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Album of the Week: “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” by OutKast

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OutKast
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
LaFace, 1994

Daniel’s Thought

Southern hip-hop very rarely gets its due, and that may be in part because it’s still relatively young compared to other hip-hop regions. The Geto Boys broke the South in the late 80s and early 90s, and 2 Live Crew and UGK helped push the scene even further. However, Southern hip-hop was still a Wild West-like barren land just waiting to be explored. By 1994, the South was making its move, and it was in Atlanta where everything was taking shape.

In comes OutKast, the infamous duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, and out comes their 1994 debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, an album ripe with lyrical recognition, groovy bass waves of seduction, turntable scratches and 808 rhythm clapping. A lot of what makes OutKast’s debut accessible is its mechanical sound that mixes East Coast boom-bat alteration and West Coast funk melodies, and on top of this you have two deeply contrasting lyricists with ‘Dre and Big Boi. By mixing unique rhyme sequences and tongue-twirling lyricism, OutKast brought in a true regional representation in record form. Take for instance “Ain’t No Thang”, a verbal onslaught filled with Southern slang like “ya’ll” and “you’se”. It’s here where OutKast shines on their debut, successfully showcasing Southern flare and pride for their city.

More importantly however is some of the subject matter. “Git Up, Git Out” preaches that teenagers should follow their dreams and put the drugs away. Featuring fellow Atlanta natives Goodie Mob, “Git Up, Git Out” is a simplistic yet essential song to the album’s overall message (“I thinkin of better shit to do with my time/ Never smelled aroma of diploma, but I write the deep ass rhymes“). On “Crumblin’ Erb”, OutKast explores black-on-black violence and how that has a negative effect on the African-American and black community as a whole (“Niggas killin’ niggas they don’t understand (that’s the master plan)/ I’m just crumblin’ erb, I’m just crumblin’ erb“). Comparatively, “Funky Ride” reassures us the need to keep calm and take everything in (“Ahh, relax your body next to me/ As I sing this OutKast melody/ On this funky ride/ So just relax baby“).

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik is essential for its variety. It helped break the Southern hip-hop scene and Atlanta as a true representative for hip-hop, and it pushed for reform regarding social constraints on the black community and violence as a whole. Moreover, it encourages and pushes, and this is all while the Southern plunking of diverse hip-hop sound crashes all over. It may not be OutKast’s best record or most recognized, but when it’s all said and done, it’ll be their most important.

Gus’ Thought

Music is an art form that is ever changing and evolving over time due to things such as creativity, past compositions and advances in technology. These help to push musical genres forward and constantly offer new ideas for aspiring artists looking for their sound. Every now and again, when a group truly discovers their sound, an album is released that changes the landscape of music. From 1994, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik by OutKast is just that type of record. Released near the end of what is debatably the Golden Age of hip-hop, OutKast’s debut album introduced the world to southern hip-hop with its illustration of life for African-American youth facing the social, economic and racial inequities of post-Civil Rights Era Atlanta, its use of funk and live instrumentation and the rapping styles of Big Boi and Andre 3000.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, rappers from the East and West Coast were the top dogs, each with their own unique style. The South was somewhat of an untapped resource of talent and experience that had the potential for great hip-hop. This is evident on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, as the record presents a different sound with its muggy, slow-cooked grooves on songs such as “Crumblin’ Erb, “Ain’t No Thang,” “Claimin’ True” and “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.” Add the flow and ingenious lyricism of Big Boi and Andre 3000 and you have an album twists and turns, creating the desire to dance, nod your head and reflect deeply on your circumstances.

These sensations come out because Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik is about the group’s lives in Atlanta, what they experienced on a daily basis and what they know. There is a lot of pride with regard to the city of Atlanta, the place they call home. They tell stories about drugs, prostitution, gun culture and male braggadocio. There is no attempt to glorify this. Instead, they offer up tracks such “Git Up, Git Out” which are about seizing the day. Additionally, there is an acute awareness to the generational pain of slavery and the repressive nature of the Jim Crow Era. For instance, on the interlude, “Welcome To Atlanta”, we hear a pilot explaining to the passengers, “To the far left, you can see the Georgia Dome, which by the way still flies a Confederate battle flag.” Ultimately with this album, OutKast doesn’t allow the pride of place to get in the way of reflecting on where they came from. Let’s not forget, they do this over tantalizingly smooth beats, piano riffs and the twang of the guitar.

With their debut album, OutKast offered up something different for the hip-hop community to take in. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik has the funkiness and flavor of the South mixed in with the insightful lyricism of Big Boi and Andre 3000. This record put southern hip-hop on the map and paved the way for many aspiring hip-hop heads born below the Mason-Dixon line. If you’re looking for an old classic that you haven’t heard for a long time or for something you’ve never heard, put this on.

