Following the impressive and influential Aquemini Outkast went to work on album number four. The duo had already been responsible for one of the very best hip-hop albums of all-time, innovated the genre and put the ‘Dirty South’ on the map. Could Outkast do it again?
The road to Stankonia
In 1996 Outkast (comprising of André Benjamin aka André 3000 and Antwan Patton aka Big Boi) had founded the production company Earthtone III with their partner David Sheats (aka Mr. DJ). As far back as ATLiens (released on August 27th, 1996) Outkast was able to produce their own work. They expanded that for Aquemini and would blossom in full for Stankonia.
Before recordings for the successor commenced, Outkast bought their own studio and named it Stankonia Studios. Stankonia is a combination of the words “stank”, slang for “funky”, and “Plutonia”, the title of a poster in André 3000’s bedroom. The studio was used by Outkast and Earthtone III, as well as by the producer team Organized Noise. The studio enabled Outkast to work in peace (and by themselves) on a successor.
Outkast set off to work on album number four in the spring of 1999. Big Boi predominantly worked in the studio and André 3000 worked a lot in his own house, making beats and playing on an acoustic guitar (resulting in Ms. Jackson for instance). For inspiration they visited many clubs and invited (local) artists to join them in the studio.
By then, André 3000 had basically grown tired of rapping, he wanted to convey more musicality with his voice. Both Big Boi and Mr. DJ weren’t too thrilled. A compromise was reached: Big Boi would continue to rap and André 3000 would combine his rapping with his, soul influenced, singing. Stankonia‘s sound would be heavily influenced by it. Outkast consciously didn’t listen to hip-hop while recording. Instead they opted for musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Prince for inspiration. The result was astounding, hip-hop was mixed with rock, drum ‘n’ bass, p-funk, psychedelica, Prince funk (listen to Toilet Tisha), salsa, rave and doo-wop. The tempo went up on nearly every song. The laid-back reggae influences, that were all over Aquemini, were hard to find on Stankonia.
The subjects of the lyrics were more varied and political than ever before. Hip-hop’s status was inspected as well, and not merely by the way it was presented in (mainstream) media, but also the way hip-hop presented itself as materialistic and misogynist. Many songs deal with the way in which not to treat women. The most well-known example is the song Ms. Jackson, which was inspired by the decline of the relationship between André 3000 en Erykah Badu. The song is dedicated to Ms. Jackson, the mother of the woman who is left behind (“the baby’s mama’s mamas”), the chorus contains “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson (oh), I am for real / Never meant to make your daughter cry / I apologize a trillion times”.
On release it was immediately apparent that the album was going to be huge. It entered the Billboard 200 albums chart at number two. In the first week of release more than half a million copies were sold, instantly certifying the album gold. By the end of 2003 the album was certified quadruple platinum (over four million copies sold) in the US. The second single Ms. Jackson in particular, was a huge hit, internationally as well.
The first single off the album was B.O.B., a rather surprising choice. The song is extremely fast (over 150 beats per minute), with accompanying machine gun raps. Outkast had already proven they could rap fast, but B.O.B. seemed to set new speed records. The fast rapping, the breaks and heavy guitars made for an exciting and innovative song.
Bombs over Baghdad
Don’t even bang unless you plan to hit something
Bombs over Baghdad
© 2000, B.O.B. – Outkast
After American Congress granted permission to invade Iraq in October of 2002, the song was taken out of context and used for a political agenda the group didn’t want have anything to do with. The song was getting airplay as support for the troops overseas, who reportedly used the chorus as some kind of battle cry as they went off to war. Speaking on behalf of Outkast, Big Boi stated he was strongly opposed to the Iraq war and the US invasion without the support of the United Nations and that the song (and its chorus in particular) was never meant to be used as a pro war declaration. In April 2003 Big Boi said: “We make a record and then it is up to people to take what they want from it. We explain a song when people ask, but we can’t control how they feel about it. … But once the fighting starts, everything changes.”.
But what did the phrase Bombs over Baghdad” actually mean then? It refers to the bombing of Iraq during the early 1990s. Those were used as a parable for the lack of determination of artists in the music industry: “There were lots of people making music, but there was nothing real about it, we were like saying, make music that has something to say or just get out of the way”.
As mentioned before in the article on Aquemini, Outkast and Public Enemy are my favorite rap groups. Stankonia is a decisive reason. Its richness, boldness, musicality and the combination of styles in hip-hop were innovative and provide an extremely funky album, which has something to say as well. Its production is phenomenal. It would turn out to be the last genius Outkast album on which André 3000 and Big Boi pushed each other to greater heights. The succeeding Speakerboxxx/The Love Below essentially were two solo albums under the moniker Outkast.
