By: Daniel Hodgman
Writer’s note: I would not have been able to experience this performance and reflect on it without the generosity and overall goodness of my close friend Marites. For that, I dedicate this piece to her.
“Some say we’re pro-black, but we professional. We missed a lot of church, so the music is our confessional” -Big Boi on “Aquemini”
In January, when 2014 was still a youngling, Andre 3000 and Big Boi came out of the woodwork, settled whatever differences they had and declared to the world that OutKast was back. When it was announced, it felt like a belated holiday present, kind of like that late gift your Uncle Stu sends in mid-January. The difference is that this announcement was better than any gift card you could have wrestled out of your mailbox. From the very get-go, this tour was meticulously plotted out (OutKast would settle on 40 festivals and events for the year) and triumphantly shared among critics and peers alike. More importantly however is that along with other anniversaries in hip-hop—among them, Nas’ Illmatic and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising—the return of OutKast reinforced the stern fact that although hip-hop has changed and continues to change, the golden era legends never go away and are surely never forgotten.
On Saturday night, cradled between a Friday night performance at Montreal’s Osheaga Festival and a Sunday showing at Drake’s OVO Fest in Toronto, Three Stacks and Daddy Fat Sax spent some time in Chicago for Lollapalooza. Their set spanned for nearly two hours, taking the crowd on a rollercoaster ride between clinical craziness, deep groves that called for sweeping hand motions glued in solidarity, straight-up hectic chaos and some storytellin’. On stage, the two were fresh and it looked like anything negative that had happened in recent years was completely washed away: they walked up and down the stage joking with each other, they couldn’t hold back their smiles, their energy was visibly creative and energetic and by the show’s final stretch, Andre looked out over the ocean of festival-goers and announced that he had a “great fucking time.”
OutKast also supplied a full band that included singers, a dazzling horn section and one of the most animated and ferocious drummers a hip-hop act can ask for. The additional instrumentation and energy onstage created an unexplainable moment of hip-hop bliss only the heavens could conjure up, and it was here on the Grant Park grounds, smashed between Chicago’s dominating skyline and the night canvas of Lake Michigan, where the Mighty O reached the heights everyone expected when the tour was announced.
By 8:15, the backing band walked onstage and unveiled a tent in the middle. After some lightworks and thumping sound cuts, the sheet covering the tent flew off and Andre and Big Boi were revealed to a screaming crowd. When the frenzy started to calm, the twinkles of “B.O.B” faded in and, without missing a beat, both the crowd and OutKast yelled: “one, two, one two three yeah!” It was the perfect slot for “B.O.B,” the Stankonia classic with as much vigor as a full-throttle drag race, and as the opener it set the tone for the rest of the night.
Throughout the set, other smash hits propelled the crowd into a furious wave. “ATLiens” and “Rosa Parks” interweaved with “Gasoline Dreams” and “Skew It on the Bar-B” after “B.O.B,” further setting the exploding tone. “Ms. Jackson” was perfectly placed near the halfway mark, and after Andre asked if the crowd knew a “Ms. Jackson,” people pretty much got the hint and started crying (or at least I did). “Roses” and “So Fresh, So Clean” were strategically placed near the end of the night, and as an added bonus, Sleepy Brown provided that silky smooth falsetto chorus for “So Fresh, So Clean” under spectacular stage lighting (he also helped the duo on “Aquemini” and “Crumblin’ Erb”). As for the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below classics, Andre and Big Boi took turns shelling out their respective cuts alone: Patton’s “GhettoMusick” and “The Way You Move” culminated into a full-grown orb of celebratory dancing, but nothing could hold up against Dre’s “Hey Ya!,” a perfectly-crafted pop song that was ten times more thrilling in a live setting.
One of the more fulfilling moments of the set came directly after this. Upon unleashing a string of songs from their debut record, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, the duo thanked the crowd and dedicated the run to those who had their backs during the Dungeon days. “Hootie Hoo,” “Crumblin’ Erb,” “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” and “Player’s Ball” had big fans spitting the lyrics while infused in their head-bobbing trance-like state, and the addition of “Da Art of Storytellin’, Part One” (Aquemini) rippled smoothly through the crowd like Willy Wonka’s Fizzy Lifting Drink.
The music aside, OutKast made sure everything was covered, and at times they got serious for a minute. For one, Andre’s garb consisted of a full-sized black and white athletic jacket that read: “across cultures darker people suffer most. Why?” It was small, but it was a subtle reminder that while we enjoy the blessings of music and life, there are still worldly problems that need to be fixed and Andre made that apparent. Before “Crumblin’ Erb,” a song that personally attacks gun violence, Big Boi took a couple of seconds to speak to Chicago personally. “Chicago, you’re dropping a lot of bodies,” he said bluntly. “Put the guns down.”
As the song reverberated throughout the grounds, the song’s lines (“Niggas killing niggas they don’t understand, that’s the master plan/ “I’m just crumblin’ erb, I’m just crumblin’ erb,”) took on a bigger and more important meaning, especially in Chicago, where mass shootings and homicides continue to rage on.
Before their closing song, “The Whole World,” Dre got in one final word: “We don’t do this for black people. We don’t do this for white people. We don’t do this for purple people. We don’t do this for gay people. We don’t do this for straight people. We do this for the whole world.”
OutKast’s Lollapalooza performance put everything in full-force, and it was a two-hour event that marked the duo’s legacy as one of the best ever and solidified the fact that wholesome and impactful hip-hop is an important tool for raising awareness and bringing people together. Musically, the two legends hit every target, as if they were aiming to sweep a game of cricket at the bar. From the must-have chart-toppers that slashed through the crowd in the greatest of ways, to the lesser-known classics that put a spell on the tens of thousands squeezed in front of the stage, OutKast and their band was a well-oiled gargantuan monster. In the overall realm of life, Andre 3000 and Big Boi supplied more than just a show; it was a mass movement of collaboration between OutKast and the people; it was an event. As the duo softly rapped “Aquemini” under a rippling waterfall of lights, fireworks went off in the distance, conveniently marking the celebration of OutKast’s 20th anniversary and the return of the G’s.
“Skew It on the Bar-B”
“Da Art of Storytellin’, Part 1”
“Aquemini (featuring Sleepy Brown)”
Big Boi’s Set
“Kryptonite (I’m On It)”
“The Way You Move”
Andre 3000’s Set
“She Lives in My Lap”
“Crumblin’ Erb (featuring Sleepy Brown)”
“Elevators (Me & You)”
“So Fresh, So Clean”
“International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)” Underground Kingz cover
“The Whole World”