OutKast is an Atlanta-based hip-hop duo formed in 1992 between rappers "André 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. The duo is considered one of the most vital and dynamic music groups of the late 1990s and 2000s, experimenting with a diverse variety of sounds from funk to psychedelia to techno, and helping to popularize Southern hip hop. All of their albums save for Idlewild were critically lauded and have been considered as some of hip-hop's greatest records.
Benjamin and Patton met while attending Tri-Cities High School, a visual and performing arts school in East Point, Georgia. Benjamin's parents were divorced and he was living with his father; meanwhile, Patton had to move with his four brothers and six sisters from Savannah to Atlanta. Benjamin and Patton eventually teamed up and were pursued by Organized Noize, a group of local producers who would later make hits for TLC. The duo initially wanted to be called "2 Shades Deep" or "The Misfits", but because those names were already taken they later decided to use "OutKast", based on finding "outcast" as synonym for "misfit" in a dictionary. OutKast, Organized Noize, and schoolmates Goodie Mob formed the nucleus of the Dungeon Family organization.
OutKast signed to LaFace Records in 1992, becoming the label's first hip-hop act and making their first appearance on the remix of labelmate TLC's "What About Your Friends". During the holiday season of 1993, they released their first single, "Player's Ball". The song's funky style, much of it accomplished with live instrumentation, was a hit with audiences, and it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart. Afterwards, they would continue to bang out hit album after hit album. The group's original musical style was a mixture of Dirty South and G-Funk, but elements of funk, soul, electronic music, spoken word poetry, jazz, and blues were later added to their musical palette.
After starring in a 2006 musical film called Idlewild (the soundtrack of which is the group's most recent album), OutKast went on hiatus the following year, with both members pursuing solo careers. However, the two briefly reunited for a tour in 2014 to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
The two have said that they'll record new material together once they've both put out solo albums. Big Boi's album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, was released in 2010 after repeated delays to rave reviews; in 2012, he released his sophomore album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, which was also positively reviewed. André 3000 spent the 2010s and early 2020s surfacing every so often primarily as a collaborator for other artists, chiming in with verses on tracks such as on Drake's "The Real Her" and several songs by Frank Ocean ("Pink Matter", "Solo (Reprise)"). After well over a decade of speculation and anticipation, he finally released his first solo album New Blue Sun in November 2023.
- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)
- ATLiens (1996)
- Aquemini (1998)
- Stankonia (2000)
- Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
- Idlewild (soundtrack) (2006)
Everybody move to the back of the tropes:
- Album Filler: "West Savannah" on Aquemini, while not a bad song at all, was a leftover from the first album and was included for the sake of being included.
- It was probably a service to fans who had asked about it since a small clip was used in the beginning of the "Benz Or A Beamer" video in 1995. It would never have fit on ATLiens but fits well on Aquemini.
- "Wailin'" on ATLiens just seems to be there, as does the remix of "Elevators (Me & You)" at the end.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: "Roses" is a song about such a girl they call Caroline... all set to a R&B number.
- Concept Album: ATLiens. The album's booklet contains a graphic novel containing a story. The album's single Jazzy Belle includes a continuation of this story in its booklet.
- The video for "Elevators (Me And You)" also contains a comic book, only this one comes to life.
- Covers Always Lie: The booklet for "Big Boi And Dre Presents Outkast" indicates that ATLiens is on the compilation - it isn't, likely as it was removed to fit more new tracks on.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: "Gangsta Shit", though in a more humorous or parodic way.
- The whole Southernplayalisticadillacmusik album to some degree, though it deconstructs this trope as well.
- Determinator: In "Da Art of Storytellin Part 2" the world is coming to an end, but they're still trying to make music.
- Distinct Double Album: The two discs of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below basically function as solo albums for Big Boi and André 3000 - "Roses", "Ghetto Musick", and "Knowing" are the only songs on the whole album that has vocals from both of them. The two discs are also distinct in style, particularly because André 3000 spends the majority of The Love Below singing instead of rapping.
- Double Vision: The video for "Hey Ya!" features André playing all 8 members of "The Love Below", in a similar fashion to Paul McCartney in his video for "Coming Up."
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In an unique way. Many are so used to André's extravagant, uncanny fashion sense that they're shocked to see how normally he dressed during the Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik era.
- Fake Band: Two for the price of one, with the titular bands on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, with the former being characterized as a tough-as-nails rap crew, and the latter characterized as more of a smooth R&B group. The distinction and rivalry between the two groups is showcased in the music video for "Roses."
- Fun with Acronyms: "B.O.B." = Bombs Over Baghdad
- Operating Under The (K)Crooked American System Too long (same song the page quote comes from) - seriously though, this is '90s hip-hop. Acronyms abound.
- Greatest Hits Album: "Big Boi And Dre Present Outkast" which featured three new tracks as well as several alternate mixes of older tracks.
- Lampshade Hanging: Big Boi addressing the rumors of an OutKast break-up in "Morris Brown" off the Idlewild soundtrack, on a track without André no less:And everybody wanna know what's really going on/'Are you and 3000 still making songs?'/So on and so on
- Last Note Nightmare: "Funky Ride", one of their most smooth and relaxing songs, ends with a woman's orgasm over some rather creepy sounds.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The iconically upbeat "Hey Ya!" is a song about breaking up, and goes in depth into the question of whether or not love can last, or is even worth the effort.
