And they took it to another level. T.I.’s known for calling himself King of the South and prophesizing his destiny but they were talking that King shit early––like literally. They were like, We’re from the bottom but we view ourselves as royalty. It was almost a slight throwback to the beginning of the nineties with groups like Public Enemy and the Native Tongues crew and acts like X Clan who wore afrocentric beads and medallions. OutKast may have been on some pimp shit but they were still speaking on and for the black experience.
It was like you can be in whatever situation, but you have to carry yourself as if you’re going to rise above that some day and not just be stuck there as a victim.
A lot of their recording sessions were like church. They used to read a lot of pro-black and conspiracy theory books like “Behold A Pale Horse.” So a lot of jewels were being dropped by the older cats on the younger dudes. On records like “Deep,” “Crumblin Erb” or even “Git Up Git Out” you can hear those teachings during those blunt sessions in the studio.
That’s exactly what was going on. That’s how “Cell Therapy” on that Good Mob [debut album] was made, by passing around that book “Behold A Pale Horse.” The story is Busta Rhymes was in the studio the same day they was, peaked his head in and said “Y’all need to be reading this book.” They took the book and pretty much devoured it.
So you can hear the influence. You have to remember that Big Boi and Dre were much more into the arts than the streets so were very impressionable.
The funny thing is they both rapped about shooting guns more on that first album than they did in the rest of their entire catalogue. Dre’s talking about leaving guy’s bloody and Big’s got more bullets than you count. It was crazy [Laughs]. But at the same time this is 1993, 1994. They had to keep up with the hardcore aesthetic and style that was dominating Hip-hop at the time. Wu-Tang was extremely gritty, Dogg Pound was about gang banging. There was even the Geto Boys. So I completely get it, but it’s albums like Illmatic that I liken Southerplayalistic… to because it did such an awesome job of painting the portrait of their surroundings.
That CD captures the black experience so well. Of course it’s Hip-hop but there are parts of the album that were unapologetically black. There was always white folks here but we never had that music that said this is what it’s like to be black in Atlanta. There were plenty rap groups before them but it was always one of two extremes: either they were making the booty music or that gangsta shit. I remember grown folks who didn’t even listen to rap like that appreciating the album. When they heard OutKast they would go “Whoa! these voices sound like mine” or “These baselines remind me of Curtis Mayfield.”
You really have to give it up to Organized Noize. Like you said, they used all live instrumentation. I’m sure they were students of the game. So at the time you had Dr. Dre winning on the west then on the East, Pete Rock, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Premier. So I feel like they thought Alright we’re gonna do what y’all do the Atlanta way and step up the musicianship. Like “Southerplayalistic…” feels like their contribution to the G-Funk conversation in Hip-Hop, as well as their southern answer to Low End Theory and Midnight Marauder’s jazzy feel. They just poured syrup on top.
Maurice, we both could talk OutKast for hours more so I better end this great convo now. I know you got to run, but I appreciate ya.
Aw man, thank you for considering me for this. This was cool.
I’ll hit you tomorrow.