Sunday, April 13, 2008

I'm - I'm just bein' honest

Outkast makes me sad.

Not because of their music, really, but because they should have been this generation's Beatles, and they screwed that up. They had the style, the grace, the hip-hop and the pop and the soul and the avantfunkwhathaveyou, and, more importantly, they had their fingers on the pulse of cool and the the ears of the world in their pockets. In 2004, "Hey Ya!" was number one on the charts; number two was "(I Like) The Way You Move." Two songs by the same band at the two highest spots; the only artist to do this previously was, in fact, the Beatles.

Outkast could have, and should have, been the 2000s Big Artist, the Beatles or the Zeppelin or the Run-DMC or the Nirvana, the Important Ones, and all because of one album, 2003's Speakerboxxx / The Love Below, an album easily as good as Zeppelin IV or Nevermind. Outkast had other fantastic albums, like Stankonia and Aquemini, but it was this one that was IT. It reigned the charts, and absolutely everyone adored it. "Hey Ya!" proved their pop mettle / importance, "(I Like) The Way You Move" earned them street cred, "Roses" combined the aesthetics of Uranus' second-best frontman (after Prince), Andre "3000" Benjamin, and the durrrty South's most intelligent and capable MC, Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, and the whole dual-identity and quirkiness of the album as a unit earned them major artistic and critical credibility. They had Importance in the palm of their hands. In 2003 and 2004, Outkast ruled the world.

But of course, they threw it all away. They dawdled about in a bunch of nothing for a while, Andre 3000 doing some mediocre acting, Big Boi doing...nothing, I suppose, until 2006 saw the release of their joint film and soundtrack Idlewild, a commercial and critical flop that, for now at least, effectively sealed their fate.

This is really unfortunate, because few people now seem to remember that Outkast was amazing, and it was solely because of the personas of the main players (playas?). Both coming out of the durrrty South / G-Funk thing, they diverged on such different paths that it's a shock that they even could work together. Andre 3000 is one of the more stylish and eccentric men in popular music, with a borderline-whiny soul voice and a prodigious flow (which, like fellow soul eccentric Cee-Lo Green, he seriously underutilizes), not to mention a flair for the theatrical, weird, and glamorous. Big Boi, on the other hand, is a typical b-boy, all thugglife hippity-hop, but with a twist; Big Boi is intelligent. He's probably one of the smartest rappers of all time (except maybe Ice Cube, but that's debatable; Chuck D was bright too, but he was sort of radical, and maybe just convinced people he was smart...the jury's still out). So you take this soul-glam ingenue and the most literate thug rapper this side of Atlanta, and you mash them together to create either one of the most unlistenable, pretentious creations of modern music, or today's Beatles.

Outkast began, so promisingly, as the latter; they're quickly, and unfortunately, devolving into the former. I can only hope they come back. We miss you, Outkast.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

again, i'm surprised on how well informed you are. but you are right, Roses was by far my favorite song in eighth grade...and they could have kept it up!