Everyone wants a new Outkast album. Since the rap duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi chose to travel separate creative paths after 2006’s Idlewild, rumors of a reunion have been rife. But despite reforming for this year’s Coachella stage-show, the prospect of a seventh official Outkast album being recorded and released still seems dim.
Fear not though: Either under the guise of Outkast or as soloists, Andre and Big Boi have been remarkably prolific in the margins, seeping out unreleased songs, dropping gems on soundtracks and appearing on overlooked projects and collaborations. Embracing a flight of fancy, it’s possible to curate a series of songs that come off like a great unreleased Outkast album. Which is exactly what we’ve done here, even formatting the 10-track project in the vintage vinyl style of being sequenced over two separates sides. Consider it an unofficial slice of that Outkast alchemy.
1. “Royal Flush”
After the sultry intro “Peaches,” Outkast’s 1994 debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik begins in earnest with “Myintrotoletuknow,” a fiery blitzkrieg of raw raps from Andre and Big Boi. Taking a cue from the tone of that lyrical workout, we kick off here with “Royal Flush,” a song leaked as part of the promotional push behind Big’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Dusty Chico (2010).
Over gnarly and growling production, Outkast’s old BBQ pal Raekwon passes through with a guest rap, although it’s Andre who takes the lyrical spoils with an extended rant at his doubters. “It’s cool when the kids call me Sunny/ The ’hood calls me Stacks/ The Bs call me honey,” he raps before unleashing the zinger: “Hollywood calls me back.” Advanced level swag raps.
2. “Gangsta Sh–” (Unreleased)
Building on the edgy nature of “Royal Flush,” the album continues to unfurl in the direction of ’Kast’s underground-leaning side. An alternate take of “Gangsta Sh–” distinguishes itself from the version that made Stankonia by omitting the wrangling guitar lines.
This pared-down format helps infuse the music with a brooding and menacing atmosphere as it beds the Dungeon Family’s low-slung verbal funk. T-Mo, Slimm Calhoun and C-Bone provide the familial guest verses, while Big Boi informs that the tipple of choice during the studio session was Cuervo tequila.
3. “Benz Or Beamer”
Furrowing ahead with the dusky production vibe, this 1995 offering from the New Jersey Drive soundtrack nods to the concept of the movie with Andre and Big Boi airing out a series of car-jacking-themed lyrics. “Tomorrow’s another day but today they just might shoot you for your ride/ F–k your pride,” warns ’Dre.
The track’s cast-list also includes Atlanta’s poetry wisdom master Big
Rube dropping a quick musing on the virtues of self-determination, and
Mr. DJ scratching a snatch of Das-EFX’s tongue-twisting “Brooklyn To
T-Neck” for part of the hook.
4. “In Due Time”
Continuing to mine from Outkast’s fertile soundtrack sideline, the earthy “In Due Time” hails from the Soul Food flick and shifts the album into a subtler musical zone.
Cee-lo’s contribution to the song helps imbue it with a redemptive air, while Andre expands on the Goodie Mob man’s cue to coin a verse that includes musings on the modern role of religion, mortality, and artistic integrity. This is Outkast music to nourish the soul.
5. “Dez Only 1″
After breaking through with their 1994 debut album, Outkast slowly began attempting to usher through the talents of their Dungeon Family allies. Goodie Mob struck a hit with “Soul Food,” but Witchdoctor’s A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual was an overlooked 1997 album offering.
“Dez Only 1″ maintains as a meditative gem of a song though, with hearty assists from both Outkast emcees: Big Boi gets spiritual and addresses his relationship with God, while Andre embraces his naturalistic side and sparks his verse by declaring, “The sun shines, the moon glows/ The wind blows, The rain falls, but that ain’t all.” It’s as if he’s reciting straight from the Outkast gospel.
6. “My Chrome”
If the first side of this fantasy Outkast album ends on a reflective note, the second half bursts into life with “My Chrome.” Technically a Killer Mike song, the track embraces an upbeat, synth-peppered production style that has it coming off as a bedfellow to David Banner and Lil’ Flip’s Eurhythmics-sampling “’Bout Our Money.”
While Murderous Mike might snag top billin’ on the track’s official credits, “My Chrome” lights up when Big Boi taps into his pimpish Daddy Fat Sax persona for a tag-team verse with his younger rap charge. A co-production credit from Mr. DJ solidifies the song’s ’Kast connection.
7. “Trans DF Express”
Riffing on the electro-attack of “My Chrome,” “Trans DF Express” is a Kraftwerk-inspired cut from the Dungeon Family collective’s 2001 album Even In Darkness.
Cee-lo’s high-register brogue sparks the song, while Big Boi brings the funky and freaky workout to a close with a rap that references southern staples Three 6 Mafia, likens groupie action to roadkill, and coins the phrase “higher than a bird’s dick.”
8. “Mama Told Me”
Early listening sessions for Big Boi’s second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, featured recurring cameos from members of the Swedish electro-indie unit Little Dragon. That group’s singer, Yukimi Nagano, originally held down vocal duties on the chunky, ’80s-styled cyber-funk outing “Mama Told Me.”
By the time the track was picked as a single though, Nagano’s voice had been replaced to diminishing effect by Kelly Rowland’s. We’ll run with the original incarnation of the song here — although we’d also be prepared to hear a new take that has Andre 3000’s chops warbling throughout the track…
9. “I Can’t Wait”
The project’s final soundtrack cull comes courtesy of the “Barbershop 2″ movie with Sleepy Brown’s “I Can’t Wait.” The synth-based production syncs with the previous track, “Mama Told Me,” but there’s a lower-key wobble to the proceedings that compliments Brown’s sultry tone.
For his guest verse outing, Andre recasts himself as Chamelio Salamander and is strictly in his foppish zone as he kicks a rap that begins by declaring a preference for “leather in the summer, silk in the winter.” He also sensibly decrees that all Ascot ties must be paired with matching socks. For his part, Big Boi’s mind has moved on from avian musings to become preoccupied with close-up relations of the kinky kind.
10. “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)”
UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem” originally dropped around the time that Big Boi and Andre were closing out their Idlewild adventure and embarking on a creative hiatus from each other. The track now resonates as a touching swan-song for the group.
Teaming up with another beloved southern rap institution, UGK, a kilted-up Andre sparks the song by imploring, “Keep your heart, Three Stacks, keep your heart.” Then it’s the turn of the departed Pimp C and Bun B to run through their raps, before it’s left to Big Boi to take it home with a remarkably nuanced closing verse.
The production behind “International Player’s Anthem” is imbued with soul, and as the song fades away it settles like the moving last scene of a poignant movie. Call it an emotional end-note for Atlanta’s most cherished players.