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Members include Andre "Dre"Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. Addresses: Record company--Arista Records, 6 W. 57th St., New York City, NY 10019, phone: (800) 6-ARISTA, fax: (212) 830-2248. Website--OutKast Official Website: http://www.outkast.com.
Upon its release in the fall of 2000, Stankonia ushered OutKast--the Atlanta-based duo of Andre "Dre" Benjamin (who also answers to the name "Andre 3000") and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton--into the center of the hip-hop world. In the rap business, where risk-takers rarely reap the rewards of commercial success, OutKast stand as true music mavericks. Not only did they succeed in creating something different to satisfy their own need for self-expression, they also found fans willing to accept their sound. The double-platinum album, which appealed to college kids and urban youth alike, has received much more than popular acceptance. Critics and peers likewise praised Stankonia, featuring the quasi-political hit "B.O.B." ("Bombs Over Baghdad"), for its inventiveness and creativity, overwhelmingly calling it the best hip-hop album of the year and crediting OutKast for taking the rap genre to a new level. "'B.O.B.' was maybe the most exciting thing I heard [in 2000]," stated former Rage Against the Machine singer Zack de la Rocha, as quoted by Spin magazine's Sacha Jenkins. "It defies definition, and that's the dopest kind of music. They're an incredible group."
Rather than relying on samplers during recording sessions, OutKast instead opted for live instrumentation, along with a varied range of influences that included everything from funk to rock to electronica. "It's like a picnic," explained Benjamin to Rolling Stone contributor Mark Binelli. "Your auntie might bring peas; somebody else might bring collard greens. You gotta sit back and say, 'What can I bring to the table that's gonna make this whole meal right?' And we felt like, in hip-hop, there wasn't no driving type music. Everything was real chill and laid-back. We're trying to crank it back up. I like a lot of techno music, but some of it sounds soft, so I'm trying to make our own American style--harder, like hip-hop, instead of ambient and pretty." OutKast call their music "slumadelic," a sort of dance music for the slums.
Benjamin and Patton, who share a love of artists such as George Clinton, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince, became friends after a chance meeting at a mall in the early 1990s. At the time, both were new students in the tenth grade at Tri-Cities High School--also the alma mater of R&B groups TLC and Xscape--in the East Point neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. Despite different backgrounds, the two hit it off immediately. Benjamin, an only child, lived with his mother during his early years before moving in with his father at age 15. In contrast, Patton grew up with several brothers and sisters in Savannah, Georgia, before settling in Atlanta with his family as a teen.
The two friends began rapping together soon thereafter. At school, Benjamin and Patton held impromptu competitions during lunchtime in the cafeteria to try to out-rhyme one another. As their skills progressed, the duo set out to break into the hip-hop industry. They met their future producer, Rico Wade, in a parking lot where they rhymed their own version of "Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest for him. "Them cats was about sixteen and took the bus up to this little plaza where I owned a beauty supply shop and video store," Wade, who made his name as one-third of the Organized Noize production team and has produced for the likes of TLC, Eric Clapton, and En Vogue, recalled to Anthony Bozza of Rolling Stone. "They came out with an instrumental of 'Scenario.' And for seven minutes them cats went back to back. I didn't even stop them, I was so in awe. I closed the store, we got in my Blazer and went straight to the Dungeon."
Although Patton and Benjamin planned to visit several producers that day, the Dungeon, a pre-production studio in the basement of an old house, was their first and only stop. According to Benjamin, as quoted by Bozza, "the beats they had were some of the most original music from Atlanta we'd ever heard." After that day, the two teenagers began frequenting the studio on a regular basis to learn from beat makers like Raymon Murray, also of Organized Noize, as well as other local hopefuls such as Big Gripp and Khujo, who would later form the group Goodie Mob. Benjamin and Patton also formed their own group called 2 Shades Deep. During his junior year, Benjamin dropped out of high school to devote himself entirely to music, while Patton completed his education, graduating with a 3.68 grade point average.
