Twenty-five years ago today, OutKast released their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, a tour de force narrative of Black life that distinguished the Southern region of the United States as a credible hip-hop scene.
Before Andre 3000 and Big Boi emerged from the iron edges of East Point, Atlanta, the pulse of hip-hop was tethered to its place of origin in New York. It later made a home in Los Angeles, and for years, the genre’s urgency was associated with the East and West Coasts.
Under the tutelage of LaFace Records, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (produced by Organized Noize), didn’t just offer the rest of North America a glimpse at the beauty and struggles of Black coming-of-age in the South, it gifted the world with a culture deep-fried in funk soul and the drawl of a stank bass line.
Even after Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik would go platinum, much of the hip-hop community, by and large, condescendingly considered Southern dialect and way of life uneducated and, worse, a reversal in progress. Critics called Stacks and Big Boi “too young” to discuss the subject matters they addressed on their debut project.
“I’m about to let you know that we’re up on our game about the politics and drug units,” said Cool Breeze, an under-celebrated member of the Dungeon Family and whom Goodie Mob credits with coining the term “Dirty South.” “What you’re doing, we’re doing too. You’re thinking we’re country. You’re thinking we’re slow. But we’re one up on you.”
The genius of OutKast is in part due to their lyrical integrity and expert storytelling, but also their audacity to want more for themselves and for Black people as a whole. Andre 3000 and Big Boi would go on to make a name for themselves as proponents of Black sci-fi and Afrofuturism, making it cool to talk about Blackness, Black love and our ancestors.
And today, not only is Atlanta considered the Motown of the South, but Southern hip-hop continues to lead the new school of rap.
In honor of OutKast and 25 years since their seminal debut, BET looks at some of the album’s most striking and culturally significant depictions of Black Southern life with lyrics from throughout the 17-track opus. Here’s to lowriders and Cadillac Sevilles, porch-hanging and Martell-sippin’, fish and grits — and all that pimp sh*t.
Hey playa, this Peaches/ Coming back at you one mo' 'gain with a big whassup/ Break out your black love, and your Boone's Farm/ As I send it out one more time/ For East Point, College Park, Decatur, and the SWATS/ We got that Southernplayalisticadillacfunkymuzik for yo' trunk/ And it's fat like hambone, and tight like gnat booty/ So let me take you deep, straight to the point/ Cause it ain't nothing but king shit, all day, everyday. —Peaches
Peaches’ Intro sets the album’s tone right away, with a message over radio to all Black people – and OutKast’s core audience – to gather ‘round for a down-and-dirty good time with bottom shelf Boone’s Farm wine and Black Love incense. She shouts Big Boi and Andre 3000’s place of origin in East Point before roll calling across College Park, Decatur and the SWATS (Southwest Atlanta Too Strong), which the duo often highlight as other culturally significant neighborhoods in Atlanta.
I got the Peter, Paul and plus that Mary Jane/ I'm rolling reefer out of a Regal, how could I refrain/ From being rough, from being tough, from being dangerous/ I'm hanging with the P.A., nigga, ain't no changin’ us. —Andre 3000
I buy you 50 box of Phillies at the Citgo/ And niggas be wanting drinks and shit from the fucking sto', yo/ But that's aight though, cause I be getting paid. —Big Boi
A play on words, Stacks references Peter, Paul and Mary, the folk band, to indicate a serious variety in weed, setting the scene for another day in the life while riding around in a classic Buick Regal in the company of Parental Advisory, a hip-hop trio and members of the Dungeon Family, the hip-hop collective OutKast also belonged to. Big Boi paints a humdrum image of ATL life while pulling up at a gas station popular in Southern states.
Ain’t No Thang
Ain't no thang but a chicken wang/ We's having a smoke out in the Dungeon with the Mary Jane/ It's just a pimps (players), Mack daddies (East Point)/ It's all about that cess in yo' chest (It's the joint) —OutKast
The chorus alone is a clear indicator of OutKast’s intentional use and poetic exaggeration of Southern slang throughout the album.
It's on my friend, on the road again, I'm traveling/ Do more than 65 on 85 off in my Cadillac/ I got that nigga Dre, he riding shotgun/ And got my pump under my seat In case these youngsters wanna have some fun. —Big Boi
Here, Big Boi illustrates breaking the 65 miles per hour limit on I-85, a major interstate highway in the Southeastern United States.
