Where Do I Start With Outkast?

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 20 2013 3:00 PM

Where Do I Start With Outkast?

You should definitely listen to these guys. But where to begin?

Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

So much music-critic ink has been spilled over Outkast over the years it’s amazing to realize that it’s been seven years since the duo released a proper album and more than 10 since the group was at its creative peak. As rumors swirl about a reunion between Andre 3000 and Big Boi at next spring’s Coachella—for the record, if I was Sleepy Brown, I’d be trying to get Outkast back together too, just so I could sing “The Way You Move” again—a lot of listeners under 25 must be wondering, What’s the big deal? After all, “Hey Ya!” is a great wedding-reception song, but why should I care about some Atlanta rappers getting back together?

Because for a seven-year stretch—from ATLiens in 1996 to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2003—Outkast was making the best, weirdest, funkiest, funniest music on the planet, that’s why. “Hey Ya!” was their inescapable hit, spending nine weeks at No. 1, and it’s a historically great pop song, but it only somewhat reflects what made the duo so great. Outkast’s songs were catchy, yes, but what drove them was the tension behind Big Boi’s delivery and Andre’s, between “ghetto musick” and flower power (but with each influencing the other over the years, until they split entirely); the wry, personal, technically astonishing rapping; the wild production that sounded years ahead of what anyone else was making at the time. It all came to a head in 2000’s “B.O.B.,” a masterpiece of angry funk that was (correctly) declared by Pitchfork the best track of the decade.


Where should you start with Outkast? With all of it. But here are 10 songs to get you going, beginning with their first single in 1993, released when Big Boi was still in high school. Well, 10 songs besides “Hey Ya!” Because c’mon. (Also: “Int’l Players Anthem” features Outkast, but was a UGK track; that’s not here either.)

Wheelz of Steel” (ATLiens, 1996)

Rosa Parks” (Aquemini, 1998)

B.O.B.” (Stankonia, 2000)

Ms. Jackson” (Stankonia, 2000)

Gangsta Shit” (Stankonia, 2000)

Ghetto Musick” (Speakerboxxx, 2003)


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.