Outkast, a full twenty years after the release of their first album, has obliged their fans’ greatest wish (or possibly second greatest wish, since there won’t be any new albums) and is reuniting to tour at over forty festivals and concerts this summer. Their first stop will be Coachella, after which they’ll be hitting well known festivals like SummerFest in Milwaukee, WI and Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL. Andre and Big Boi, who haven’t released a collaboration since 2006, have readily acknowledged that this decision was to please their fans, many of whom have been begging the duo to abandon their solo projects —or at least take a momentary break— in order to create more of the southern, soul infused hip hop they popularized. It’s no surprise then that the Outkast reunion is causing such a stir, after all, many consider Andre and Big Boi’s work the best hip hop from a duo to ever exist, and since them, very few have come even close to matching their style and skill -which means Outkast loyalists are more than appreciative of their return .
No fear, though, if you are young enough to have missed the first Outkast wave, or need some brushing up, below we’ve listed out their top five albums from best to only slightly less incredible:
The fourth studio album Outkast produced, which was released in 2000, is widely believed to be their best. This was the first album that was produced through their own label, Stankonia Studios, which allowed them complete creative control and zero time constraints regarding the album. As a result, this album was their most experimental yet, drawing from gospel, rock, salsa, funk, and of course psychedelia. Andre 3000 took on a more lyrical approach in this album, which led to the number one single “Ms. Jackson.” The album was also included on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003.
Long time fans might know this album title derives from the two rapper’s zodiac signs, Aquarius and Gemini. This album went double platinum in a matter of months due to great hits such as “Liberation,” “Chonkyfire,” and the great “Rosa Parks” – a song which they were later sued over by Rosa Parks herself. This album was the first to bring southern lyricism and rap to the forefront of the hip hop scene.
The fifth album from Outkast is perhaps one of the most discussed. The album, as its title suggests, is actually two albums with a playtime of over two hours, dedicated to solo work from each Big Boi and Andre. Big Boi’s work focused primarily on the Southern hip hop aspect, while Andre’s The Love Below brought in a more psychedelic, electro sound. It was the second album of Outkast’s to win a Grammy for Album of the year, and features the still popular, well known tracks “Hey Ya,” “The Way You Move,” and “Roses.”
Outkast’s second album clearly showcased the verbal dexterity of the duo. Outkast incorporated dub, reggae, and gospel, as well as various space-inspired production sounds. Like all of their work, ATLiens commented heavily on Outkast’s perceived state of affairs, which meant that the album included heavier lyrics which discussed being isolated from American culture, poverty, education, and crime. Some of the best tracks from the album include “Elevators (Me and You)” and “Decatur Psalm.”
The debut album of Outkast, though last mentioned on this list, is still one of the greatest albums in existence. Big Boi and Andre wrote and recorded the album while still teenagers, unaware what their future effect on hip hop would be in a and East Coast and West Coast dominated market. The album incorporated live music, a technique producers Organized Noize felt would allow the music to feel more readily immediate to listeners. First time audiences should also note the Southern-styled guitar licks, soul melodies and mellow 70’s funk.
Outkast released two albums outside of this list: Idlewild and Big Boi And Dre Present… Outkast. The first was released in 2006, and though well received and an excellent listen, is not considered their best work. It was, however, their last as a duo. Big Boi and Dre Present… Outkast was a compilation album released in 2001. In the end, if you’re still unsure where to begin in your Outkast journey, listening to their albums chronologically will allow the best understanding of the performer’s long journey to becoming hip hop legend.