Welcome to Atlanta (Interlude)
I'd like to welcome you to Atlanta/ We have clear blue skies over Atlanta /Which, by the way, is the home of the Atlanta Hawks, the Braves, and the Falcons/ To the far left, you can see the Georgia Dome Which by the way still flies the Confederate battle flag…
The first of the album’s interlude is used to champion Atlanta’s home teams and iconic stadium, simultaneously reminding its listeners that while Atlanta is overwhelmingly Black, its citizens are still under the watch of white supremacy.
Like collard greens an hoecakes, I got soul. —Andre 3000
I swear to God I got the highest booming Cadillac/ The expialalistic Coupe de Ville, can you handle that, you rat? I take my time cruising 'round the city malls. —Big Boi
Andre 3000 uses traditional Southern foods as a simile for soul, while Big Boi depicts the grandiose of his Cadillac Coupe de Ville, which he describes as excellent, referencing Mary Poppins’ “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” City malls point to the locations of Lenox Square and Greenbriar.
Call of Da Wild (Ft. Goodie Mob)
I'm picking em up and throwing em down like dishes/ Call me Kenny Anderson cause I slam the sons of bitches […]
I'm making 300 on my SAT yet I am equal/ Ain't no sequel, no saga, no way out, I'm nervous/ I've had it up to fo'head of suckas tryin to serve us/ To graduate is really becomin a very stressful journey/ I feel like a steering wheel, for them is trying to turn me. —Andre 3000
Referencing Kenny Anderson, a famous Georgia Tech basketball player, Andre 3000 describes how he handles his opposition. He alludes to the cyclical failures of the educational system, which has often throughout history been designed to fail students of color.
Squeezing rhymes like that noose around your neck […]
So fuck it or flip it, I'll still be a playa/ Puffy afro with nigga naps off in my hair/ Shit, that's simply how I run my shit and that's how it be/ That nigga B-I-G B-O-I, that be me, yeek. —Big Boi
Here, Big Boi weaponizes his lyrics using the image of a noose, which symbolizes the gruesome history of slavery in the Southern region of the United States. Later, he draws on braggadocio, owning his afro-textured hair and paying homage to “yeek,” an old-school style of dancing originated in Atlanta.
All the players came from far and wide/ Wearing afros and braids, kicking them gangsta rides/ Now I'm here to tell you there's a better day/ When the player's ball is happening, all day ery'day. —Sleepy Brown
If nothing else, "Player’s Ball" (an annual gathering of pimps) in its entirety lends to Southern Black culture, setting a celebratory scene during Christmas time and referencing the Player’s Ball that originated in Chicago, but extended itself to places like Miami and Atlanta.
Its chorus, sung by Sleepy Brown, takes the end-of-the-year holiday and turns it into an everyday occurrance in Atlanta. OutKast riddle this cut with references to Section 8 living, mobbing, the drug enterprise and holiday woes, but draw a silver lining in the act of making ends meet and surviving to see another day.
I've been a player since the age of two/ That's when I learned to walk, grab my crotch, talk/ Do how them hustlers do/ See born and raised as a pimp, that's what I claim to be […]
I pledge allegiance to the streets, that's where I growed up/ And make my money 'cause my daddy never showed up […]
So Dolemite, Dolemite not shit I studied The Mack and Rudy Ray Moore They were my idols when I was a kid. —Big Boi
Big Boi talks about being influenced by the streets, being raised by pimps in the absence of his father, and later makes reference to his idols—fictional pimps, in movies like The Mack, a 1973 blaxploitation film.
Just trying to make it, then of age, come through, take it/ I ain't forgot about y'all women who be working Nikki's butt naked/ At Magic City, shaking titties just to pay the rent/ Lord, trying to hustle must be something that was heaven sent. —Andre 3000
Andre 3000 speaks his truths on coming up as a hustler, and pays respects to women forced to make a living at strip clubs—Nikki’s VIP and Magic City are notable in ATL.
