“That was the first time when people began to take Southern rap seriously.” -T.I.
August 3rd, 1995. Madison Square Garden is hosting the second annual Score Awards ceremony. The East Coast vs West Coast rap rivalry is in full effect, and this awards ceremony has felt its impact. So far, every single rap or hip hop award has been given to someone from either New York or California. “Artist of the Year”—Snoop Dogg, “Best New Artist”—Notorious B.I.G. To no surprise, the New York crowd booed and jeered when the “Best New Rap Group Award” was given to Outkast from Atlanta.
André 3000 and Big Boi walk up to the stage with the stakes set: If they crack under this pressure, hip hop will stay dominated by NYC and LA and OutKast will be lost in history, but if they rise up, OutKast can transform the rap/hip hop world and subsequently put ATL on the map. To fully understand how one speech can revolutionize rap, we need to rewind.
OutKast began in an Atlanta mall where André Benjamin (André 3000) and Antwan Patton (Big Boi) met. They became good friends and went from rap battling each other in the cafeteria to creating a rap group together in 1991. They decided on “OutKast” as it described their place in the rap community. Because they presented a unique style and came from a region that was not known for rap, André 3000 and Big Boi felt like outcasts. After some mixtapes, they released the single Player’s Ball which topped the R&B charts, even hitting number one on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart. With this song, OutKast established themselves as an artist that was not afraid to think outside the box, implementing car chimes as a part of the song’s beat.
They call out “all the players from far and wide” to come listen to their music. The song was unlike any rap music that was popular at the time. It was not the gangster rap from the coasts; instead André and Big Boi used lyrical rap about living in the “Dirty South”, creating a whole new genre of music, Southern hip hop. They helped found the Dungeon Family — a group of Atlanta based rappers that created the foundation for hip hop in the South.
OutKast wanted and needed to separate themselves from the East Coast-West Coast feud that would later take the lives of Tupac and Biggie. They completed this task when they were only 19 years old with the release of their debut album, southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.
Produced by La Face Records, a record company known for their soulful and funky music, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik pitched a new lyrical, storytelling-based rap while keeping a chillaxed and joyful feeling. The album begins with “myintrotoletuknow” where OutKast tells the world that they are not just here to play games or mess around.
I rip sh*t wit pimp sh*t, I’m slanging it from the South
Talk bad about the A-town, I’ll bust you in your f — ing mouth
Deep issues like the journey to success and single motherhood on “Git Up, Git Out” and “Hootie Hoo” are contrasted with lighter songs about smoking weed and hanging out with friends on “Crumblin’ Erb” and “Ain’t No Thang.” The album disguises a statement on the hip hop community and American politics as a day in the life of two teens in Atlanta. It set OutKast apart from the toxic East vs West Coast rap style of the 80s and 90s by creating a new style of rap with its own matters to address.
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik can be classified as rap, hip hop, or R&B but can not be classified as just another shallow album about going to clubs and getting girls. OutKast knows that they are not meant for the mainstream, and they want it that way.
Are you an OutKast?
If you understand and feel the basic principles and
Fundamental truths contained within this music, you probably are
If you think it’s all about pimpin’ hoes and slamming Cadillac do’s
You probably a cracker, or a ni**a that think he a cracker
Or maybe just don’t understand…
…Wake up ni**as and realize what’s going on around you
Poisoning of the food and water
Tampering of cigarettes
Disease engineering control over your life
Take back your existence or die like a punk- True Dat
OutKast would reap the rewards of creating a classic album, and one of these was their nomination for the “Best New Rap Group” award at the 1995 Source Awards ceremony. The Source was a hip hop/rap magazine created by Harvard music nerds. They had the seal of approval for rappers and their word was like gold. Besides Andre and Big Boi, the “Best New Rap Group” award was not on anyone’s mind. Instead, many were anticipating more drama.
At the previous year’s awards ceremony, 2pac (West Coast) and Q-Tip (East Coast) developed some bad blood over a “miscommunication.” This year, however, 2pac had just been shot, and would be watching the awards through bars. With artists like Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, Dr. Dre, Notorious B.IG., Ice Cube, and the Wu-Tang Clan gathered together one thing became clear: this year’s ceremony would not disappoint.
Throughout the night, people had not been shorted of any drama. Suge Knight, a 6'2" 225 lbs. representative of Death Row Records who made his company based on intimidation and fear, would start off with a proverbial shot heard around the world by saying, “Any artist out there that wanna be an artist, stay a star, and won’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos, all on the records, dancing — come to Death Row!” The mainly New York based crowd did not take this very well but their night had only begun. Next, Snoop Dogg would come on stage and provoke them: “The East Coast ain’t got love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg?”
As the awards began to be passed out, it became clear that this was a battle between the coasts. So when the “Best New Rap Group” award was being announced, it seemed obvious that it would go to a New York group, as there was no other West Coast group nominated. It is safe to say that the crowd was shocked when OutKast was given the award. In an uproar of boos, OutKast takes their spot on the stage. Sticking out like a sore thumb in a crowd of baggy clothes and bandanas, André is wearing a purple dashiki, typical West African attire. The boos suppress the two Atlanta teenagers but eventually André 3000 gets his turn on the mic. If anyone can take down the leading powers of rap, it would be an outcast — someone who is not afraid to stand up for themselves and blaze their own trail, or maybe even wear a purple dashiki to a rap awards ceremony. Unfazed by the overbearing power of East Coast vs West Coast, André prophecies
“…But it’s like this though: I’m tired of folks, — them closed-minded folks. It’s like we got a demo tape and don’t nobody wanna hear it.
But it’s like this, the South got somethin’ to say. That’s all I got to say.”
OutKast would go on to win 6 Grammys and create multiple classic albums before they split up, but more importantly they opened the door for Southern Rap. During OutKast’s peak (2002), 50–60% of rap music played on the radio came from the South; in 2004, 43% of rap music came from the South, compared to only 24% from the East Coast. Today, Atlanta is widely considered the epicenter of modern hip hop. From the 1990s- 2010s hip hop moved from the coasts to the dirty south, proving that the South had something to say.
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