TonightBig Boi comes to Denver for the first time in forever to play at the Ogden Theatre. We're sending two writers to cover the show, as opposed to our usual one, because they come from very different yet very important sections of hip-hop's audience. To provide some context for the review, you can find each writer's relationship with OutKast below.
I was born and raised in Monument, Colorado, a town whose tiny population was even more homogeneous then than it is now. "Hey Ya!" was the first time I heard OutKast. I have a terrible memory for details, but I know exactly where I was.
My friend had it on his iPod, and he was playing it through the stereo in his truck. We were driving around downtown Colorado Springs. We got to the corner of East Pikes Peak and North Cascade Avenue, right in front of the Hilton, when that "Heeey yaaa" hit.
I remember this so vividly because it hit me with the visceral clarity that not only had I never heard anything like this, but that this was what music was supposed to sound like. I didn't understand what the song meant or where it fit, either into OutKast's career or the larger picture of pop music and hip-hop, but I knew it meant something.
I went home and watched the music video, and I didn't understand that, either: I didn't get why they chose to reference The Ed Sullivan Show or OutKast's satire of the role of hip-hop in popular music. Back then, I just knew I wanted to hear more. I bought Speakerboxxx/The Love Below that week.
Today I own a copy of every OutKast record from Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to Idlewild. My favorite song is probably "Da Art Of Storytellin' (Part 2)," which could not be further from "Hey Ya!" on the spectrum of the duo's output. Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot was one of my favorite albums from last year.
I listen to tons of hip-hop now. As a white suburbanite, I cannot relate to its prevailing social message, but it has helped me question my reality and understand the construction of race and class in America. But that's not the biggest reason I am so drawn to the genre. That hasn't changed since the day I first heard "Hey Ya!"
I enjoy it.
It's funny what a personal experience I have with OutKast. I was in elementary school, and it was summertime in Virginia Beach, where I was spending my days at that time. Getting my hair braided by my mother's best friend, I heard the first strains of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik start pumping through the radio, and I was changed immediately.
The words from the Atlanta natives described and brought to life some of my most poignant experiences, and not only for me: My entire family was steeped in these sounds. On numerous occasions during 1996, I remember my mother coming in from work, removing her jacket at the door and humming, "Me and you, yo mama and yo cousin, too...."
It was personal and celebratory. The beats and sounds just crawled all over you. I've been an OutKast fan since day one and will go to the grave proclaiming the duo as the best hip-hop band of all time. "Liberation," from Aquemini, ranks up there with my favorite songs, and last year's solo release from Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot, found its way onto many of my "best of" lists.
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I saw Big Boi perform in Chicago over the summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and during our interview, I jokingly asked him about his Uncle Donnell, who, during the time when "Fish and Grits" was running the airwaves, was locked up, and Big Boi shouted him out in one of his more memorable verses.
Learning that Uncle Donnell is doing just fine and has opened a rib shack did my hip-hop purist heart proud. Both Andre 3000 and Big Boi are what I consider to be classic acts in the rap world, and there isn't enough time and space to truly capture what effect those two have had on my life.
Like a true fan, I will be fist-pumping and rapping all the words to the OutKast classics when Big Boi takes the stage tomorrow at the Ogden.