Meanwhile, just prior to Patton's graduation and with the help of Wade, the duo inked a record deal with the L.A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds LaFace label. Their first single, "Player's Ball," arrived in 1993. An instant hit, the song topped the rap charts for six weeks that year and earned gold status. The following year saw the release of OutKast's debut full-length set. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, recorded when Patton and Benjamin were 18 years old and largely produced by Organized Muzik, proved another commercial as well as critical success.
Unlike other rap groups outside Los Angeles or New York, the duo presented themselves as simply who they were, highlighting their Atlanta roots, filtering their lives through their music, and implementing rich, live production techniques. OutKast also struck a balance between positive messages and street stories, a hallmark of their music ever since. The album spawned two hits in addition to "Player's Ball": the title track and the song "Get Up and Get Out." Eagerly soaking in the duo's tales about life as they saw it and image of self-empowerment, the hip-hop community embraced OutKast. By the end of 1994, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik reached the platinum sales mark.
In 1996, OutKast's second album, ATLiens, reached the number two position on the rap charts and sold over one-and-a-half million copies, cementing the duo's status as the soul-bearers of a new, regional style of hip-hop known as the "Dirty South." The album, an illustration of the pair's fascination with space travel and the raising of consciousness, spawned another gold single, "Elevators (Me and You)." Around this time Benjamin introduced the outrageous image that he is famous for--wearing large wraps or dresses and platinum wigs and turbans, an appearance that often led to frequent rumors about his sexual identity. But like Parliament's Bootsy Collins or Jimi Hendrix, Benjamin simply wanted to look like his music. "You gotta know Dre," Patton said to writer Isaac Guzman in the Los Angeles Times. "Dre could put up some Levi's and some Jordans in a minute. You never know. It just depends on how he's feeling. When you're on stage, you want to look like the music feels."
OutKast's ascent continued with the release of their 1998 album Aquemini, which sold over two million copies. Despite rave reviews in publications such as Rolling Stone and the Source, the multiplatinum album was not without controversy. The Grammy-nominated single "Rosa Parks" angered the civil rights matriarch, and her attorneys levied a lawsuit against the group, accusing the duo of exploiting her name for commercial purposes. Although a federal court judge ruled that OutKast had not misused Rosa Parks' name, her attorneys, who additionally retained the services of attorney Johnnie Cochran, famous for defending former football star O.J. Simpson in his murder case, promised to appeal the decision.
The OutKast/Rosa Parks case remained unresolved as of early 2001, yet Patton and Benjamin insist that they did no wrong. "We won the first decision, so they're appealing it," Patton told Jenkins, as stated in Spin's March 2001 issue. "But everybody knows that there was never any disrespect meant at all. If you know anything about OutKast--if you listen to the song, it's not about Rosa Parks. When we sing 'everybody move to the back of the bus,' we're just using that as symbolism."
OutKast returned with their fourth album, the critically acclaimed Stankonia, in the fall of 2000. "Stankonia is this place I imagined where you can open yourself up and be free to express anything," Benjamin told Sonia Murray in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Indeed, the album departed from typical rap through the inclusion of varied musical elements. The song "B.O.B.," a political declaration of sorts about not doing anything halfway, prominently featured organs, guitar, and vocals by the Morris Brown College Choir. Other tracks of note included soul jams like "Stanklove" and "Slum Beautiful," a keyboard-laden song about how money, for better and for worse, changes everything titled "Red Velvet," and "Humble Mumble," featuring the vocals of R&B singer Erykah Badu, Benjamin's former girlfriend with whom he had a son, Seven, in 1997. Although Badu and Benjamin split earlier in 2000, their relationship inspired the lyrics for the track "Ms. Jackson," an open letter from Benjamin to Badu's mother in which he promises to take an active role as a father.
