Musical Comedy: Outkast

osplThis post is intended as supplemental material for the course “Sounds of Laughter: Musical Comedy in the United States”

Outkast is an Atlanta-based hip-hop duo consisting of  André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. Their are known for their eclectic and eccentric styles. Ellis describes their style in terms of “positivity.”

Outkast, particularly,  brought a goofball humor and parody approach to their “dirty South” hybrids of jazz, blues, psychedelia, funk, and techno. Like Prince before them,  Outkast were racial bridge-builders and unifiers by nature, and humorists by instinct. Their 2003 hit since, “Hey Ya,” [see below] with its video parody on the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, is one of the more uplifting releases of modern pop music, a testament to the power of Prince’s concept of “postivity.” (Ellis 2008, 252)

However, this focus on Outkast’s early 2000s career overlooks their larger trajectory and its significance. Grem describes the duo’s rise in the 1990s. At the time, “dirty South” hip hop was marginalized by East and West Coast hip hop artists (hence the name of the group – signifying their status as outcasts in the genre). Far from being the “racial bridge-builders” described by Ellis above, they were part of a controversial movement to embrace Black, Southern identities at the time when the region was still associated with slavery and the Civil Rights Era.

By the summer of 1995, the Atlanta-based rap group OutKast had watched their first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, achieve platinum sales of over one million. This feat earned them an award for “Best New Group” from The Source magazine and an invitation to attend the hip-hop publication’s second annual awards show in New York City…[Big Gipp of Goodie Mob remembered] their reception from the New York audience was less than favorable: “When Big Boi and Dre [of OutKast] got out there at those Source Awards, everybody was like, ‘boooo, boooo, boooo.’ … I was like, man. . . . Don’t nobody even give a fuck about us folk.” Leaving the Source Awards that night, OutKast and Goodie Mob swore to each other to “show all them motherfuckers” that “one day they’re gonna have to fuck with us.”

Over the next decade, OutKast, Goodie Mob, and other southern rappers followed through on their intentions, moving to the forefront of America’s hip-hop culture industry. In 2004 OutKast won six Grammys, including an “Album of the Year” award, for their multi-platinum fifth effort,Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. On that night, no one in the star-studded Los Angeles audience doubted that, as OutKast had yelled back at the booing crowd nine years before, “the South got something to say.”

What the South had to say reveals much about the making and marketing of regional and racial identity in modern America. Most explicitly, the rise of Atlanta’s “Dirty South” rap music industry shows the readiness of some African Americans in the post-civil rights era not only to embrace their southernness but to sell it as well. (Grem 2006, 56)

Other notable performances include “Rose Parks” (1998), which prompted Parks to file a lawsuit against the group and Big Boi’s appearance on Chappelle’s Show (2004).

Reference List

Grem, Darren E. 2006. “‘The South Got Something to Say’: Atlanta’s Dirty South and the Southernization of Hip-Hop America.” Southern Cultures. 12 (4): 55-73.

See Also:

Outkast on YouTube

Week 3 (Sounds of Laughter)

Author: Leah Pogwizd

Bassist and Instructor

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