is that sometimes the struggle gets so bad you just have to say fuck it and light up.  

With their message clear, OutKast closes out the album with a couple more damn good hip-hop songs. Relying on little more than an ill bass line and a drum kit, “Hootie Hoo” is one of those tracks that creeps up on you and, if you’re not too careful, might end up playing in the back of your brain on a loop. Hootie Hooooo. “D.E.E.P” starts off pretty goofy, but by the time it finds its legs you’ll suddenly find Dre and Big Boi dropping some of the best bars on the album. 

As “Player’s Ball (Reprise)” fades away, the full breadth of the album comes into focus. Over an hour long, filled with great rhymes, great beats, and great soul, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik is one of hip-hop’s finest albums, forget about debuts. In the age of Justin and Miley, the standards for emerging teenage artists are pretty low. Even if they possess some real talent their journey to the top of the musical world often seems more fabricated than organic. Though they may be few and far between, outcasts if you will, great, original, creative contemporary young artists are out there (and probably getting featured on LFTF). While the world of music has ballooned in the internet age, making it harder to register an impact, the variety of ways a new artist can get their music out there has increased tenfold. Though we may never see another album like Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, we most definitely will continue to see new MCs and new artists who grab ahold of the listening public despite their abbreviated age; even if they have to do it one free download or mixtape at a time. Odd Future says “Hello.” That said, the chances that we see another artist emerge with the same mixture of youth, talent, and that hard to define quality somewhere between intellect, awareness, and sincerity that OutKast possessed seem unlikely. 

Nineteen years old apiece by the time it was released in 1994, Big Boi and Andre 3000 have come a long way, but despite the fame and fortune they have never compromised themselves as individuals. Reflecting on where OutKast has gone in the past eighteen years isn’t necessary after listening to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, though. What should be reflected upon is the album itself, its message and the words of wisdom within, especially those of Big Rube. “Now look at yourself, are you an OutKast?”

Tagged In hip-hop / rap



Posted by Kwame

08.15/ 2012

I love the concise and coherent language you use in description of such a seminal record. It says a lot about their personas and their work ethic to this day especially Dre. Thanks for this Mason.

Posted by iR800lbGORILLA

08.30/ 2012


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