Three Southern rap consultants revisit the 20-year-old traditional
Michael Lavine/Courtesy of the artist
Wann OutKast launched its fourth studio album Stankonia, the pioneering duo out of Atlanta, Ga., was not new to this, however they remained true to the hip-hop factor. Released on Halloween 2000, months after the preliminary Y2K scare that left individuals afraid of being throttled again right into a interval of darkness and technological paranoia, Stankonia took full benefit of the brand new millennium. They stayed true to what they did greatest and created one thing highly effective on the fringes of mainstream popular culture’s expectations of them as southerners and as rappers.
Breaking new floor cleared from the particles of nostalgia, burned with their Chonkyfire, Stankonia challenged listeners to rethink what it meant to be OutKasted within the wilderness of an unknown new world. Never ones to draw back from the stank of imagined and social-historical realities, Stankonia is an illustration of André Benjamin and Big Boi evolving their sound, their identities, and their artwork. Benjamin was blasting centuries forward together with his newest moniker, André 3000, an Afrofuturist prediction that the longer term was Black and dope as hell, and Big Boi was rising more and more experimental in not solely his lyrical supply however his vogue sense, paralleling Benjamin’s personal eccentric aptitude for vogue.
Stankonia was a curation of not solely OutKast’s funding sooner or later, however a blueprint for what was to come back later with Speakerboxxx / Die Liebe unten: a take a look at the group’s evolution as males and as artists, solidly and firmly centered in a stronghold of how the South might sound. Earthtone III — consisting of Benjamin, Big Boi, and DJ David “Mr. DJ” Sheats — are on full show for almost all of the album. Stankonia showcases influences from a number of genres, eras, emotions, and experiences, together with EDM on the a lot celebrated and canonized “B.O.B.”
So come kick it wit ya folks, myself, and writers and NPR Music contributors extraordinaire Christina Lee and Gavin Godfrey, as we journey again in time to expertise the sonic and lyrical mayhem of what it means to create one thing new. Ain’t nan humbly mumbled seven gentle years under sea stage. Everything is loud, boisterous and intentional, “Gasoline Dreams” burning vivid, no breaks, until it is Big Boi and three Stacks telling us to take a breath and make a cease at “Spaghetti Junction” to choose up Kim, Cookie, Eco, Badu, and Boo and the D.F. crew patiently ready to take a trip. Er’thang ain’t found out, however all the pieces is “Gangsta S***.” Snappin’ and trappin’. Don’t you wanna come? — Regina Bradley
This dialog, initially streamed dwell on YouTube for NPR Music’s Listening Party collection, has been edited for size and readability. The deluxe Stankonia, neu aufgelegt digital with beforehand unreleased tracks and remixes, is jetzt draußen. There’s additionally a brand new model introduced in 360 Reality Audio.
Dr. Regina Bradley: I really feel like I’m again in highschool, junior yr — shout out to Westover High School — operating to lunch, listening to Stankonia. I’m actually in my emotions. Chris, Gavin, what are your rapid reactions to listening to Stankonia 20 years later?
Gavin Godfrey: Man, it nonetheless sounds tremendous recent 20 years later. To me, not a lot has modified apart from time. They nonetheless sound as recent as they did 20 years in the past.
Christina Lee: I imply, listening to this album sort of feels loopy. I typically neglect simply how vibrant this album is, how formidable this album is, however that is what instantly strikes me. It’s wonderful how OutKast is ready to actually simply department off at this level, particularly once you examine it to their earlier discography.
Stankonia is basically Earthtone III’s first actual foray into finishing nearly all of the album. ‘Cause often once you suppose OutKast and Dungeon Family, you robotically go to the GOATS, which is Organized Noize. How do you are feeling the manufacturing shifted? Did you hear something completely different from, like the sooner discography to Stankonia?
Lee: I obtained to credit score my good friend Jason Lee, however he in contrast the album to type of like splitting the atoms. And what he meant by that was, you understand, OutKast, the unit, continues to be very a lot intact, however I consider Speakerboxxx / Die Liebe unten … I really feel like I can actually begin to hear the person influences begin to play out, particularly as we transition from monitor to trace. But after all, we solely know that from hindsight. What do you suppose, Gavin?
Godfrey: Every two years, OutKast reinvent themselves, makes new sounds, makes some slang, makes high quality albums. But this, to me, felt like such a dramatic shift. And I keep in mind I liked it, but it surely additionally marks the start of the top, as a result of as Mr. DJ identified, this was everyone coming into their particular person artistic peaks. That additionally meant that individually all of them had completely different objectives, however in some way they pulled it collectively for this one, for a typical objective and made, to me, my private second favourite OutKast album.
