October 19, 2007

Outkast - Southernplayalisticadillacmusik (April 26, 1994)


As proof that, yes, I am aware of the South's existence, I present a review for Outkast's debut disc, Southernplayalisticadillacmusik. The well-regarded duo is made up of Andre Benjamin, who goes by the nickname 'Andre 3000' now but went simply by 'Dre' on their first effort, and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, and are generally known as one of the most successful hip hop acts in recorded history. Let that sink in for a moment.

Both men represent Atlanta, Georgia, a city that has had its fair share of rappers walk in and out of the limelight . They met up in high school and started off as rapping rivals, a storyline that couldn't have sounded more contrived than if Disney had made a high school musical out of it. Once out of school, they decided to team up to take on the dominance of both the East and West Coasts in the rap game, and ascertained there was strength in numbers; together, Outkast, production team Organized Noize (which featured future hook star Sleepy Brown), and fellow artists Goodie Mob formed what would eventually become the Dungeon Family collective.

Southernplayalisticadillacmusik (thank God for copy + paste!), their debut album, was preceded by a guest spot on a remix for LaFace labelmates TLC's "What About Your Friends", which for the life of me I can't remember ever hearing. They also appeared on a LaFace Christmas compilation, with a track that was, hilariously, also their first single. That's right, kids (and everyone who hasn't already read this fact in ego trip's Big Book of Rap Lists): "Player's Ball" is a Christmas song. Go ahead and listen to it again, and read the lyrics online; it makes you look at everything in a whole new light, doesn't it?

The first album is truly the only one where Andre raps with the swagger of a guy who would like to be a pimp one day (fingers crossed!); his social commentary, while present, wouldn't dominate his rhymes until their second album on. Big Boi, who has always rhymed with said swagger, always provides a much-needed humorous contrast to Andre's self-seriousness. That's not to say that the rhymes aren't good, though: Big Boi improves with every single release, and Andre is on my list of Best Rappers Alive; as such, I'm thankful that he actually started to rap again, after the ill-fated Idlewild phase played itself out; I just wish he would find better collaborators than fucking Rich Boy. (That song Outkast did with UGK was a step in the right direction.)

Southernplayalisticadillacmusik was not a blockbuster smash by any definition of the phrase, but was successful enough to allow Dre and Big Boi a second shot, which is all anyone can really ask for in the rap game. It's considered to be a semi-classic, especially in the South, but I don't care about that: all I want to know is, does it still work today?

1. PEACHES (FEAT PEACHES)
Rap album intro. Meh.

2. MYINTROTOLETUKNOW
Not a bad introduction, but not a very good one, either.

3. AIN'T NO THANG
They actually played this track on the radio around my way. When compared to the three singles ("Player's Ball", the title track, and "Git Up, Git Out"), this song is the one that doesn't fit. In the album's sequence, though, it sounds just fine, thank you very much.

4. WELCOME TO ATLANTA (INTERLUDE)
...

5. SOUTHERNPLAYALISTICADILLACMUSIK
The second single. Has the relaxed feel of a song that's just good to lounge to, whether stoned, drunk, or just sitting around. The video (directed by, of all people, Puff Daddy (!)) was filmed around the time that Dre was promoting his 'player' image, so he wandered everywhere without a shirt, with his jaunty cap placed just so. Was this image preferable to Andre 3000's bizarre costume choices of the new millennium? Only time will tell.

6. CALL OF DA WILD (FEAT GOODIE MOB)
May be interesting for fans of Gnarls Barkley who refuse to believe that Cee-Lo has actually been in the music industry for damn near fifteen years. Otherwise, this song is kind of dull.

7. PLAYER'S BALL (ORIGINAL VERSION)

Not, I repeat, not the Christmas version. That version features a slightly changed-up beat that includes the sound of what could only be sleigh bells ringing. That's also probably the version that you've heard; it's certainly the only version they ever played on the radio in my neck of the woods. I actually prefer that version, now that I think about it.

