Outkast Biography

This hip-hop duo comprises Dre aka André 3000 (André Benjamin, 27 May 1975, Georgia, USA) and Big Boi (b. Antwan André Patton, 1 February 1975, Savannah, Georgia, USA), who first met while studying at Atlanta’s Tri-City high school. The duo signed a recording contract with L.A. And Babyface’s LaFace imprint prior to graduation, and immediately had a hit with ‘Player’s Ball’, produced by TLC backroom gang Organized Noize. The track, which topped the Billboard rap chart for over six weeks in 1994, featured on the duo’s platinum selling debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Comprising tales of the streets of their local East Point and Decateur neighbourhoods, the album helped establish the south as a new force in hip-hop. ‘Elevators (Me & You)’ became a major rap chart success in July 1996 and broke into the US Top 20, while the attendant ATLiens debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The musically diverse and mystically inclined Aquemini repeated the success of its predecessor, debuting at US number 2 in October 1998. The set’s most successful single, ‘Rosa Parks’, attracted a lawsuit from the famous civil rights activist, claiming that the song misappropriated her name (the suit was finally settled in April 2005, barely six months before Parks passed away).

In a nod to George Clinton’s work with Funkadelic and Parliament, the duo’s first album of the new millennium, Stankonia, purveyed a mindbending fusion of funk and hip-hop soundtracking a wickedly satirical examination of the state of the constitution. This superb album also featured the US pop number 1 single ‘Ms. Jackson’, which allegedly concerned André Benjamin’s relationship and break-up with R&B singer Erykah Badu. The success of the album confirmed OutKast as a leading creative and commercial force on the international music scene. The duo also won two Grammy Awards in 2001, for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (‘Ms. Jackson’) and Best Rap Album (Stankonia). They were awarded another Grammy the following year for the single ‘The Whole World’, one of three new tracks to be included on their greatest hits album.

The follow-up comprised a two-disc package containing a solo album each from Big Boi and André 3000 (Benjamin had adopted the latter moniker during recording sessions for Stankonia). Despite this rather strained conceit, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below debuted at number 1 on the Billboard chart in October 2003. The opening single release was a double a-side, with André 3000’s ‘Hey Ya!’ edging Big Boi’s ‘The Way You Move’ to the top of the US singles chart in December. The former, an insanely catchy slice of funk-influenced pop, was promoted by a wonderful video pastiching the Beatles’ historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show way back in 1964. ‘Hey Ya!’ remained at the top of the US charts for a remarkable nine weeks before ‘The Way You Move’ moved to the number 1 position for a single week. In February 2004, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below picked up Grammys for Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album.

Rumours regarding the future of OutKast were common currency during this period, with many people pointing to the fact that Big Boi and André 3000 had opted to release jointly packaged solo albums rather than a genuine duo project. Following the release of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below these rumours continued to circulate, with André 3000 making his acting debut in John Singleton’s Four Brothers and Big Boi launching the Purple Ribbon Entertainment label. The duo scotched these rumours by working together on the debut OutKast film, Idlewild, a Prohibition-era musical film released in August 2006. The accompanying soundtrack was released during the same month.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.