Git Up, Git Out (Ft. Goodie Mob)
Y'all telling me that I need to get out and vote, huh, why?/ Ain't nobody black running but crac-kers, so, why/ I got to register? I thinking of better shit to do with my time/ Never smelled aroma of diploma, but I write the deep ass rhymes. —Andre 3000
Yeah I said it, a nigga sporting plaits and a Braves hat/ I hang with Rico Wade cause the Dungeon is where the funk's at, boy/ I'm true to Organized cause they raised me/ I'm also down with LaFace cause L.A. Reid, yeah, he pays me. —Big Boi
A recurring motif throughout this album, "Git Up, Git Out" illustrates the struggles associated with trying to achieve success through education as a product of so-called urban life. OutKast and Goodie Mob’s call to work is at once urgent and key to survival.
Both Big Boi and Andre allude to illegal activity in order to make ends meet, with Stacks recounting the time his mother was fired from General Motors and Big Boi bigging up his musical family and the streets that made him.
True Dat (Interlude)
Operating under the crooked American system too long/ OutKast, pronounced outcast/ Adjective meaning homeless, or unaccepted in society/ But let's look deeper than that/ Are you an OutKast?/ If you understand and feel the basic principles and/ Fundamental truths contained within this music, you probably are/ If you think it's all about pimpin' hoes and slamming Cadillac do's/ You probably a cracker, or a nigga that think he a cracker/ Or maybe just don't understand… —Big Rube
Perhaps the first of many spoken word pieces to feature on an OutKast project, Big Rube waxes poetic about the definition of an OutKast, the ostracization of Black citizens, and the content of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s music — to be understood by the proverbial culture, by and large. Rube also draws on the systematic genocide of a people via food and water poisoning and engineered diseases, for instance.
Yessuh, let me dig into your brain, folks falling like rain/ Poverty got me selling thangs, guess I'm gon' explain/ Jane is rolled up, no gangs be throwed up/ But still André got action, they Sweat like Keith, all on my teeth. —Andre 3000
Got a Tampa Nugget blunt box, it's empty/ That's where the erb be dropping/ It's simply marvelous, time is ticking/ But some of that time when I be laying vocals in the Dungeon/ Sugar Bear and Mone be smoking ounces like it ain't nothing. —Big Boi
There's only so much time left in this crazy world I'm just crumblin' erb, I'm just crumblin' erb Niggas killing niggas they don't understand (that's the master plan) I'm just crumblin' erb, I'm just crumblin' erb. —Chorus
Andre and Big Boi respectively outline being subjected to the harsh realities of ghetto living while making a plea to the youth about spending your time on this earth wisely. Here, there’s an exaggerated use of cannabis – a coping mechanism more than anything – with the chorus pointing to the destruction of people of color, by design.
I'm just a Southernplayalistic pimp/ I used to slang a fat rock, but now I'm serving hemp I never even smoked a crumb of crack, but yo/ I'm dope Mo' doper than a junkie or a Pookie cause it's on/ So each one, teach one, I be claiming true/ To East Pointe and College Park and the things I used to do/ Around ATL, home of the pimps and the money makers/ Club Nikki, Magic City and them Southern playas. —Big Boi
Hops off in the Lac with Big Gipp, you got a light? (Hootie Hoo)/ Communication device dun went off twice/ Should I answer the call, yes, we macking 'em all/ We met 'em up in the mall, recall Player's Ball. —Andre 3000
An ode to White Owl cigars, OutKast talk more ATL-isms, referencing various Atlanta neighborhoods, cultural institutions, day-to-day happenings and cult classic films (see: New Jack City), while recalling the Player’s Ball and local misadventures.
You heard it here first with your master plan in reverse I ain't the one with the curse, so disperse, yes, catching plagues Niggas catching AIDS, niggas getting sprayed, niggas on they way To a dead end, you won't catch me spreading no white thighs I only see afro bitches up in my eyes I don't eat no beef and surely not no pork. —Andre 3000
And I don't give a damn, muthafucka cause you know why/ The Caucus Mountains and the mutant gene/ You try to wipe a nigga like me slam up off the scene/ You hairy bastard, work a little bit faster/ Because of the shit that I done been through, I shall never call you master. —Big Boi
The last song on the album before returning to the “Player’s Ball” in reprise, Andre 3000 and Big Boi dive deep into their cultural beliefs (see: Five Percent Nation/Nation of Islam), while holding steadfast to Black pride and examining some of the societal ills that Black people have been and continue to be subjected to.
(Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)