April 10, 2012

Soundtrack Soundcheck: OutKast

I promise that this will be my last post about OutKast for a long while.  In case you couldn't tell from my multiple mentions of it throughout 2012, I'm taking this "finish what I started" theme seriously.  Should Andre 3000 and Big Boi see fit to reconnect for the length of an actual album, I'll cover that just like normal, but until then, I'm using the Atlanta duo as guinea pigs for a feature I'm testing called "Soundtrack Soundcheck", which is not a review of a hip hop-based soundtrack (although I'm still open to those), but instead an exploration of the exclusive songs an artist or group contributed to a film's accompanying soundtrack instead of saving it for themselves.

OutKast have amassed a surprising number of soundtrack exclusives throughout their career, "surprising" only because the duo have only released six actual albums (and, for the record, I don't count Idlewild as a soundtrack, I just look at it as a bad album), which would make it seem as though they should save everything they ever recorded for their own shit.  Their biggest hits could easily be loaned out to music supervisors to set the stage for whatever the fuck they're trying to accomplish: "B.O.B." appears, albeit in a censored form that removes the actual long-form title of the song from the chorus, in the Chris Rock/Bernie Mac (RIP) comedy Head Of State.  But the fact that Andre 3000 and Big Boi gave up original material for use in Hollywood, some of which wasn't even earmarked for hip hop soundtracks, is impressive.  

The fact that some of the songs are excellent is just cake.

What follows is a list of all of the soundtrack-exclusive songs I was able to locate from OutKast.  I inevitably missed some, but so be it: that's what the comments section is for.  Feel free to compile the following songs into an album of your own: I'm sure the guys won't mind.  And let me know what you actually think of the concept: this being hip hop and all, I'm sure I could pull together a few more of these.

FROM: Higher Learning
Big Rube's outstanding introductory monologue successfully sets up the unnerving feel of OutKast's "Phobia", one of the duo's earliest non-album tracks and easily one of their most underrated.  Dre and Big Boi use Organized Noize's unsettling instrumental, which is light years beyond anything they crafted for Southernplayalisticadillacmusik, to add three more verses into their canon, none of which directly address phobias all that much but manage to pick at a fear or two you may experience.  Big Boi's overlong and wordy chorus is also fairly threatening, as he proclaims himself to be "black and educated" but not above robbing you if necessary.  As Fredro Starr from Onyx once shouted, "I'm America's nightmare / Young, black, and just don't give a fuck."  You get the feeling that Dre and Big Boi do give a fuck, but that doesn't mean that you should take "Phobia" any less seriously.  

FROM: New Jersey Drive
This song is in my top five of best OutKast songs ever.  I'm not joking.  It was released shortly after their debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmusik, which is probably why the Organized Noize beat more closely reflects that project's vision instead of, say, that of ATLiens.  And that beat fucking bangs, by the way.  Big Boi and Dre alternate verses while discussing their lifestyle, occasionally dipping into actual talk about cars, or, more specifically, stealing them (my favorite Andre 3000 line, among many on here, describes how he's "moving the steering wheel side to side like a slalom", although "While you sitting by the seashore thinking about some seashells" makes me laugh).  "Benz Or Beamer" isn't a grand gesture or an attempt at being more abstract than it really is, but it's awesome, it holds up extremely well today, and it proves that OutKast were at the top of their game even way back when.

FROM: Scooby-Doo
A goofy track with a decent Earthtone III (Dre, Big Boi, and Mr. DJ) instrumental and not nearly enough Andre 3000 (he factors in mainly during the hook).  Big Boi's verse is hilarious, as he slowly succumbs to the pressure of product placement, dropping bits and pieces into his bars before simply giving up at the end and repeating the name "Scooby-Doo" a bunch of times.  Killer Mike Bigga is a bit more engaged, at least with the show, referencing the miniseries The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and tailoring his rhymes for the kids (the kids who understood that Shaggy was high as a goddamn kite most of the time, anyway).  And Sleepy Brown's crooning at the end was a nice touch, especially with all of that "meddling kids" stuff.  I'm kind of surprised that nobody ever rewound Big Boi's verse back in 2002, though: it would seem that an overreaching hip hop audience would read into "We fathers with seeds of our own / Talkin' about sons and daughters, boy / Not roots and clones" as an obvious potshot aimed at the Roots Crew (and one of their more popular tracks, "Clones").  Oh well.

