October marks the 15 year anniversary of OutKast’s charismatic, genre-juggling, mind-bending, cosmic funk escapade – Stankonia. And you would think that I, a fan of OutKast since they were just two dope boys in a Cadillac crumblin’ herb, would have known this off the top of my head. Nope. The thought of this milestone for the album more than likely would have entered only by the time the actual anniversary (it’s been cited as either the 23rd or 31st, depending on which lazy internet search entry you’re likely to believe.) rolled around, by then already having been covered by every other hip-hop media outlet on the interwebs. Well, thanks to Urban Outfitters’ notoriously cheap sales racks and their whimsical graphic tees, I was reminded of the enduring brilliance that one Andre 3000 and Big Boi gifted the world back in the year 2000.
I’m headed to the sales rack. It really is the only point of relevance in every trip one takes into an Urban Outfitters. Every location, save for the one in Downtown LA due to its absence, I make a beeline towards whatever retail come-up I knew I was undoubtedly going to run into. It just so happens that on a recent particular visit, the borderline corny graphic t-shirts that UO peddles suddenly offered a gem within the rubble. There, staring right at me were Andre 3000 and Big Boi, black and white American flag billowing behind them, posed in indelible glory for the cover of their Stankonia album.
Five bucks. “Say no more,” replied my wallet.
Spurned by my recent cop, I listened to the whole Stankonia album on the way home, revitalizing the sheer magnitude of classic material that it contained. This sonic time capsule is impressive in the way that it ironically still holds up to this day. OutKast mastered the balance of addressing rap’s moral complexity of glorifying the negative, while toasting to the highlights of its excess, a feat still unrivaled among today’s hip-hop acts. For every “So Fresh And So Clean” you had a “Gasoline Dreams” to temper our sonic palates. What’s more, this high-wire act was at its best when OutKast’s political and socio-economic anecdotes reached a more diverse audience through radio-friendly hits like “Ms. Jackson” and the experimental triumph, “B.O.B.”
And that’s what made Stankonia such a critical jewel. A medley of ears were reached this time. For all the envelope pushing and proverbial box busting that Andre and Big Boi hung their crushed velvet fedoras and Braves caps on, the result this time around hit a sweet spot that was aural honey. Now, those who’ve always had a hard time gravitating towards and appreciating the art of hip-hop finally could identify with its message through rave culture, drum and bass beats or syrupy hooks that were infectious sing-a-longs. The heavy history textbook came with engaging imagery on almost every page this time around. Now everybody was learning.
So thanks again, Urban Outfitters, this may have been the best $5.00 that I’ve ever spent. And thanks again, OutKast, absolute musical classics are hard to come by these days.