8. CLAIMIN' TRUE
Meh.

9. CLUB DONKEY ASS (INTERLUDE)
...

10. FUNKY RIDE
This track sounds the closest thing to a prelude to the follow up, ATLiens, that I could find, with its spacey funk sound, and bizarre placement in the album's sequence. That said, it doesn't actually fit this album; probably could have been tacked on as a bonus track or something.

11. FLIM FLAM (INTERLUDE)
...

12. GIT UP, GIT OUT (FEAT GOODIE MOB)
This song is great. Sure, it's long as hell, but the four verses (the guest vocals provided by Cee-Lo and Big Gipp, who at the time were the only rappers in the Goodie Mob) all have something to say. I hated it when Macy Gray jacked the concept and hook for this song when she made her debut song "Do Something", but hopefully it exposed unwitting listeners to the brilliance of the original track. Once again, a great song.

13. TRUE DAT (INTERLUDE)
...

14. CRUMBLIN' ERB
From the Nicolas Cage film of the same name.

15. HOOTIE HOO
Of the album tracks that didn't make the cut as singles, this is by far the best, and the catchiest.

16. D.E.E.P.
Sorry, I spoke too soon. This song is the closest hint you would find as to the direction of ATLiens. This song actually works better than "Funky Ride" in that capacity, and it just sounds like a better song, as well.

17. PLAYER'S BALL (REPRISE)
How many rap albums end with a reprise? Name one. No, not this one.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Southernplayalisticadillacmusik, while not perfect, serves as an above-average introduction to the South. It includes enough locale-specific references to make the target audience comfortable, but is accessible enough for anyone in the world to listen, smoke a blunt to, or to drink enough liquid courage to talk to that cute chick at the bar. Listening to this today, though, is an interesting experience: if you didn't know any better, there is no way you could ever imagine that these two guys from Georgia would become hip hop darlings, with Grammy awards , eight-thousand-thread-count sheets, all of the women either guy could ever want, and loads of dispensable income. (Well, maybe if you listened to "Git Up, Git Out" again.) But Erykah Badu? Seriously?

BUY OR BURN? I advise you to pick this album up if you're looking or a good change of pace. I'm always going to lean a little toward the East Coast, but branching out is by no means a bad thing. Pick it up used, and you can marvel at the shiny reflective surface provided by the disc, while reminiscing about the time when Andre Benjamin rhymed because he loved to rhyme, not out of obligation (a problem that would persist with the later albums).

BEST TRACKS: "Southernplayalisticadillacmusik"; "Git Up, Git Out"; "Hootie Hoo"; "D.E.E.P."

-Max

18 comments:

  1. I brought this cd on the strength of PLAYER'S BALL and was rather disapointed, i just couldnt get into all that southern shit when thr east was so hot at the time.....and i have sinse tried listening to it, and it still bores me.

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  2. No worries. At least you took the time to form your opinion by actually LISTENING to the CD. And thanks for the comment - it's been a while!
    -Max

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  3. I'll admit now that i'm a younger listener/reader (goodbye credibility!) and i only picked this one up recently to complete my Outkast discography, and i reckon it was a worthwhile purchase. The stand-out tracks after a few listens are the released singles and "hootie hoo" in my opinion, and it's a very different Andre rapping here compared to all his later stuff. I'll have to give "git up, git out" and a few other tracks a closer listen.

    Is there any other rarer Outkast stuff back from the mid 90's like the xmas special players ball that i can check out? And i'm looking forward to the next two outkast album reviews because they are.. you know... classic?!

    cheers!

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  4. I moved to Atlanta right after this dropped and it trips me out when people say they didn't hear this on the radio that much. I think they had a station around 87.9 that played it on continuous loop back then. Loved this record. Never knew that about Puff directing though.
    Your finger must be tired. You must rest.

    a short rest.
    Great posts man!

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  5. smac - besides the Christmas version of "Player's Ball"? The only two songs I can think of that are worth a listen are "Phobia", from the Higher Learning soundtrack, and one of the best songs in their entire catalog, "Benz Or Beamer", from New Jersey Drive's soundtrack. Those two would be worth hunting down.