FROM: Soul Food
This song was pretty dull today, although to be fair, I don't remember it ever being all that interesting to begin with.  Big Boi and 3 Stacks undermine the overall positive message of the track with their boasts and general shit-talking, which was censored for the niche audience who would have actually watched Soul Food (a pretty decent flick, by the way) for the music, over a bland self-produced beat, and Cee-Lo Green is wasted on the hook.  You two can walk right past this track with a feeling somewhat approximating relief.

FROM: Bones
This unnecessary remix not only sucks all the fun out of the original version of "So Fresh, So Clean", it even retroactively makes that earlier effort (from Stankonia) sound worse.  I have no clue why this shit appears on the soundtrack (I'm sorry, "houndtrack") to Snoop Dogg's horror movie Bones, but to be fair, it was released as a single before the soundtrack was ever a gleam in its creator's nut sack, and it sucked then, too.  Andre and Big Boi sound bored and uncomfortable, respectively, over their own noisy instrumental, and Sleepy Brown's vocals are buried underneath this sea of mediocrity.  Hell, the only guy that comes across as relatively decent is Snoop himself.  Hey, I just figured out why this song was included on the Bones soundtrack!

FROM: Shaft
This overlong experiment, which is ultimately more interesting than it is entertaining, features Big Boi and Andre 3000 rhyming alongside both halves of the Underground Kingz in the most aggressive manner possible.  Antwan especially seems upset, since he repeatedly becomes flustered throughout his angry-as-fuck verse, trying to cram waaaay too many words into each bar, although if he was going for an aural metaphor for the confusion one feels in their mind when they've just been disrespected, I may have been more impressed.  My point is that Big Boi's flow is off, and I mean that in a bad way.  Andre sounds okay, but the real winners of this race are both Bun B and Pimp C (RIP), who are both posted up in their respective wheelhouses.  The beat never fully takes flight (although I enjoyed the disembodied vocal crooning in the background), and Sleepy's hook seems to smirk at the audience.  Sigh.

FROM: Backstage
DJ Clue formatted the soundtrack to Backstage (a documentary produced by Roc-A-Fella Records released to theaters in 2000 by Dimension) to sound like another one of his mixtapes full of exclusives, which explains both its inclusion on this list and all of the multiple shout-outs to the man himself.  Andre 3000 and Big Boi contribute verses, but they use "Funkanella" as a sly way to promote their artists Killer Mike (who was still considered to be a part of the Dungeon Family back then) and Slimm Calhoun, both of whom are so enamored with the idea of performing for a mainstream audience that they pay no attention to the fact that the Earthtone III beat is fucking awful.  Clue's insistent interruptions, par for the course on one of his projects, were also frustrating as always.  Next!

FROM: Any Given Sunday
Somehow "Sole Sunday" was credited as an OutKast and Goodie Mob track even though the only participants are Andre 3000, Big Gipp, and Khujo Goodie.  It's probably best that everyone else sat on the bench, though, since the end result was kind of meh.  All of the verses sounded alright (and they even occasionally reference football, which is appropriate, given the flick this song was a part of), but Dre's chorus doesn't fit the rest of the proceedings, and Mr. DJ's instrumental screams for a much darker song than the one it's currently hitched up to.

FROM: Light It Up
This lost relic from OutKast's back catalog (which appeared on the soundtrack to a film nobody fucking remembers, although it featured R&B singer Usher's first lead acting role) is the result of cross-breeding "Chonkyfire" with "Speedballin'" (more on that one in a bit) that mostly connects, save for the wordy chorus.  Andre, Big Boi, and Slimm all donate generously to the cause, and the pulsating instrumental gets the blood pumping.  All of the references to school notwithstanding (hell, it's called "High Schoolin'" for fuck's sake), I would consider this to be a lost gem worth hunting down.  Yep.

FROM: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
I've written about this song in the past (during my write-up for Stankonia), but what I said before still stands: "Speedballin'" is the enjoyable ADHD-addled cousin to "B.O.B." and will appeal most to those of you two who are sick and tired of hearing that earlier track.  The Earthtone III epileptic seizure of a beat won't appeal to all audiences, but Andre, Big Boi, and even guest crooner Cee-Lo throw their all into their respective roles, the end result being more of an ecstasy-fueled jam session than an actual coherent song, but I still loved it: I would place it in my OutKast top ten easily.  Worth tracking down if you want to hear something a bit different.

