Outkast

This is a tragic write-up for me, even with the release of Big Boi’s new studio album fresh in my disc changer, but the fact is is that Outkast is dead. After Idlewild, I said they’d either break-up or keep going with a few more mediocre albums. Think Public Enemy post-Fear of A Black Planet. It’s a modern pop tragedy that has yet to cement itself in thick-headed old guard, willing to soak up Andre 3000’s creative messes from The Love Below and Idlewild, albums so immediately unsatisfying and yet so lingeringly disappointing that Andre himself would be reeling if he was actually aware of it; Outkast, for better or worse, are dead to me, as they are to most people with half an ear for the Dirty South Bass-thump of their first  masterpiece albums.

Consisting of two men, the martian turned pimp Andre 3000 and the traditional Cadillac-fiend with a golden microphone Big Boi, Outkast’s landmark approach to contemporary pop as a whole was arresting; these guys were writing universally revelatory pop music, let alone Hip hop. One listen to their 5-minute opus “B.O.B” will reveal an act who were prophetically aware of their world and masterfully skilled enough to realize the power of popular music, from funk to hip hop to rock to electronic music, and craft a work of blazing relevancy that would make your brain bounce as much as your (phat) ass. On their singular Stankonia, Big Boi and 3000 showed the world that hip hop could not only be as catchy as whatever post-Get Sinister indie-pop song was popular at the time, but also say much more than an entire genre in 70 minutes and say it better. Hip hop had found it’s seminary act, two guys that sounded like Chuck D and Flava Flav for the 21st Century but spent most of their time on an Alternate Earth that was scarily similar to our own.

When looking at the group itself, there is one issue that I find particularly annoying; I’m sure you already know what I refer. The ultimate cock measure of “who is the better member?”, the whole McCartney versus Lennon bullshit every dominant pop act much go through, from The Rolling Stones to even recent bands like the New Pornographers. As far as I’m concerned, the contest was hardly there in the beginning; it’s like comparing The Godfather with a fine meal. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are so totally different in almost every way it’s jarring they still get along (although, we can’t be sure they actually do anymore); 3000 is a creative satellite receiver, spouting indecipherable madness that is translated through Big Boi’s callous, over-sexed Southern persona.

However, in recent years, there is a hardly a contest for different reasons; Big Boi is clearly the superior member. No quotations, no bullshit. Andre 3000 will never run out of street-cred, but it is clear that the problem lies within his ego. Big Boi doesn’t have this problem, he has always been the underrated member. He raps like a god, but because he doesn’t typically wear checkerboard suspenders, he attracts less attention. Just look at the video for “Hey Ya!” in which a room full Andre 3000s spout pop non-sense; Big Boi doesn’t pull that shit. Even as early as Stankonia, Boi sounded more skilled than the silver-tongued 3000. Andre 3000 wants to be Prince, Big Boi wants to be Hugh Hefner. Just look at the original cover for Idlewild, with Andre 3000 in the forefront writing some scrupulous showtune while Big Boi is placed in the very background under the arch of Dre’s arm, looking particularly bored.

Big Boi’s newest album, Sir Luscious Left Foot, is a triumph. If I ever get around to reviewing it, let it be known, it is a contender for Album of the Year, hip hop or otherwise. It showcases Big Boi as a master lyricist, weaving a tale that stands alongside the worlds created by Aquemini and Stankonia. Meanwhile, Andre 3000 has shown little attention to the industry he dominated a mere decade before, a ruler bored of his position. Can you blame the guy after his life’s work was seen by no one? But they promise a new album next summer that will blow their previous ones away, although, to say I’m skeptical would be an understatement. Expectations are about as middling as they can get; they will release a decent, but boring and overlong album that will get Rolling Stone talking, but the rest of us will just continue to listen to Sir Luscious. Unless they are able to call the next three Presidents and the next major conflict in their next lead single, I’m calling it here for Outkast, the most impressive pop act Hip hop ever produced.

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