Inspired by the Afrocentric psychedelics of George Clinton and Sly Stone, OutKast created an idiosyncratic sound blending funk and Southern bump. Dré and Big Boi met during the 10th grade at Tri-Cities High School in Atlanta. Shortly before Big Boi graduated (Dré dropped out during his junior year to focus on music), OutKast signed with LaFace as the label's first rap act and began working on its debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (#20 pop, #3 R&B, 1994). The album's first single, "Player's Ball" (#37 pop, #12 R&B, 1994), went gold and helped put Atlanta on the map as a hip-hop city.
The group's sophomore effort, ATLiens (#2 pop, 1996), yielded the catchy "Elevators (me & you)" (#12 pop, #5 R&B, 1996) and peaked at #1 on the R&B albums chart. The Grammy-nominated Aquemini (#2 pop, #2 R&B, 1998) distinguished Dré and Big Boi as capable producers/songwriters, and featured funk forefather George Clinton on the song "Synthesizer." Another Aquemini track, "Rosa Parks" (#55 pop, #19 R&B, 1999), spawned some legal controversy when the civil-rights heroine sued OutKast for using her name to promote their music (the suit was dismissed in 1999). In 2000 OutKast released Stankonia (#2 pop and R&B), its most critically acclaimed album. Stankonia's "Ms. Jackson" was inspired by Dré's breakup with his longtime girlfriend, singer Erykah Badu.
In 2003, the duo continued to spin off the dynamic of their personalities releasing Speakerboxx/The Love Below to enormous commercial success. The double album featured one disc of Big Boi's hip hop-centric Speakerboxx, which yielded the hit single "The Way You Move", coupled with Dré's more polished R&B The Love Below. The singles "Hey Ya"and "Roses" further emphasized the healthy creative tension (along with a music video parodying their high school-esque rivalry) and pop savy the duo elicited, eventually winning them the 2004 Grammy for Album of The Year. Idlewild, their newest collaboration released in late 2006, features Big Boi and Dré acting in the cabaret-style film among the speakeasys of Depression-era South.
Portions of this biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
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