But, in 2000 there was no better hip-hop album than Stankonia and Outkast prolonged their status as being the most important innovative force with the genre. It’s impossible to give this album too much praise!
Three singles were culled from Stankonia:
(released on September 19th, 2000)
- Ms. Jackson
(released on October 17th, 2000)
- So Fresh, So Clean
(released on March 6th, 2001)
|Gasoline Dreams||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Willie Knighton|
|So Fresh, So Clean||Organized Noize, André Benjamin, Antwan Patton|
|Ms. Jackson||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats|
|Snappin’ & Trappin’||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Michael Render, John E.E. Smith, Cory Andrews|
|Spaghetti Junction||Organized Noize, André Benjamin, Antwan Patton|
|Kim & Cookie|
|I’ll Call B4 I Cum||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Lola Mitchell, Rashida Roberts|
|B.O.B.||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats|
|XPlosion||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Louis Freese, Erin Johnson|
|We Luv Deez Hoez||Organized Noize, André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, Jamahr Williams, Cameron Gipp, Bolivar Troncoso|
|Humble Mumble||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Erica Wright|
|?||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats|
|Red Velvet||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats|
|Cruisin’ In The ATL|
|Gangsta Shit||Carlton Mahone, André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Robert Barnett, Brian Loving, Cory Andrews|
|Toilet Tisha||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats|
|Slum Beautiful||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Thomas Burton|
|Stankonia (Stanklove)||André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, David Sheats, Patrick Brown, Ruben Bailey|
- Gasoline Dreams contains a guest appearance by Khujo
- Snappin’ & Trappin’ contains a guest appearance by Killer Mike and J-Sweet
- I’ll Call B4 I Cum contains a guest appearance by Gangsta Boo and Eco
- I’ll Call B4 I Cum contains a guest appearance by B-Real
- We Luv Deez Hoez contains a guest appearance by Backbone and Big Gipp
- Humble Mumble contains a guest appearance by Erykah Badu
- Gangsta Shit contains a guest appearance by Slimm Calhoun, C-Bone and T-Mo
- Slum Beautiful contains a guest appearance by Cee-Lo
- Stankonia (Stanklove) contains a guest appearance by Big Rube and Sleepy Brown
- So Fresh, So Clean contains a sample of Before The Night by Joe Simon
- Ms. Jackson contains a sample of Strawberry Letter #23 by The Brothers Johnson
- We Luv Deez Hoes contains a sample of Worldwide by Allen Toussaint
Personnel (source: wikipedia)
- Andre 3000 – vocals/rap, production
- Big Boi – vocals/rap, production
- Mr. DJ – production
- Sleepy Brown
- Khujo Goodie
- Killer Mike
- Gangsta Boo
- Erykah Badu
- Big Gipp
- Slimm Calhoun
- T-Mo Goodie
- Cee-Lo Green
- Big Rube
- Donnie Mathis – guitar
- David “Whild” Brown – guitar
- Jason Freeman – horns
- Jerry Freeman – horns
- Sleepy Brown – piano, synthesiser bass
- Marvin “Chanz” Parkman – piano, keyboards
- Earthtone III – keyboards
- Organized Noize – keyboards
- Preston Crump – bass, synthesizer bass
- Aaron Mills – bass
- Robert Grister – bass
- Dookie Blossumgame – bass
- Victor Alexander – drums
- Rosalin Heard – background vocals
- Paul Douglas-Feddon – background vocals
- Myrna “Screechy Peach” Crenshaw – background vocals
- Cutmaster Swiff – cuts
Following Aquemini Outkast delivered their second classic in their body of work with Stankonia. With these two albums alone Outkast has solidified its position within hip-hop: innovative and exciting funkateers. And still, there was more to come.
What’s your take on this album and Outkast? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Outkast releases the fantastic Stankonia!. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Outkast in 2000 image: grailed.com
Stankonia Studios image: facebook.com/stankoniaatl
Outkast – Stankonia image: amazon.com
Outkast – Stankonia – Promo image: eil.com
Outkast – B.O.B. video image: mv-files.com
Outkast – Grammy Awards 2002 image: xxlmag.com
Outkast – Stankonia – The singles image: discogs.com
Outkast – Stankonia – CD image: theaudiodb.com
Outkast – Stankonia – Cover photo outtakes image: kottke.org
Outkast – Stank Love Tour 2001 image: concertpostsersnow.com