This past Halloween marked the 15 year anniversary of the release of OutKast's Stankonia.
Let's take a moment and process that.
15 years, that makes it a classic.
I believe there is a distinct difference between a hit and a classic. A hit will prompt people to dance and otherwise enjoy it; however, in a year's time, most people will need a moment or two or three to recall the former hit song's title and the artist who performed the song. But a classic? A classic is timeless. If you disagree, let a few seconds of Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force's Planet Rock play at your next gathering and see how many people join the festive energy. Moreover, more than a handful of people can tell you where they were when they first heard a classic.
OutKast made classics. Stankonia is one of their classics.
So in the spirit of celebratory nostalgia regarding Stankonia's enduring influence, I choose to go a step further and reflect upon all of the OutKast albums. Because each of their first five albums are classics. I can tell you where I was when I first heard them. More significantly, not only did OutKast's music provided a soundtrack for my young adulthood, they embodied what I believe is a key component for a happy life of growth. More than their music, I am an OutKast fan because they exemplify reinvention.
1994 ~ southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
I have come to view the summer of 1994 as the last summer of irresponsibility. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I was attending Hampton University and my best childhood friend, Jay, was a student at Morehouse. We didn't know it then, but to parphrase Cee-Lo it was our last summer "spending quality time in places we ain't even need to be."
We both returned to Detroit that summer with an expanded appetite for authentic hip hop. Nas' Illmatic had dropped earlier that spring and we, like thousands of others, were witnessing the top rappers pendulum swing back to the East Coast as The Chronic / G-Funk era began to slow.
But an unusual thing happen as the pendulum swung eastward. OutKast was that unusual thing.
Southern Rap wasn't new to me or most of my friends. Mc Shy-D, the 2 Live Crew, and my favorite - the Poison Clan (whose first two albums I can regretfully still recite verbatim), were regulars in our musical repertoire. But nothing could have prepared us for OutKast. Despite having fully enjoyed their Christmas 1993 single, Playa's Ball we were not prepared for the paradigm shift that would occur with southernplaylisticadillacmuzik.
I remember where I was when realized that I understood "the principles and fundamental truths contained within (that) music." I was in the Wendy's parking lot, across Jefferson Ave from the Belle Isle Bridge. I was sitting on the hood of one of our friend's soon-to-be customized car. The car was still amid transformation from forgettable to memorable; yet, what I remember were two huge house speakers on the backseat. Those speakers blared what would be our anthem for the summer, Git Up, Git Out.
As soon as Goodie Mob member Cee-Lo muttered the words, "I don't recall, ever graduating at all, sometimes I feel like I'm just a disappointment to y'all ..." - I was hooked. The sentiment expressed on that song were exactly my feelings, Jay's, and countless others. The song would be a harbinger of the end of our adolescence. The following spoken interlude by Big Rube and song, Crumblin' Erb, would be our lean-to-the-side musical accompaniments for the rest of that summer.
Some have argued that 1994 is the greatest year in hip hop music history; yet, amid that flurry of remarkable creativity and expression, stood OutKast. Who proved that indeed "the South had somethin' to say."
(click image for video link)
Check back tomorrow for Part 2.