In 2006, back when OutKast's Andre "3000" Benjamin was pretty much tired of the actual "rapping" part of hip hop, he tied his career to his passenger seat and made a wide left turn, ending up at the doorstep of the Cartoon Network. This unnatural pairing resulted in the creation of the cartoon series Class Of 3000, which lasted for two seasons before evaporating into the ether.
3 Stacks took a lead role in the show, not only lending the voice to the main character, music teacher Sunny Bridges, but also in writing all of the music, all of which was performed by Andre and the rest of the cast of Class Of 3000 (which included voice acting veterans such as Pulp Fiction's Phil LaMarr, Tom Kenny (of Mr. Show, Spongebob Squarepants, and Adventure Time fame), and A Different World's Cree Summer. Although it didn't manage to do the numbers that everyone involved had hoped, during the time it lasted Class Of 3000 related its messages of positivity, tolerance, and music as authoritative speaking voice (among other things) in the most creative way it could: through song. And also through its animation: each video was paired with distinctive visuals that aided the characters in getting their various points across.
At least, that is my understanding. I never actually watched the show.
But Class Of 3000, while nearly forgotten today, did manage to contribute something to the hip hop consciousness that was wholly unexpected: a soundtrack. The songs from the first season make up Class Of 3000: Music Volume One, with each song written by Andre 3000, who also performs on most of them, thereby making this a default 3 Stacks solo project. The tracks are all fairly short: since they were originally performed on a cartoon series, it's understandable that the producers would believe that a short attention span would be the target audience. Since the show used these songs to both explore how each of the characters felt and to help move the stories along, they vary in style and genre, but everything ultimately comes back to hip hop, as is its destiny.
Unfortunately, Class Of 3000: Music Volume One didn't sell enough copies (I suppose LaFace Records didn't even really try to promote it, since pushing product intended for children wasn't really its endgame) to warrant a sequel, so all of the songs from the second season remain in limbo, although most of the actual episodes can be purchased on iTunes, if you're so inclined.
1. CLASS OF 3000 THEME (SUNNY BRIDGES, PHILLY PHIL, KIM, KAM, MADISON, LIL' D, EDDIE, & TAMIKA)
I can only assume that this is the theme song from the actual show: otherwise, Andre's mind is far more abstract than any of us could have ever anticipated. One of the disembodied child voices proclaims this beat to be “ferocious”, and I have to agree: the music on here is pretty fucking entertaining, especially when it switches up to some smooth jazz midway through. I wish that Andre (or somebody) saw fit to rap or sing a bit more than what we actually hear, but this wasn't bad at all. Andre 3000 (sorry, I meant “Sunny Bridges”) even manages to throw in a barbed critique aimed at the radio and still shows some love to Atlanta. This wasn't anything like what I was expecting, but the music was good.
2. LIFE WITHOUT MUSIC (SUNNY BRIDGES, PHILLY PHIL, KIM, KAM, MADISON, LIL' D, EDDIE, & TAMIKA)
Not really a song as much as it is a patchwork quilt made up of lyrics from well-known songs, commentary from the kids, and minimal vocal contributions from Andre. I find it interesting that a cartoon ostensibly created for children actually addressed the concept of a life without music, though: how fucking depressing would that be? And not just because I would seemingly have nothing to write about.
3. THROWDOWN (SUNNY BRIDGES, PHILLY PHIL, KIM, KAM, MADISON, LIL' D, EDDIE, & TAMIKA)
This Andre 3000 solo song (although you couldn't tell from the artist roster) sounds like it was lifted directly from an obscure family-friendly version of The Love Below. Dre sticks with singing (as he was wont to do at the time), but crafts a catchy tune that your kids will enjoy the shit out of. Bonus points for taking such a potentially violent song title and twisting it into something your grandmother wouldn't immediately switch off. If the sequence at the end (when the kids introduce themselves) hadn't been included, this would have slid seamlessly onto your OutKast playlist. I'm fucking serious.
4. OH PEANUT (SUNNY BRIDGES, EDDIE, LIL' D, & MADISON)
Again, not really much of a song: in fact, aside from the chorus and some quick random lyrics that would frighten anyone with a peanut allergy, this was more of an instrumental. And an interesting one at that, as the base of the beat appears to have come from an old-school arcade game where you fire lasers at invading spacecraft and shit. Huh.