FROM: Nothing To Lose
When the soundtrack for Nothing To Lose, a forgettable Martin Lawrence/Tim Robbins vehicle, hit store shelves, I dismissed "Everlasting" as an ATLiens reject (mainly because of the timing of the release).  As such, I hadn't really paid it any mind until now.  Which was a mistake on my part, because "Everlasting" is half-brilliant: Andre 3000's one-and-a-half verses sound pretty goddamn great.  Antwan comes across as decent, but is blown out of the water by his partner-in-rhyme over a throwaway beat that nobody will care about.  But 3 Stacks was a nice surprise.

FROM: The Wood
Regardless of what the producers for the soundtrack of The Wood want you to believe, "Neck Uv Da Woodz" is a Mystikal song that just so happens to feature Dre and Big Boi.  Mystikal's flow is something that I can usually look past, but I found his schtick especially annoying on here, as he seems incapable of staying on beat even if you took all of his toys away, so it's a good thing that every other component of the track (including the hyper Earthtone III beat) works so goddamn well.  Maybe the duo should have kept this one for themselves, huh?

I'm including the following tracks in today's post even though they technically aren't OutKast songs.

FROM: Hoodlum
This is really Dungeon Family affiliate Cool Breeze's song, but I'm throwing it in because it features an early-period Big Boi solo verse that shows just how little his flow has changed throughout the last decade-and-a-half (which is meant as a compliment).  And also to prove that there was more to the Hoodlum soundtrack than the Big Noyd- and Rakim-assisted Mobb Deep title track (and, speaking of which, what a weird week for Mobb Deep, right?).  The hook is essentially tone-deaf, but Antwan and Cool Breeze glide over the dramatic Organized Noize production with the ease of professional ice dancers.  Not bad for a song nobody really remembers.

From: Barbershop 2: Back In Business
You two probably know this as a Sleepy Brown solo track featuring OutKast, but when it was originally released (not even on the Barbershop 2: Back In Business soundtrack; I mean from before, for an unreleased Sleepy Brown solo album that eventually morphed into his Mr. Brown), it was marketed as a track from both Sleepy and Outkast, probably because Andre's voice is the first you hear.  I know a lot of people in Blogland dig this song, but I've always found it to be fairly dull, and the passing years haven't been kind: the instrumental seems afraid to commit to any sort of feeling.  Is the song supposed to be uplifting?  Unnerving?  Impatient?  Who the fuck knows?  All I can say is that I couldn't wait for the song to end.  An easy pun, yes, but accurate.



  1. great review as usual max! keep up the good work man

  2. Did not expect so many OutKast reviews, but I guess its cool. Still a reader.

  3. All of these movies suck.

  4. Me likey this new style of soundtrack scouring. I also like the idea of you taking an artist and maybe listing your 10 favorite songs by the artist.. so we can get more Benz or Beamer's. Also it was an odd week for Mobb Deep. I'm glad it was a hacked account and not the real Havoc, although I wouldn't be surprised cause Prodigy has turned into a douche

  5. delighted with all da outcast reviews. what did ya think of da art of story telling part 4 off da gangsta grillz album I though was da best iv heard from them in years

  6. Since you're focusing on the South right now and are also motivated to continue artists you have already started, could you continue with the CunninLynguists' output soon?

  7. like the new format! real nice man. though i would have liked to see a best tracks section at the end. word is bond

  8. I I love this type of thing. Mobb deep next please!
    Phobia is a great track,nice compilation. Shame about Outkast's last album, but I think Big Boi's solo deserves more credit than you give it. Obviously it is not as good as early Outkast, but it has some bangers!

  9. im really diggin this write up you should do one of snoop dogg. and as for soundtracks theres tons of classic soundtracks. 'new jersey drive', 'boyz n tha hood', 'dont be a menace' and my all time favorite 'menace II society' you should really review that soundtrack.

  10. chem4morningApril 13, 2012

    New Jersey Drive was and IS STILL the shit.. the film & both volume soundtracks. I actually like that "in due time" more than you give it credit for though. you should do this with the Roots as well!

    the Roots come alive or maybe the unreleased cuts on their homegrown volumes.

  11. I think you're underrating "In Due Time." Andre kicks an especially poignant verse.

    "Who said good folks is not supposed to die/The same ----- that said ------ is not supposed to cry/United States giving out milk and cheese to pacify/I'm sure they got a cure for AIDs but yet it's classified."

  12. You oughta cut "I Can't Wait" some slack...if for no other reason but that verse that 3Stacks spit in the beginning...pure gold!

  13. co sign with MObb deep next!! Looks like your blog has a HUGE readership now Max. haven' seen "my two readers" in years.