‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’: A Conversation 20 Years Later


For the 20th anniversary of the mighty OutKast’s debut album Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik, VIBE had the heady idea to have their Brooklyn-born and raised Editorial Consultant Bonsu Thompson discuss the 1994 classic with Atlanta native – and one of Southern hip-hop’s finest journalists – Maurice Garland. Both Thompson and Garland began as religious ‘Kast fans, then went on to document Dre and Big Boi extensively throughout their respective careers, even forming their own relationships with the two legends. The result is a conversation that’s equal to music purist gold. For the die-Hard ‘Kast fans, it’s a wonderful stroll down memory lane with nuggets of fun-fact treasure along the way. For the new OutKast fan (who better be under 20 years-old) or post Stankonia fan, consider this the most pivotal of your ‘Southern Hip-Hop 101’ courses. Stank us later.

Bonsu: So when was the last time you listened to Southernplayalistic? Like ran through the entire album.
Maurice: Like last month some time just riding to it.

Right. It’s one of those albums where you may go a few months or even six months without listening to it, but you’ll eventually touch something from it. Even if its just one of the singles.
Especially now that it’s easier to come across. You don’t have to go find a CD. Now it’s in your phone whenever you feel like listening to it.

Having listened to it now in 2014, what did you take away from that last listen?
What I take away now, even though it was like I was there [when the album released], was that those dudes weren’t sampling anything at all. Everything on there was original production. Even beyond that, I appreciated that both those dudes did not hide where they were from on that album. When some of those [southern rap] groups were coming out they were trying to sound like they were from New York. So a lot of times cats were coming from Atlanta trying to sound like Das Efx or somebody. But when I listen to it it’s still like “Damn, these dudes sound like me.” So I just appreciated that they were doing original production and was really talking about what was really on their mind. A lot of those songs were vulnerable as hell. Especially for that time because a lot of cats were out there trying to be Billy Bad Ass or trying to use more words than you to show how smart they were. But these dudes were like “Damn, I should not have dropped out of school” or “I cant find a job out this bitch.”

Makes perfect sense. Being from Brooklyn, I appreciated the authenticity. I appreciated the fact that they weren’t trying to sound like they were from New York because being from New York and a Hip-Hop head you’re exhausted at that point with cats who lived outside of New York trying to emulate Wu-Tang or Big or even Snoop for that matter. My family’s from the south, so there was always that connection, but even though OutKast rapped southern and had their own sound they were still speaking on the shit any young black kid was dealing with at that time. The content from Nas’ “Life’s A Bitch” or “Memory Lane” wasn’t that off from like “Crumblin Herb” or “Ain’t No Thang.” They were different but I always felt like they were speaking to me. We were just in different zip codes.
Exactly. Another funny thing I get reminded of every time I hear it is…a lot of people don’t know this but, everybody wasn’t messing with them down here like that.

Really? That’s interesting.
Yeah. When they came out of course people were excited like Damn, they riding down my street bruh. Ah damn, they goin’ down the Long John Silvers on Candle road, man. But even the dudes with gold teeth in the hood who was here for real was just like Aw that’s just some dudes from down the street. I remember I was riding around with my cousin and he had the fly Isuzu [Jeep] with the Motorola cell phone going around picking up girls. Mind you I’m like 14 so I’m not supposed to be with him. He was riding around listening to [OutKast] and we pull up to some trapped out apartment. Some dudes come outside drinking and they were like “What you listening to?” We like, “This that OutKast.” And I remember these dudes were like “Man, you better turn that shit off and put on some Method Man. Or that goddamn Snoop.” And these were dudes who were from here. Even Rico Wade will tell you that the city wasn’t really on them like that. They had to go to Detroit or Chicago to really break.

That’s interesting because by the time it got to New York, they were hittin’. I remember they opened up for Big [in NY] because Puff directed the “Player’s Ball” video and of course Puff is going to support anything he’s a part of. He probably had visions of being Hype Williams [laughs] and figured if he got those guys some New York love the single would be even bigger and of course he’d receive more directorial recognition. But what do you feel was the moment that allowed the entire city of Atlanta to embrace OutKast?
Really it was a few things. It was when folks started seeing the videos for “Players Ball” and “Southernplayalistic…” on TV a few times. It was like they were representing for us. They got girls that we know in the video, environments where we’d be, these dudes may not be that bad after all. It just took seeing it. But I think the real big moment was when that “Benz and Beamer” video came out with everybody doing the “Bankhead Bounce” at the car wash. That’s when it was like Oh they brought the neighborhood out! Before then it was just them and Goodie Mob, just a neighborhood thing. But when you saw that “Benz and Beamer” video, it was like Aw they at the Big A car wash. This shit is for real!