Outkast Turn Hip-Hop Conventions Inside Out

October 22, 1998 12:00 AM ET

They're hardly exiles from success and acclaim. Outkast, whose third and latest album, Aquemini, has been levitating in the Top Ten since it debuted three weeks ago, have been about breaking barriers from day one. "We sat down at Big Boi's table and looked through the dictionary for a word that meant totally different from everybody else," explains Dre, half of the Atlanta hip-hop duo. "That's how we came up with the word outcast. We were doing rhymes for people in the hood that were totally different from what was going on in Atlanta."

From the Parliament-inspired funk and live instrumentation of their acclaimed debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzi, to the spacey keyboards of their sophomore effort, ATF and the musically rich, genre-defying feel of Aquemini, Outkast create their own brand of innovative hip-hop with no mind to sales or trends. "They've consistently elevated southern music masterfully without compromise," says Ahmir Thompson of the Roots. "If A Tribe Called Quest were a southern group, they'd be Outkast."

The secret ingredient: funk. And according to the group, elements are added to the recipe in accordance to what hip-hop needs at the time.

"There's a lot of uninteresting music going on in the industry right now," says Big Boi. "A lot of sampling and raping of the music. What we tried to do was put something new, fresh and improved in the game. We use very few samples, and if we do sample, you'll never ever know where it came from because it's switched and warped so many different ways that we've created a whole new sound out of it. It'll never sound nothing like the original, and we'd never use the whole thing."

It's that unique sonic fusion that has critics raving over Aquemini, including Rolling Stone (four stars) and The Source (five 'mics'). It's not shocking, though, given Outkast's knack for transcending regional boundaries.

"It's about having fun and dropping time capsules that paint a picture of what's going on in the world," says Dre. "We never want to be just straight local. When we started making music we wanted to get everybody on the planet to hear it. We reflect emotion, not just what's happening on your street."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »