It was the year after OutKast's fourth studio record, "Stankonia." Late 2001 was a scary damn time as September 11th had changed the World (more on this later). OutKast gave us an LP that wasn't exactly a greatest hits album or new material. They had subtly tweaked some of their older tracks and gave us three new songs that were each interesting for a variety of reasons. It was the first-ever OutKast album I bought because I figured it would be a solid introduction to the group when it came out that year and I wanted to start checking them out. It was titled, "Big Boi and Dre Present...OutKast." Whatever you categorize it as, it was a stellar time.
Big Boi and Dre Present...OutKast
The album opens with Andre 3000 posing as, "Uncle Jesse." An elderly man who wants to share the legend of a group called, "OutKast." They made amazing music and supposedly if you listen, "Real still," you can still hear them out in the forest at night yelling, "Hootie hoo." Then when he tells all of us to be quiet, a loud fart sound effect happens. It is the sole skit on the LP and as a fan of fart jokes I have to admit I find it funny. From there we segue into a new track, "Funkin' Around," which offers one of the first hints how the next album--"Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," would be quite different as Andre says how he's been yelling, "Hip-Hop is dead,"to the puzzlement of others who ask him to prove what he means. Around, "Stankonia," it was apparent Andre was growing bored with rap, and he makes it clear here on, "Big Boi and Andre Present...OutKast," before making good on his threats to do something quite different next LP. Ominous tidings aside, "Funkin' Around is good fun."
After that, we get a sampling of some big hits and arrive at the LP's big new single that absolutely tore up the charts and helped make Killer Mike quite well-known (he'd been around but this is when he blew up). Yes, "The Whole World." A song about everything from post-9/11 racial anxiety, to general societal stress, romantic complications, and it all sounds very melancholy but the dark lyrics are accompanied by a killer sing-along chorus and some of the most energetic horns you'll ever hear.
|OutKast and Killer Mike
The rest of the album is full of other popular tracks including some questionable inclusions. How, "Cumblin' Erb," made it onto this album but, "Hootie Hoo," (also from the first LP) did not will always puzzle me. Also, as if to drive home the point of how, "ATLiens," was supremely weird, only one track from it, "Elevators," manages to be on this pseudo-compilation. The close of this LP provides a song that offers a solid hint of just what kind of direction Andre 3000 would at least be moving in. "Movin' Cool (The After Party)," is a smooth jazzy track that sounds like practice for, "The Love Below," with its mixture of Andre (and guest artist Joi) singing. Big Boi throws in rap verse, but this song is Andre starting to make it clear what direction he's moving in.
"Big Boi and Andre Present...OutKast," is many things at once without being a single concept. It is a bit of a greatest hits LP even though it came out before what many consider OutKast's best album with their best hits. It is a compilation that includes new tracks. It is a great way for new fans of OutKast to get a feel for the group while longtime fans can find interesting aspects within it worth mining when studying the group (I just did, after all). Whatever you want to say it, "Is," we can all agree it is a great piece of work.