Why the Outkast Reunion Feels So Wrong
Roses really smell like boo-boo-oo.
How did you react to the news? Did you rejoice? Book a flight to Indio? Did you drive recklessly to “B.O.B.” while crumblin’ herb? Did you hit the attic to hide out for ’bout two weeks? Outkast is reuniting, the pipe dream that the collective hip hop consciousness had been marinating over for years is finally a reality. This should be a cause for celebration, a reason to vibrate with excitement. So why does it feel so wrong, so artificial, so . . . cheap?
News first broke on Jan. 9 that Outkast, one of the greatest duos in hip hop history, was to headline Coachella. Rumors were met with doubt. Ever since the 2006 film “Idlewild” and its accompanying soundtrack, Andre 3000 had turned enigmatic. Always the more out there of the pair, sporting furry shoulder pads or silver wigs, Three Stacks became Punxsutawney Phil, popping up once a year, a huge crowd gathering, clamoring, than disappearing again. He lent verses to Take Care, Channel Orange, and God Forgives, I Don’t, but it was his go on T.I.’s “Sorry” that actually lent any insight into the legendary emcee’s headspace.
“And this the type of shit that’ll make you call your rap partna and say I’m sorry I’m awkward / My fault for fucking up the tour / I hated all the attention so I ran from it / Fuck it if we did, but I hope we ain’t lose no fans from it.”
Much like Dave Chappelle after him, Andre found the spotlight, and the attached expectations, to be too much. Outkast had accomplished so much. They won the 2004 “Album of the Year” Grammy, only the second hip hop act to take home the award. They released six albums over 12 years, each different and strong in its own way. Nobody thought the group, or either rapper, owed the game anything more. A rap audience just happens to be hopped up on Sour Patch Kids and Mountain Dew, so restlessness and speculation ran rampant about a reunion.
Shit reached an all time high, too, when Big Boi jumped on remixes to “Pink Matter” and “Sorry.” Good god almighty, we had those Stankonia boys back on wax together. Except that Andre was quick to clarify that these records were not Outkast releases. In a statement to Spin in early 2013, he stated:
I was approached as a solo artist by both Frank Ocean & Tip. I discussed musical direction with each artist and completed my verses. It was after that when Big Boi’s name came up. I never want to mislead our audience – I worried that some would think these were Outkast collaborations. These songs are not Outkast collaborations. I discussed this rationale with Big, Frank and T.I. and everyone agreed. That is why I was surprised to read about these remixes. I understand that anyone can put out an unofficial remix to any song but I have an obligation to be honest with fans about what this is… and what it isn’t.
Ok, then, that’s settled. Big Boi was eager to give fans the new ‘Kast music they were begging for, and Andre was quick to point out that it wasn’t that at all. These two hadn’t seemed on the same page in a while. Big Boi released two studio albums in the past four years, without nary an Andre feature. (He did produce and co-write “You Ain’t No DJ” however.)
When I saw Big Boi at the Orlando House of Blues in early 2011, he performed tracks from his first solo project, and Outkast cuts as well, but only reciting his verse and the chorus. It was great to experience, but ultimately felt empty, like only watching the bottom innings of a baseball game. Anytime Big Boi brought up an Outkast reunion or record, it was never reciprocated or reinforced by Andre.
And so the Coachella news was big. Had something changed? Were more shows in store? The answer to the first remains unknown, and as for the second, well, the answer was yes. Four days after the Coachella announcement, a second bomb shell dropped: The two would be headlining 40 festivals this year. Water was spit out onto laptop monitors across the globe. There was no need to flock to Cali to catch a set, they were playing the Big Guava festival in Tampa and the OVO Festival in Toronto. They were playing Firefly in Delaware and Sasquatch! in Washington. Your chances of seeing Outkast perform live in your lifetime had just increased exponentially. And maybe, just maybe, that meant there’s a new album in the works…
Except not. Big Boi confirmed yesterday that there’s no such project. “No, no, no. We’re just doing the tour only, just for the fans,” he told Revolt. “That’s all it is, just the tour.”
So here we are. A history of inactivity, miscommunication, setting the record straight, one member interested in music, the other not, directly followed by the announcement of a 40 festival tour. I’ll say it again: Has something changed? And why festivals? Shortly after the announcement, the Who is Outkast? Tumblr came to be (though it’s now defunct) chronicling the rampant ignorance out there.
I don’t know about you or other hip hop enthusiasts, but I stay away from festivals, choosing to see acts in a more intimate setting. Festival’s are exhausting, messy, and overwhelming. Tickets are expensive, and the crowds are a heterogeneous mix of fans all coming to see a different assortment of acts.
So as psyched as I am about the reunion, it just feels wrong; like something precipitated by money and not a mutual interest. Like Coachella threw them big bucks, then every other festival did, and the figures were too high for Andre to turn down. There’s part of me that thinks I should just shut up and be happy, but another part that’s disappointed. Disappointed that people will see Outkast without a full appreciation for the set. Disappointed that the reunion we’ve all been waiting for is seemingly fueled by pay days. Disappointed that all signs point to Andre’s heart not really being in it. We’ll ultimately have to wait for the first festival to know for sure, but this is like your parents reuniting to sell the family business. It’s great to see them side by side, but you wish they had that old love back.