Start shaking those Polaroid pictures – 2014 is the year Outkast are back. With over 40 festivals across the globe scheduled, Andre 3000 and Big Boi have a busy few months ahead. But how well do you know the Atlanta rap duo? Here’s 50 geeky facts about the pair, starting with this gem: when Andre was a child, he smashed a copy of Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ because the b-side ‘God’ scared him.
Big Boi was an honour student at high school and had planned to study child psychology at New York University after graduation. By the time he graduated (Andre dropped out of school before graduating), Outkast were turning heads in the Atlanta hip-hop community so he concentrated on that instead.
Andre’s an active animal rights campaigner and strict vegan. So much so in fact that in 2004, members of PETA voted him the world’s sexiest celebrity vegetarian. Sorry, Thom Yorke.
In 2008, Big Boi collaborated with the Atlanta Ballet on ‘Big’, a production described as an examination of “the American dream – or the lack of it – from a 360-degree perspective”.
Wondering where they got their kaleidoscopic, genre-colliding sound from? It helps that Ray Murray, one of the Organized Noize producer trio responsible for much of their best-loved music, once owned a record shop stocking everything from jazz to folk to funk. “I must have listened to every single record in that place. Over 30,000 records. That’s a lot of different sounds I absorbed,” he told NME.
Before settling on the alias of Andre 3000, Andre went by the names – deep breath now – Andre 3K, Dre, Andre Benjamin, 3000, Three Stacks, Ice Cold, Possum Aloysius Jenkins, Dookie Blossom Gain the 3rd and Johnny Vulture.
Andre, like Jay Z, claims he never writes lyrics down, and completely freestyled his vocals to 2003 hit ‘Hey Ya!’. “It’s nice when you do that. You just let loose and whatever comes feels good just spills out and it works,” he explained.
Andre played Jimi Hendrix in last year’s biopic ‘All Is By My Side”, which opened at Toronto Film Festival in September to strong reviews: The Guardian called Andre’s portrayal of the late Seattle guitarist “an impeccable impression”.
Big’s acting career is slightly less decorated, peaking with an appearance in an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit in 2008. He also had a starring role in 2007’s ‘Who’s Your Caddy?’ and is a playable character in the Def Jam: Icon videogame.
Andre 3000 is a big fan of the late Amy Winehouse and was so moved by her death he teamed with Beyonce to cover ‘Back To Black’ for last year’s ‘Great Gatsby’ soundtrack, curated by Jay Z. Not everyone was on board with their rendition though: “Terrible” was Winehouse’s father’s verdict on Twitter.
Big Boi set up a “record label for kids” in 2011 called Purple Kids, ran in conjunction with his teenage daughter Jordan. A launch party for the label took place at Atlanta’s Hard Rock Café on June 5 but the imprint has yet to release any music.
As well as it being the title of their third album, the duo also have their own label called Aquemini, named after the combination of their zodiac signs.
“I’m the sock king!” declared Big Boi in 2012, while announcing his very own signature range of socks, made in collaboration with fashion label Crooks & Castles. You know you’ve made it when you’ve got your own sock range.
‘Stankonia’ favourite ‘Ms. Jackson’ is a message to Andre’s former partner Erykah Badu’s mother, explaining his side of the story about the pair’s break-up. “I would probably never come out and tell Erykah’s mom, ‘I’m sorry for what went down.’ But music gives you the chance to say what you want to say. And her mom loved it. She’s like, “Where’s my publishing check?”
Outkast was formed to change the perception of hip-hop, according to Andre. “When I look at rap videos, it’s pretty much the same video over and over, a bunch of women in swimsuits and the guys rapping about money or jewels. Me and Big Boi wanted to change that.”
Such is Andre’s disdain for hip-hop clichés that he once formed a band with Cee Lo Green and Sleepy Brown called Pimp Trick Gangsta Clique as a joke. “Back then all the hood record labels were called stuff like Slap a Bitch Records or Big Dick Records, so we made up the group name Pimp Trick Gangsta Clique,” he remembers. The trio recorded together but never released any music.
Andre’s music tutor growing up was Zafar Salik Saood, who had written and performed songs with Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie to name but a few.
To raise money for studio time to record their first ever tracks together, the pair considered selling drugs on the street. Luckily, they signed with label LaFace before having to go down that road, when they were aged just 17.
Big Boi has his own personal strip club built into his home, complete with pole, mirrored walls and lighted floor.
You know how the backing band in the video to ‘Hey Ya!’ are made up of Andre clones? No wonder – he played every instrument on the track except bass.
Andre believes the mention of aliens in their songs attracted more white audiences to their shows. Not quite sure of the logic there, but hey.
Before releasing music as Outkast, the duo had previously been known as 2 Shades Deep and Misfits. After realising that both names had already been taken by other acts, they checked the synonyms for “misfits” and discovered “outcast”.