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  6. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Homebase. Another album that ends with a reprise. In fact that one and this one might be the only 2 rap albums to ever end with a reprise.

    That said, the most amazing thing to me and my friends at the time (16 years old) was the CD Art. Those who know, know what I'm talking about.

    Great album, and great reviews. Keep it up.

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  7. I'm probably not the only one who noticed this back then, but Southernplayalisticadillacmusik's hook sounds like a slowed down version of Coolio's fantastic voyage. Even though it was released first, not good.

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  8. Digital Underground's Sex Packets album has a reprise. I love that friggin' album, even if it did come out when I was like 4 years old.

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  9. Paul, the cd art is worth buying it for...lol

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  10. Semi-classic?? Bonafide classic. If you disagree with me, I hate you.

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  11. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 13, 2008

    Like countless others I had long assumed that Andre Benjamin the rapper was a thing of the past. He had a few masterful moments during the ultimate betrayal known as The Love Below on that song where he talks about the early days of Outkast and meeting Erykah Badu. I can't remember its name right now but I clearly recall him saying "I'd meet muslims, gangstas, bitches, rastas and macaroni n****s: impastas", which is some quintessential Andre shit. Unfortunately, it was pretty clear that he was more interested in making music for aliens than rapping. Hey Ya is one of the best POP songs of all time but it was not what I was looking for. I liked the non-rapping music from Idlewild much more than the non-rapping music from The Love Below but I certainly wasn't happy with trading a top 10 rapper for a male Billy Holiday impersonator. This wasn't quite Ice Cube and Prodigy territory because the talent was obviously still there. Only the willingness was gone. I had been Mos Def-ed. Andre seemed committed to continued experimentation. I was like "reconsider, read some literature on the subject. You sure? Fuck it." I had given up hope. And then he got on a bunch of random songs and graced us with some of the illest shit he's ever done. Is it safe to dream about one more regular Outkast album? Can I get greedy and hope for a solo with nothing but rap songs?

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  12. AnonymousJuly 22, 2008

    2. MYINTROTOLETUKNOW
    Not a bad introduction, but not a very good one, either.

    What? Have we listened to the same tracks, or are your standards to high, that a dope beat and dope rhymes = meh?

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  13. This is probably the most underrated record of OutKast's career. I lived in Chicago at the time and remember the day I first heard "Players' Ball"--I was done.

    Excellent album, and I agree with the others about the CD art which was phenomenal and NEW at the time for us 16/17 yr olds...but please give another listen to "Crumblin' Erb"...which is with "Hootie Hoo" my favorite period of the album, and I'm not even a smoker like that...

    great album. period.

    good review tho.

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  14. AnonymousMay 07, 2009

    Crumblin erb is one of the best outkast songs they have ever written in my opinion. i can't believe you didn't like it.

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  15. Before I start I want to point out one thing: southernplayalisticcaddillacmuzic is a g-funk album. im gonna have to disagree with you on a few tracks though because for the most part every song here is amazing or good. myintrotoletuknow, call of da wild, claimin true were all bangers and not to mention crumblin erb. this is by far the most different album from outkast when you compare it to their other work i mean cmon when are you ever gonna her dre ever talk about smoking weed again. This album was classic to say the least and is personally my favorite album from the duo.

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  16. I'm actually surprised you didn't like 'myintrotoletuknow,' which in my opinion is one of outkasts greatest songs. The beat is insanely catchy, both dre and big boi's flows just drip all over that song.

    'time and time again see I be thinking about that future..."

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  17. Luniz' Operation Stackola also ends with a reprise. Although there's still a 30-second outro afterwards, so not sure if it counts.

    Anyways, nice album.
    Still recite Big Boi's first verse on 'Hootie Hoo' from time to time. Crazy flow.

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  18. Disagree with you slightly Max. I liked pretty much everything on here. Best rap act ever

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