Benjamin and Patton, who also started their own label, Aquemini, as well as a line of clothing called OutKast Clothing, attribute their success to enjoying what they do creatively and remaining fans themselves of all types of music. "It's about learning and paying attention," Benjamin pointed out to Bozza. "When we listen to records, we sit down and listen to everything from blues to bluegrass to the people that really inspire us, like Jimi Hendrix, Funkadelic and Sly Stone." Patton added, "We truly love what we do. That's one thing I can say about us as a team."
by Laura Hightower
Met while in the tenth grade at Tri-Cities High School in Atlanta, GA; signed with the LaFace label and released first single, "Player's Ball," 1993; released debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, 1994; released ATLiens, 1996; released Aquemini, containing the single "Rosa Parks," 1998; released Stankonia, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik LaFace/Arista, 1994.
- ATLiens LaFace/Arista, 1996.
- Aquemini LaFace/Arista, 1998.
- Stankonia LaFace/Arista, 2000.
August 26, 2003: OutKast's album, Speakerboxxx: The Love Below, was released. Source: Yahoo! Shopping, shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921989582, August 28, 2003.
December 8, 2003: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Rosa Parks could proceed with her suit against Outkast, who used her name without permission on a 1998 track. Originally filed in 1999, the suit had been dismissed by a federal judge who cited free speech and ruled in favor of Outkast. An appeals court reinstated part of her lawsuit, requiring an artistic reason to justify calling the song "Rosa Parks." Source: Entertainment Weekly, December 19, 2003, p. 24.
February 8, 2004: OutKast won two Grammy Awards, including album of the year and best rap album for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and best urban performance, for "Hey Ya!" Source: 46th Grammy Awards, grammys.com/awards/grammy/46winners.aspx, February 8, 2004.
March 6, 2004: OutKast received an Image Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for outstanding duo. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/people/2004-03-08-naacp-awards_x.htm, March 8, 2004.
September 2004: Group member Andre 3000 was named the best-dressed man in the world by Esquire magazine. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/people/2004-08-11-esquire-best-dressed-list_x.htm, August 11, 2004.
September 15, 2004: OutKast won three World Music Awards, including best group, best pop group, and best rap/hip hop artist. Source: Reuters, reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=J...0JGFYDLACRBAELCFEY?type=musicNews&storyID=6273967, September 20, 2004.
November 14, 2004: OutKast won three American Music Awards, including Favorite Pop/Rock Group, Favorite Rap/Hip-hop Group, and Favorite Rap/Hip-hop Album for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.. Source: ABC.com, abc.go.com/primetime/ama/nominees.html, November 15, 2004.
December 8, 2004: OutKast won five Billboard Music Awards, including group or duo of the year, R&B/hip-hop group or duo of the year, Billboard 200 group or duo of the year, Hot 100 group or duo of the year, and digital track of the year for "Hey Ya." Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/awards/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000734365, December 9, 2004.
April 2005: Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks settled her lawsuit against OutKast over the use of her name in their 1998 song "Rosa Parks." She had accused the group of violating her right of publicity. As part of the settlement, the group and their labels will help produce a tribute album about Parks. Source: People, May 2, 2005, p. 97.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 4, 1999; November 5, 1999; October 30, 2000; October 31, 2000; January 4, 2001.
- Billboard, January 23, 1999; April 17, 1999; September 23, 2000; November 4, 2000.
- Boston Globe, December 7, 2000.
- Jet, April 16, 1999.
- Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1998; October 22, 2000; October 28, 2000.
- New York Times, October 29, 2000.
- People, November 27, 2000.
- Rolling Stone, December 10, 1998; December 24, 1998-January 7, 1999; February 4, 1999; May 13, 1999; April 13, 2000; November 23, 2000; December 14-21, 2000; December 28, 2000-January 4, 2001; January 18, 2001.
- Spin, March 2001.
- USA Today, October 31, 2000; November 3, 2000.
- Village Voice, November 7, 2000; December 5, 2000.
- Washington Post, December 4, 1998; November 8, 2000; November 10, 2000; December 31, 2000.
- Wall of Sound, http://wallofsound.go.com (April 21, 2001).
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