The pair were made to pay an undisclosed cash sum to civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks, after borrowing her name for a song title on 1998 album ‘Aquemini’. Funnily enough, Parks’ family found the song’s boasts (“we the type of people make the club get crunk”) weren’t entirely in line with the message she was trying to spread, funnily enough.
The harmonica on ‘Rosa Parks’ is played by Andre 3000’s pastor stepfather, Reverend Robert Hodo.
Andre’s favourite meal to cook, in case you were wondering, is southern speciality kale. Check out his recipe here.
Big Boi is a registered pit bull breeder. Yes, really.
Andre has his own Cartoon Network animated TV series, Class of 3000. The rapper voices central character Mr. Bridges in the show, a jazz and blues music teacher living in Atlanta. The show’s since been translated to a children’s stage production in Atlanta.
One of Andre’s great passions is fashion: particularly kilts and antique scarves. He has his own fashion line, Benjamin Bixby.
Their debut single, ‘Player’s Ball’ was released as a cassette single through LaFace Records in 1993. The record climbed to the top of the Billboard rap singles chart and stayed at No. 1 for six weeks.
Big’s 2003 single ‘The Way You Move’ was the 900th ever US Number 1 single. Its horn section was inspired by Earth Wind and Fire – who later covered the track with Kenny G.
The pair bonded in high school when Andre taught Big Boi how to roll his first joint. Andre’s since given up smoking weed entirely.
The video for ‘Hey Ya!’ is loosely based on the Beatles’ breakthrough 1964 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. “I’m a huge, huge fan,” explained Andre in 2011.
‘Hey Ya!’ was developed from a scene in an abandoned screenplay Andre had set out to write, about a young romantic who moves to Paris and the women he encounters there. The track was the most downloaded song in the iTunes store’s first year of existence.
Contrary to Andre’s instructions in ‘Hey Ya!’, you shouldn’t shake a poloroid picture, according to Polaroid themselves – it can do damage to the photo, the company said in a statement after the song’s release. The track sparked a boom in sales of the retro film.
Andre designed the famous green trousers worn in the ‘Hey Ya!’ video himself. “I got a seamstress to sew them up for me, and then the year the single came out I started to see more and more green in people’s collection. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as royal green, but that’s what I like to call it.”
Rapper B.o.B. took his name from the Outkast song ‘Bombs over Bagdad (B.O.B.)’, on their 2000 ‘Stankonia’ album.
Big Boi has a problem with social media. “My Twitter timeline — it’s like when motherfuckers be putting flyers on your car when you’re at the club, in the parking lot. It’s just ridiculous. I have to mute so many people, because they keep sending me their song.”
Although he frequently pays tribute to his Atlanta roots, Big Boi is originally from Savannah, Georgia.
Big Boi’s dream is to work with Kate Bush. “I want her [Bush] to co-produce something with me. We’d produce a song and write it from scratch. I’d rather get her in a room and not have a plan and just let it come organically – it’s not like I’ve got a song and I’ll just be like, ‘I want you to sing this part right here.'”
Big could soon collaborate with Mumford and Sons. “I was actually going to do something with [them]. I ran into them at Glastonbury,” he said in 2012. “Still something will probably be in the works. They know I want to work with them and they are open to it.”
The reason why Big is unlikely to ever do an album entirely solo: “I like people that love music to be around, so I can’t lock myself in a room alone. That’s no fun. I’d jack off all day if I did that.”
Outkast launched the career of Killer Mike, after featuring the Atlanta barber on their ‘Stankonia’ album.
Andre posed for a print advertising campaign in 2008 encouraging young people to vote in the United States presidential election. He emphasised that he was against George W. Bush.
Big however has differing political views – on the day after Barack Obama’s 2008 election victory a white woman approached Big Boi and said “congratulations on your win last night” to which Boi responded “Bitch, I voted for Gary Johnson”.
Big Boi was reportedly set to be part of reality television show Celebrity Big Brother in 2013 but pulled out when he realised the move might damage his career.
‘Stankonia’ is credited with putting southern hip-hop on the rap map. Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon, who collaborated on the song ‘Skew It on the Bar-B’ said: “Before that, the South just wasn’t played in New York. But that [album] was hot, the flows was crazy. The cycle changed. It really opened up the door for Southern rappers.”
Big shares the same birthday as Harry Styles and Laura Marling.
Andre came up with song lyrics for ‘Stankonia’ by writing words on the walls of his home: “I had planned to paint my house anyway… writing on the walls was just something I would do.” One lyric on his wall eventually inspired ‘Gasoline Dreams’.
The album title ‘Stankonia’ came from their studio of the same name, combining the words “stank”, a slang synonym for “funky”, and “Plutonia”, the title of a poster in Andre’s bedroom depicting a futuristic city. “Stankonia is this place I imagined where you can open yourself up and be free to express anything,” he explained.
Andre surmises Outkast’s take on hip-hop like this: “We’re from the hood, but that’s not where our music stayed.”