Outkast's Andre "Dre" Benjamin said the duo's fourth album, Stankonia, is as much a reflection of fear as it is creative freedom.
"It's this thing called the fear of falling off," he said. "That's always over your head. Always."
It's that fear that motivates Outkast Atlanta's Dre and Big Boi to stay fresh and edgy, to "get buck naked and go all out, just put yourself on the line," Dre said. "That's when you know somebody's totally committed, when you know they're scared but they're doing it anyway."
That kind of risk-taking marks Stankonia (October 31), Outkast's musical voyage to a place full of feeling and funk what Dre called "the capital of freedom."
"We want to bring the people to this free, funky place, y'know where we dwell, where we make our music, where all the energies it takes to make this music come from. We wanna take the people there and try to give them a little taste and try to show
them how they can get to their own Stankonia."
But some radio programmers weren't ready for the more frenetic parts of the trip.
Stankonia's first single, the supercharged "B.O.B." (Bombs Over Baghdad), has lightning-speed beats that outrun most radio formats.
Sean Taylor, music director for New York's Hot 97, said his station played "B.O.B." for about two weeks before switching to the second single, "Ms. Jackson." "B.O.B." was "too different," he said.
"It's such an obscure record that nobody really knew what to do with it. It's a great record, but it has too much of a shock factor."
Like Taylor, Dre said, other radio programmers have already started playing "Ms. Jackson", a funky track with a highly contagious hook. Many have speculated that the lyrics in the singsongy hook ("Sorry Ms. Jackson. ... I am for real/ Never meant to make your daughter cry/ I apologize a trillion times") are about Dre's relationship with soul singer Erykah
Badu, his former girlfriend and the mother of his 2-year-old son, Seven.
"'Ms. Jackson' came from just wondering after a relationship kinda goes to the left about a parent of a girl who has a child, like, how does she feel about the situation? And that's what birthed that song."
Dre said "Ms. Jackson" at #14 on this week's Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart is not directed at Badu or her family. "Naw, it's not about none of them. I talk to them; they love it. But it's like my whole situation me and Erykah, what we went through that is the inspiration for the song because I had to go through it to know about it, to even think of something like that."
Standouts on Stankonia are Dre's favorite, "Stankonia (Stanklove)" ("Because it's so un-hip-hop. It's so un-rap"), the salsa-singed "Humble Mumble", which features vocals by Badu, the clever "I'll Call Before I Come" (featuring Gangsta Boo) and the
simmering and funky "Slum Beautiful," a tribute to a "ghetto woman [with] a lotta class," Dre said.