The most creative hip-hop duo of all-time, Outkast managed to open up a lane for artists who wanted to branch out of hip-hop and experiment with the sound. While they took influence from many other genres of music, including jazz, pop, funk and even rock, Outkast never lacked when it came to the hip-hop aspect of their music. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are still some of the most talented wordsmiths of all times and their catalog as a group is beyond amazing. This article will delve into each Outkast project and individually rank them compared to one another.
This list includes all six albums in their catalog from Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to Idlewild and will group together their fifth effort which included the two solo albums, Speakerboxx and The Love Below, into one position.
6. Idlewild (2006)
The final Oukast release served as a soundtrack to their film titled “Idlewild.” When the news came out that Andre and Big Boi were releasing a movie, fans questioned whether the duo would ever get back to focusing on the music. However, the two would construct a project from scratch to act as the soundtrack to their musical film. The album was composed of a variety of styles, ranging from hip-hop to jazz to swing. While it was very diverse in sound, the main critique that came from the project was its loose structure in comparison to the film. Because the album took influences from many different genres, the cohesion of the album felt all over the place as the two never settled for a specific sound. All in all, not a terrible album by any means but it felt very lackluster as an Outkast project.
Best tracks: “Hollywood Divorce”, “When I Look In Your Eyes”, “In Your Dreams”, “Peaches”
5. Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003)
Andre 3000 and Big Boi shook up the industry when they announced that their forthcoming 2003 release would be a double disc album composed of the highly anticipated solo albums from Andre and Big Boi. The unique approach to make an Outkast album containing solo efforts from both members managed to be a huge success. The fans got a glimpse of how a solo career from each individual would sound while still getting tracks with both Andre and Big Boi together. The album garnered major hits with records such as the widely popular “Hey Ya!” on Andre’s The Love Below and the groovy “The Way You Move” landing success from Big Boi’s Speakerboxx. The album was very balanced in quality and helped display the individual talents of Andre 3000 and Big Boi, which also showed the two were always on par with each other lyrically and creatively.
Best tracks: “Roses”, “Hey Ya!”, “The Way You Move”, “Bowtie”, “A Life in the Day of Benjamin Andre”
4. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)
The funky debut by two teenagers from Atlanta, Georgia would change the world forever with its authentic soulful production and amazing lyrical content at the time of its release. Outkast’s debut album perfectly encapsulated life in the South and the passion people outside of New York have for hip-hop music. For a first album, southernplayalisticadillacmuzik perfectly displayed the musical talents of Andre and Big Boi along with the Dungeon Family as a whole. Having records such as the celebratory “Player’s Ball” and the poignant “Git Up, Git Out” showed listeners that Outkast was capable of having mainstream success while still spreading a positive message in their music. The dynamic debut would help put Atlanta hip-hop on the map and marked the beginning of hip-hop becoming more Southern-influenced in the future.
Best tracks: “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”, “Player’s Ball”, “Crumblin’ Erb”, “Git Up, Git Out”, “Ain’t No Thang
3. Stankonia (2000)
The liberating fourth album by Outkast would lead them to becoming a household name and the epitome of an era. There’s no doubt that Outkast was one of the biggest names in the world around this time. With hit records like “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson” under their belt, the duo decided to fill in the gaps of the album with a more aggressive yet conscious style. The explosive “Gasoline Dreams” starts the album off, making it clear that the duo was here to spread a message. A major standout was the dynamic “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” which managed to become a very popular song despite it tackling the poor conditions in the ghetto using U.S. involvement abroad as a connection to the issue. By far one of the most popular albums in all of hip-hop, Stankonia maintained its popularity by finding the right balance of putting the medicine in the candy.
Best tracks: “So Fresh, So Clean”, “Ms. Jackson”, “Gasoline Dreams”, “Xplosion”, “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)”
2. ATLiens (1996)
After delivering their staggering debut album, Andre 3000 and Big Boi decided to take a completely different approach on their next project. ATLiens was a major change in pace compared to southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, as the duo went with a more spacey style to the production. Not only that but the two showed major improvements lyrically, taking on more complex rhyme schemes and flows. While the album went on to face critical acclaim, and even some commercial success with the groovy “Elevators (Me & You)”, the album would receive mixed reviews in the streets due to the change in design. Many felt a connection to their debut, as it perfectly captured the Southern attitude at the time. While it was seen as its biggest detriment, the quirky nature of ATLiens helped Outkast gain the leverage to take more obscure approaches while still maintaining success in the mainstream.
Best tracks: “ATLiens”, “Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac)”, “Jazzy Belle”, “Babylon”, “Elevators (Me & You)”
1. Aquemini (1998)
One of the best hip-hop albums of all time, Aquemini displays all aspects of hip-hop at their very best form. From the lyrics to the flows to the production, Andre 3000 and Big Boi turned it up a few notches and brought the best out of each other during the recording sessions.
Coming off of the polarizing ATLiens, the duo wanted to poke fun at the criticisms and show that no matter what approach they take on a project, they will always hold it down for their core fanbase. After the intro displaying the detachment from ATLiens, Andre and Big Boi start the album off with the dynamic “Return of the G”, which shows the two returning to the gangsta style that many wanted, but the track also acted as a response to judgements of Andre’s infamous fashion style. On the same track he raps, (“Thanks ‘ta / them n****s who get the wrong impression of expression / then the question is Big Boi what’s up with Andre? … / when y’all gon’ break up? when y’all gon’ wake up? / N***a I’m feelin’ better than ever what’s wrong with you”). This project has also birthed some of the best moments of hip-hop, from Andre’s legendary flow on the title track to the regularly sampled horns on “SpottieOttieDopalicious” to the infamous lawsuit from Rosa Parks on the track named after her.
Aquemini perfectly displays the extents of creativity in hip-hop and how you can still achieve multi-platinum success while staying authentic to the genre’s roots. Andre and Big Boi stayed true to their brand and as a result, created a phenomenal album that went on to sell millions of records and receive positive reviews, the most prominent being achieving 5-mic status in The Source magazine. Aquemini set the bar high for any hip-hop album to come out after it’s release and is still the standard for what makes a classic album today.
Best tracks: “Da Art of Storytellin’, Pt. 1”, “Aquemini”, “SpottieOttieDopalicious”, “West Savannah”, “Skew It, On the Bar-B”, “Return of the G”