5. WE WANT YOUR SOUL (LIL' D)
What the hell kind of show was Class of 3000 supposed to be? The happy melody on here contrasts curiously with the overtly dark message of the song (the idea that one has to sell their soul for a record contract, which isn't new in hip hop). Strangely enough, the concept that a signed artist would even be moderately successful is never approached: the track suggests that once you've signed on the dotted line, you've won the war. This naive take on the subject is a bit questionable, but it was nice to hear how Andre 3000 really felt about the suits at LaFace Records.
6. BANANA ZOO (SUNNY BRIDGES, PHILLY PHIL, KIM, KAM, MADISON, LIL' D, EDDIE, & TAMIKA)
Easily one of the best hip hop song titles I've come across all year. Rhyme-wise and music-wise, this shit sucks, but the track works better if you look at the (Andre-voiced?) gorilla performing the song as a statement on the thugged-out posture of certain rappers who perform as a unit. Also, during a botched banana robbery, the gorilla in question ends up getting shot nine times. So there's that.
7. RICHER SHADE OF BLUE (SUNNY BRIDGES, LIL' D, & EDDIE)
Hey, kids! Money doesn't buy happiness! Have you gotten that message through your thick skulls yet? Good, because this song is actually about embracing and owning your depression. At least that's what I got out of this brief track. Those of you looking for a pseudo-sequel to The Love Below's “Pink & Blue” are wasting your time, not just with this song, but in life.
8. FIGHT THE BLOB (SUNNY BRIDGES)
Sadly, this wasn't the reworking of Burt Bacharach and Mack David's theme to Steve McQueen's The Blob that I was promised, but it does sound as though it was written by a forty-year-old posing as a teenager, so that helped. Seriously, though, The Blob is entertaining as shit. I only wish I knew what Andre and company were fucking talking about when this song (script?) was drafted.
9. UFO NINJA (SUNNY BRIDGES & LIL' D)
The second-best title of the evening is lent to an experimental (and, at times, kind of racist) track that ultimately goes fucking nowhere. Which is too bad.
10. KIM KAM JAM (KIM & KAM)
Nothing much to see here, as the “kids” (Kim and Kam, obviously) simply jam out on their keyboards. Pleasant enough, I suppose.
11. LUNA LOVE (PROFESSOR LUNA, SUNNY BRIDGES, & MADISON)
Kind of goofy, as one of the singing voices sounds like that of a Spanish vampire high on life and various recreational drugs on the island of Ibiza. The music keeps you interested, though, and the addition of some scratching was a bonus. Plus, this wasn't even two minutes long, so yay!
12. CRAYON SONG (SUNNY BRIDGES)
Can someone who actually watched Class of 3000 please explain in the comment section just how one is supposed to do “the crayon”? Inquiring minds want to know about this dance craze that never swept the nation. I expected more from Andre, since he somehow made the act of “shak[ing] it like a Polaroid picture” popular for a hot minute.
13. MY MENTOR
A soothing, jazzy interlude with no sound bites added to fuck up my high.
14. COOL KITTY (SUNNY BRIDGES, TAMIKA, MACKENZIE, & KAYLIE)
Class Of 3000: Music Volume One ends with a quirky and poppy track provided by the four performers indicated above. Its beach mood makes any day feel like a summer scorcher, and it also helps that it's pretty goddamn catchy. And with that, we're done.
THE LAST WORD: Okay, maybe it isn't really fair to critique Class Of 3000: Music Volume One when it consists solely of songs taken directly from the source material, context be damned. And also when I've never actually watched the source material. And I completely disagree with the sentiments of most bloggers (including myself, above, because I'm complex like that) that Class Of 3000: Music Volume One is the closest to an Andre 3000 solo album that we will ever receive. The man hardly appears on the songs in any capacity other than ad-libbing or performing incomplete hooks: this was his baby, but he's not sharing screen time with his baby. However, what I can and will say is that Class Of 3000: Music Volume One doesn't actually work unless you're already familiar with the characters of the show: odds are that you two won't be, unless your children were glued to the Cartoon Network three of four years ago. Erase all of the vocal contributions, though, and what you have are some pretty interesting instrumentals from our host, proving that he hasn't compromised his artistic integrity just because he was creating a children's show at the time. Class Of 3000: Music Volume One was a pleasant diversion, but that's all it will ever be: there is no substance to any of the tracks and, as such, you'll have nothing to latch on to. Wait, what do you mean this wasn't the OutKast solo album you two had been waiting for me to write about?