Must-Listens

“Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”

“Git Up, Git Out”

“Ain’t No Thang”

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The Mixes: Keeping a Current With What’s Current

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By: Daniel Hodgman

The Mixes is a Bonus Cut series that focuses on themed mixtapes. The purpose of this series is to share music in hip-hop, but also to share the ability to express feelings through mixtapes. The premise takes after Rob Sheffield’s book Love is a Mix Tape, but unlike his book, these mixes will vary in theme. Although I will have notes explaining why I included each song, the overall interpretation of the songs and the mixtape as a whole is on you. Music is fickle because it triggers different emotions, and one of the greatest feelings is determining your thoughts for specific music on your own. Although Bonus Cut provides The Starting Five, a weekly list of songs the creators are currently digging, The Mixes is an individual entity because of its focus on certain themes. 

The “Keeping a Current With What’s Current” Mixtape 

The theme behind this first installment is simple, in that all this mixtape focuses on is newly released cuts. However, delving beyond this, the reoccurring theme is that there’s new music being released every day and some people don’t get a chance to listen because of missed opportunities or a lack of the songs output. This mix will feature recently released songs from both popular and underground artists, and although there’s no concept except the fact that these are all new, it should be noted that all of these artists are worthy no matter where we are in time.

1. “Flags” -Reks

“I don’t live for U.S.A. hear me / I die for the theory” 

For years Reks has made a name for himself in the Boston underground hip-hop scene with his conscious themed songs and raw delivery. His upcoming record Revolution Cocktail (July 2nd) is bound to continue spraying his insightful thoughts, and “Flags” is just a snippet of what that might be. From the very get-go Reks slays the track over a rough and buzzy synth backdrop and ambient club-like synth pad. Discussing gang-violence and the glorification of capital, Reks has just about had it, and he certainly isn’t the only one.

2. “We Movin'” -AZ

“I play, check the resume, fuck what a record say / Only a fuse to the fire could only rep this way”

Listen to AZ on “We Movin'” and then go back to his 1995 classic Doe or Die and try to figure out the difference in his lyrical delivery and flow. You want the easy answer? There is no difference. AZ is an MC that has adjusted to the changing ways of hip-hop’s sound–just listen to the production on “We Movin'” and you’ll notice more glossy new age ripples–while at the same time sticking to his 90s roots with his rhyme scheme, cadence and song topics. These are the traits that make an MC timeless, and when considering some of the most influential artists of the last 20 years, AZ has to be on your list.

3. “Graves” -Ugly Heroes 

“Start thinking bout the folks who gotta do this til their graves.” 

Ugly Heroes is Apollo Brown, Red Pill and Verbal Kent, three artists from the midwest who give us music that tells the story of the hard-ridden working class of America. Ugly Heroes wouldn’t be a success strictly on this theme alone, and that’s why this project is so special. On the piano and horn-heavy track “Graves,” producer Apollo Brown makes the track breathe with an addicting beat that throws your ears on a blue collar musical conveyor belt, while Red Pill and Verbal Kent mix rhyme with reason, touching on subject matter that is rarely touched upon. Their self-titled LP dropped on Tuesday and has already climbed up to #17 on the hip-hop iTunes Top 100.

4. “Special Education” -Goodie Mob feat. Janelle Monae 

“I eat nuclear waste and spit atomic bombs / Petroleum explosions my trademark / Bust through clouds and sidecarted brain farts.” 

Ah yes, where would we be without a Goodie Mob reunion? Moreover, where would we be without all of these Cee Lo-related projects coming up? With “Special Education,” Goodie Mob teams up with the ultra-talented hip-hop soul musician Janelle Monae to bring us a song about individuality and self-confidence. What may poke your ears prominently is the production, which ravages the listener with a heavily industrial backdrop full of pulsing bass throbs and distorted shrieks. During the chorus Monae graces us with a come-down of sorts over a twinkling beat before the Mob takes over with their rough plot line verses.

5. “In a Minute” -Sir Michael Rocks feat. Ab-Soul and Da$h

“All you need is a minute / Heart jumping out my chest any minute”

“In a Minute” is a composition of MCs that are all familiar with each other and their place in hip-hop. Sir Michael Rocks (one half of The Cool Kids) teams up with up-and-coming Ab-Soul and Da$h over a Larry Fisherman (Mac Miller) produced beat. “In a Minute” isn’t much but a ganj-soaked song about inevitable youth action, but it’s an interesting look at some popular new-age MCs joining forces.

6. “Billy Butcher” -Oscar O’Malley

“No more accession / Me and her being together just causing tension”

Oscar O’Malley’s performance here is riveting in that every couple of bars you’ll hear him change his cadence. “Billy Butcher” almost seems like a poetic journey over instrumentals in the beginning until Oscar picks up his tempo along with the beat. Adding on to this, as the song progresses you’ll hear him slam detail from a relationship into bars relentlessly and then suddenly flow into a few sung lines. Oscar O’Malley’s versatility here is tremendously engrossing, and if you can’t strictly focus on his content, then focus on his delivery over this boisterous beat.

7. “Dodging Dark Clouds” -MoRuf

“Think I’m bullshitting cause it took an extra year for a nigga to graduate”

“Dodging Dark Clouds” is just one of those songs that reminds you of life. MoRuf’s New Jersey flow reminisces on the everyday grind, college and James Blake, and the beat just flows under light-tapping piano keys and percussion chimes. The surprise comes at 2:15 when the beat plays backwards and MoRuf continues to spit. I wish he would release more material, because he’s one hell of an MC.

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