Monday, Apr. 26, 2004


Let us now praise funky men—in particular, the funky men of OutKast. For no one has done more than Andre (3000) Benjamin, left, and Antwan (Big Boi) Patton to infuse pop music with the wit and wiggle of ghetto Bohemianism, no one has done more for tent-size throwback jerseys and cumulus-cloud Afros, and no one has done more to unite the crumbling cultural terrain of the U.S.

Care to debate that last point? For nine weeks OutKast brought the nation together under a groove—two grooves, actually. From December 2003 to February 2004, Andre's Hey Ya! and Big Boi's The Way You Move were stacked together at the top of the pop charts—the first time since the Beatles' arrival 40 years ago that two songs by the same band had so dominated the country's consciousness. The Way You Move was an instant R.-and-B. classic; Hey Ya! was something greater. You don't expect universality from a song about the agony of monogamous relationships, but the mix of a surf-rock guitar, hand claps and a retro catchphrase captivated not just the Beyoncés and Lucy Lius but also soccer moms, NASCAR dads and a former NATO supreme commander. ("I don't know much about hip-hop," offered Wesley Clark, "but I do know OutKast can make you shake it like a Polaroid picture.") At a moment when technology has enabled every person to become a mix master, Hey Ya! made everyone's mix.

OutKast's dominant season was no cultural blip. Andre and Big Boi have been stretching the boundaries of commercial music for a decade. From the initial weirdness of their songs about space aliens to B.O.B. (Bombs over Baghdad), their millennial drum-and-bass gospel opus, they have proved that it's possible to be unusual, ambitious and immensely popular. In their own words, "We are/ The coolest motherfunkers on the planet."

From the Archive
Dysfunktion Junction: OutKast, the planet's best rap duo, is one odd couple