Think in regards to the time that the album got here out. It was 2000, people are nonetheless shedding their s*** when it comes to “It’s a brand-new year. Things are going to fall apart.” Like, I used to be actually ready for airplanes to fall out the sky on Nov. 1, 2000, you understand what I’m saying? And then right here you have got OutKast with like, “We’re going to establish this new world of hip-hop.” And it is in dialog with what was occurring in Southern hip-hop, particularly on the time, proper? Atlanta had arrived; people had been beginning to come right here to make music, beginning new genres from crunk to the beginnings of entice. You know what I’m saying? What do you suppose Stankonia represents for what’s taking place within the bigger tradition of Southern hip-hop?
Godfrey: Man, I feel, no less than for me, it simply represents the willingness to carry ourselves accountable. You have lyrics which might be calling out the blame period, the disrespect and misogyny of girls in hip-hop. But this time round, these guys sounded pissed off, angsty, not in a preachy or bitchy approach. It was like there’s lots of stuff they wanted to get off their chest. And lots of that stemmed from what was occurring within the music trade and financial system on the time and what was thought-about in style. Like we stated, they at all times do their very own factor and keep true to their mission, however they nonetheless had to try this and exist inside this trade that has all these guidelines and limitations, that are simply two phrases that this group is unaccustomed to.
There was rather a lot occurring. So not solely is it the rise of Southern hip-hop, but it surely’s additionally one yr earlier than we get into Sept. 11, when “Bombs Over Baghdad” takes on a distinct that means. Can you share your ideas on that?
Lee: What’s actually fascinating in regards to the timing of Stankonia is that that is coming after the primary Gulf War. So when André 3000 is overhearing bombs over Baghdad on the newscast, that is through the Clinton administration. George W. Bush ain’t president but. But the factor is, that battle continued into the second Gulf War, i.e. the Iraq struggle.
It’s fascinating how that tune, particularly, takes on new that means. Lots of people ended up decoding that as a patriotic anthem. There had been stories of troops really taking part in the tune as they’re actually firing missiles into Baghdad. And that was a very tough time limit for OutKast as a result of the only got here to indicate their international attain, particularly for a Southern hip-hop group. But, after all, the tune finally ends up being their instance of “Born in the U.S.A.”; OutKast got here out and stated that they had been in opposition to the Iraq struggle.
What do you suppose it’s in regards to the Stankonia album that basically made people sit up and take note of what they had been doing and why they could not simply be thought-about Southern hip-hop in spite of everything?
Lee: I feel what’s actually fascinating about this album is that it’s completely Southern hip-hop, however there’s a half that may be very aware of the world round them. You’re seeing these dichotomies play out, the type of stability between mainstream hip-hop and the aware hip-hop period. We must do not forget that, at this specific time, these two genres are beginning to department off. And the factor is, Stankonia encompasses all that.
Godfrey: I feel they constructed a world with this album. I’m gonna nerd out actual onerous actual fast, however OutKast, for me, is sort of like George Lucas when star Wars was good. He was identified for constructing complete worlds, however he actually was simply telling tales about on a regular basis occurrences. But he made you see it via this lens. OutKast continues to be very a lot rooted in Atlanta. Through the lyrics, via the sounds, they don’t seem to be solely pondering globally, however universally; these boys are fascinated with the cosmos.
When I speak to DJ and Big Boi about this, the title Stankonia comes from Dre simply at all times referring to all the pieces they did as funky. They need all the pieces to be funky, funky, funky and return to the loopy lack of limitations that got here from Parliament Funkadelic earlier than them. I feel all of it stemmed from them being snug of their world, but additionally making an attempt to step exterior of their consolation zone and convey everyone together with them.
We’re not simply going to gush on Stankonia, you understand, I obtained to ask you: What do you suppose has aged effectively in regards to the album and what do you suppose hasn’t aged so effectively?
Godfrey: In the tradition now, I do not understand how “Snappin’ & Trappin'” would have been obtained, how a lot people would have responded to what Mörder Mike was saying in there. Back then, perhaps lyrically, you could possibly get away with much more as a result of there wasn’t the proliferation of social media, a continuing inflow of data to name out each single lyric, each little factor anyone did.
Höre Stankonia now and it is wild, you understand, as a result of, man, these dudes knew. It’s like they knew all the pieces that was going to occur at this time. But they had been speaking about it 20 years in the past and it is nonetheless so, so related. So, I imply, rather a lot has aged effectively for me when it comes to I feel it sounds even higher now than it did then.
Lee: I imply, I echo completely all the pieces that Gavin stated. I feel the factor with OutKast is that the angle is at all times coming from, like, “Here we’re going to give you some food for thought.” And I feel on this specific age, giving meals for thought is not clear lower sufficient for listeners. I feel listeners count on teams to sort of tackle a really specific stance. And perhaps it’s because I’m studying a ebook known as Der Schmetterlings-Effekt; it is the primary biography of Kendrick Lamar by Marcus J. Moore. But in listening to a few of Kendrick’s discography and evaluating it to Stankonia, I feel I’m most struck by how, at this specific time, there’s lots of hip-hop acts which might be turning to rock previous and Black music previous and understanding that though we’re working inside the area of hip-hop, we have now your entire musical gamut to tug inspiration from.