- Same can be said about "Rooster" from Speakerboxxx.
- The almost ridiculously upbeat sounding "Roses" is one gigantic "The Reason You Suck" Speech to an extremely conceited girl. Some of Andre's lyrics get really dark, such as mentioning that he wants her to die in a car crash and the fact that he reports "crazy bitch" at least ten times in a row.
- The album ATLiens has very mature backing tracks, something which is slightly undermined by the lyrics still being somewhat gangsta orientated.
- Motor Mouth: B.O.B. has some exceptionally fast and complex rapping.
- Never Trust a Title: Player's Ball (Original Version) is actually an edited version to remove references to Christmas. The song originally referred to the Player's Ball being a Christmas party, but these were removed to give the song a year-round appeal. The unedited version with the Christmas references appears on A LaFace Family Christmas.
- New Sound Album: All of them.
- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik had a sound reminiscent of East Coast boom bap mixed with a hefty dose of P-Funk and Southern soul, along with both glorifying and deconstructing the pimping lifestyle from a lyrical standpoint.
- ATLiens focused on moody, atmospheric arrangements and far more personal and involved lyrics that heavily deconstructed a lot of established hip-hop tropes, the latter eventually becoming one of their trademarks.
- Aquemini was essentially a neo soul album with more hip-hop than normal.
- Stankonia was more or less one giant P-Funk and Prince tribute and a perfect example of Genre Roulette.
- Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was two solo albums in one, with Big Boi's side being straightforward Atlanta-style hip-hop and André 3000's being a mixture of Prince worship and retro-styled pop.
- Idlewild took their blues and gospel elements and put them up front and center.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Rosa Parks" plays with this trope, being named after the woman who refused to "move to the back of the bus." Parks herself hated the song and sued the duo in 1999 for misrepresentation.
- Non-Indicative First Episode: Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, while generally considered to be on par with the rest of their work, had more urban themes than their later releases, and didn't feature the eclectic mix of genres they would later become known for.
- Rearrange the Song: The band's remixes often change the mood of the song, most notably "Jazzy Belle (Swift C Remix)" which makes it much more of a contemporary R&B song by adding guest vocals and more radio-friendly production., and the single version of "Da Art Of Storytellin' (Part 1)" which adds a verse from Slick Rick.
- Aside from remixes, the band have two different recordings of 'Speedballin' (one was on a pre-order bonus disc for Stankonia and the other on the Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life soundtrack). They also have two different recordings of Gangsta Shit (one on a promo and the other on Stankonia).
- Rock Me, Amadeus!: "Ms. Jackson" contains a short snippet of "Bridal March" by Richard Wagner.
- Sharp Dressed Men: The two are never seen without being dressed fashionably, as a call-back to the days when black performers always dressed to the nines (to get around the view of blacks as "wild men").
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein / Word Salad Lyrics - "B.O.B"
- The lyrics aren't actually random if you pay closer attention to them. The song itself is actually about being able to follow up after you start something, the song is just filled with crazy metaphors. A lyrical break down of the song is available here
- Take That, Audience!: "Hey Ya!" includes the line "y'all don't wanna hear me, you just want to dance" as a dig at people who aren't paying attention to the song's lyrics.
- Technician Versus Performer: Big Boi is the technical perfectionist of the group, while André 3000 is the performer. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is a good showcase of their differences, with Big Boi preferring to make music within a hip-hop template while André chooses to experiment with a range of other genres. After their breakup, Big Boi would go on to have an active solo career, while André prefers to stay in the background, occasionally showing up for a guest verse or an eclectic side-project, often outside of music.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: This is the whole point of "Roses".
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: A variation. The beat in "Tomb Of The Boom" is the beat heard in the background of the skit "Bamboo", played a semitone higher.
- Uncommon Time: "Hey Ya!" skips two beats once every six measures, making the meter of the song [4+4+4+2+4+4]/4, or 22/4.
- Or its six measures of 4/4 and then a measure of 2/4.
- Who's on First?: "Good Day, Good Sir" features a routine between an unnamed gentleman and one named Fantastically Well, with one line from a lady named Fine, the silent presence of a third gentleman named Spectacular, and a reference to another character named Exactly.
- Witch with a Capital "B": OutKast sing this in the Bowdlerised version of "Roses":Caroline... see, she's the reason for the word "witch".
- Wolverine Publicity:
- André famously subverts this, rarely putting out an album and doing less than 5 features a year, or occasionally no features whatsoever. The features he does do tend to be with larger-name artists however, making tracks with Jay-Z (the remix to "30 Something"), Drake ("The Real Her"), Rick Ross ("Sixteen"), and Lil Wayne (the Interlude in 'Tha Carter IV').
- André doesn't just do rap features, ranging from equally-experimental pop music (Gwen Stefani, Frank Ocean), to typical pop music (Chris Brown), to the downright bizarre (Gorillaz and the remix to "Sleazy" by Kesha).