Why you should care

Because they’re everywhere this summer — so you better get caught up.

When we got the news that hip-hop’s OutKast would be returning for a series of festival shows, we were jubilant. To put the surprising reunion of Atlanta natives André 3000 and Big Boi in proper perspective, well: It’s like rock ’n’ roll’s Axl Rose making nice with Slash. The greatest rap duo to ever hit the booth hasn’t appeared onstage together in a decade and hasn’t released a proper studio album since 2003’s double-feature SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below, which earned the tandem a coveted Grammy for Album of the Year.

The thing is, OutKast had the good fortune of breaking up while still at their world-beating peak — so they left us wanting more.

There’s been some debate as to why Dre and Big finally decided to once again plant the OutKast flag (various reports have the guys pocketing a million apiece for the series of 40 concert gigs — enough motivation to make the most dysfunctional tandem sing Kumbaya).

But when ’Kast hits the stage for New York’s upcoming Governors Ball festival this Friday, it will be part of the duo’s yearlong celebration of the 20th anniversary of their landmark 1994 debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.

OutKast began as two Southern kids fighting for respect in a crowded hip-hop landscape dominated by East Coast vs. West Coast theatrics.

2 men performing on stage

OutKast performs at the BottleRock music festival in Napa, California, on May 31, 2014.

Source Spady/Splash/Corbis

“They sounded like Das EFX [laughs],” cracks Rico Wade, leader of the influential production team Organized Noize, who worked on the majority of the tracks on Southernplayalistic.

The magic of Southernplayalistic is in its Trojan horse construction. If you were to judge the group off of their swaggering single Player’s Ball, you would have thought OutKast’s ambitions began and ended with blunt-smoking sessions and pimpmobiles. But the opening cut Myintrotoletuknow throws the first curve pitch. “Back in the days when we was slaves I bet we was some cool ass n-ggas,” rhymes Big Boi. “But now we vultures, slam my n-gga back out, to make his ass black out, or even pull your f-cking heater … but that don’t be sounding like king shit to me.”

OutKast repped the ‘hood and even flipped gun threats (it’s quite surreal hearing the eccentric André 3000 kick lyrics about squeezing triggers and packing shanks). But ’Kast and their Dungeon Family clique, which included fellow breakout stars Goodie Mob, were also offering up sobering messages: Git Up, Git Out preached self-empowerment without coming off as … preachy. Crumblin’ Erb is a weed song that slyly critiques black-on-black violence. There’s a spoken-word interlude (True Dat) that slaps down tired pimp-ho stereotypes. And such effortlessly lyrical workouts as Hootie Hoo and D.E.E.P. proved that the South could enter any rhyme cipher and walk away proud.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the re-emergence of OutKast. But 25 million albums later, let’s not forget where it all started: just two dope boys and a Cadillac.

Get a taste of the duo in their heyday as an appetizer for their performance this weekend at New York’s Governors Ball.

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