So I sort of wish to return to the girl query, if I wish to put my educational hat on. You know what I’m saying? I’m not fairly certain that “We Luv Deez Hoez” is one thing that’ll, you understand, cross the litmus check. Misogyny is unquestionably one thing which may haven’t aged effectively. I’m pondering one of many issues that makes it an mental critique of the world is unquestionably recognizing the therapy of girls. Like you undoubtedly see the expansion, particularly with one thing like The Love Below, which comes subsequent. But can y’all speak to that a bit bit? What is it about this album that calls for vital engagement? It’s not simply listening to it for enjoyable. It’s like, no for actual, we have now these actually critical points we’re speaking about from abortion to racial profiling.
Godfrey: “We Luv Deez Hoez” is ideal for the time. Ludacris was speaking about hoes in numerous space codes; they’re very conscious of what is going on on round them. But on the similar time there have been lots of people who anticipated introspective poets. And then some people simply needed them to be Atlanta perpetually. And they’re all of that, you understand what I’m saying? They had constructed a status of having the ability to smoke a blunt and have Henny with you, but additionally speak about Afrofuturism. And you understand what it simply means to be an individual of shade in a rustic that does not at all times settle for us. So, certain you may hear “We Luv Deez Hoez” or one thing like that. But what occurred? We obtained “Gasoline Dreams.” They had been taking dangers. And that is at all times what they’ve accomplished. And this was simply one other danger.
Oh, and simply actual fast shout out to Dr. Treva Lindsey, who got here up with the time period “melodious misogyny.” It’s the s*** we wish to hearken to whereas being hella problematic.
Godfrey: I get it. I like that.
Chris, do you have got any ideas about why we nonetheless sort of battle with listening to music with a vital ear and never essentially fascinated with it as a critique?
Lee: I feel the principle factor with OutKast is that, from the bounce, I feel individuals noticed how OutKast actually represented the spectrum of humanity. As people, we do not simply hearken to aware or mainstream hip-hop. Like, that is not how we exist as individuals. But OutKast was in a position to acknowledge that we hearken to each.
I additionally suppose we underestimate the actual fact how “Ms. Jackson” actually sort of set the tone for the dialog, in order that even when an album like this has its extra misogynistic moments, you had songs like “Ms. Jackson” and “Humble Mumble” to stability all the pieces out and supply that complete spectrum of humanity. So I do not know why individuals do not wish to have interaction with hip-hop critically. I feel it is absolute bulls***. I imply, however I’ll say that OutKast introduced a really convincing argument as to why it is best to have interaction with the style critically.
One of the issues that I simply completely get pleasure from about Stankonia and I’ll die on this hill is that the skits on this album are a few of the greatest in hip-hop. Period. It’s perfection. “Kim & Cookie (Interlude)” is my s***. Still my s***. I obtained detention as a result of I used to be taking part in that joint in Spanish class when it first got here out, you understand what I imply? Like my Spanish instructor thought she was doing a little, “You need to say it auf Spanisch,” and I did. [Lacht]
Lee: Can you continue to do it although?
Uh, no. That’s the English reply. And, no, in Spanish. OK. [Lacht] Do you guys have any ideas about what the importance of humor was for this album?
Lee: The skits are emblematic of how OutKast was at all times making an attempt to floor the album in the actual world. The skits actually assist so as to add that shade to allow you to guys know that though OutKast is like, what, seven gentle years into the middle of the world, they’re additionally actually earthbound. They are a lot in tune with how the world is working at this time.
Godfrey: First of all, Kim and Cookie want their very own podcast. Let’s give them women the voice.
Where they at although? Where are they at?
Godfrey: You know, most album skits, particularly in hip-hop, there isn’t any context, it is identical to here is a bit filler. We have to fill a niche and undoubtedly need this factor to nonetheless be like an hour and half. Every OutKast skit completely goes into the subsequent tune. And it speaks to the themes of what is going on on within the album. It’s like we have been saying: the world is on fireplace, issues are loopy, however at house, dudes continues to be simply on the bar complaining about his job. You know what I’m saying? Girls are attempting to, you understand, be happy by the gentleman they meet and typically it is simply less than snuff. Just like on a regular basis conversations that we’re having, they’re sprinkled all through these very actual conversations which might be taking part in all through the album.
And I feel the perfect comedy we have ever seen at all times comes from ache. So whereas they’re providing you with this dose of actuality and seriousness, there’s obtained to be levity as a result of that levity additionally comes from that very same seriousness and actuality that we’re dealing with. So the skits on right here and the skits on Aquemini are the best skits on a hip-hop album, ever.
Regina Bradley is the writer of the ebook Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South (coming Feb. 2021 from University of North Carolina Press), and co-host of the Bottom of the Map podcast with music journalist Christina Lee. Gavin Godfrey is a contract author based mostly in Atlanta.