It was August 3rd, 1995. The second annual Source Awards was taking place, at the Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater in New York. The events that night would change the course of hip-hop forever. At the time, Tupac had been shot and was sequestered in jail, with a bitter rivalry between the East Coast and the West Coast reaching a boiling point. This boiled over at the Awards ceremony, with Suge Knight, of Death Row Records (West Coast), taunting his rival Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs, of Bad Boy Records (East Coast), onstage. The nature of the attack didn’t go down well, and the night descended into a tit-for-tat between the rival areas, with Snoop Dogg confronting the crowd after getting abuse, and Diddy throwing shots back at Suge by saying, “I live in the East, and I’m gonna die in the East.” The rivalry ballooned into violence and ultimately culminated in the deaths of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G, a year later.
Whilst the 1995 Awards ceremony is most known for this, there was another, less publicised moment that would also reverberate within hip-hop and the culture, just as much. A little known duo, at the time, called Outkast won the award for ‘Best New Artist.’ From Atlanta, the duo consisting of Andre ‘Andre 3000’ Benjamin, and Antwan ‘Big Boi’ Patton, were complete outsiders. Even LA rap was disregarded by most New York hip-hop heads at the time, so a duo from the South? No chance. They were booed upon being announced the winners, to them being given the award. The Two MC’s clapped for themselves as they took to the stage, and it was then that Andre 3000 defiantly yelled six words, “the south got something to say.” This not only changed the atmosphere in the room, but the attitude of many hip-hop fans across America. It opened the door to Atlanta, and beyond just the ‘East Coast vs West Coast’ domination, the flame was lit.
A year later, Outkast released ‘ATLiens’. If Andre 3000‘s speech, and consequent walk off stage at the Source Awards was a middle finger to the gatekeepers of hip-hop, then this album only drew the wedge further. The duo expanded on their idiosyncratic nature, combining sci-fi aesthetics and psychedelic headspaces, with colloquial tales of living on the streets in the South. All with their pronounced accents, soul, jazz and dub production. It wasn’t a huge commercial hit, but it was more of a defiant stance. A, we won’t change for anybody, this is who we are, take it or leave it. This was the beginning of the rise of Outkast, ‘ATLiens’ was their mission statement, ‘Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)’, ‘ATLiens’ and ‘Elevators (Me & You)’, the stand out tracks from the album. They were breaking ground in hip-hop, offering something completely different to what was around at the time, and in effect appealing to a wider audience away from the hip-hop echo chamber too.
A couple of years later saw them really find their groove, with the critically acclaimed masterpiece ‘Aquemini’. Hip-hop had moved away from just the East Coast and West Coast, with minds firmly open to sounds from elsewhere. Outkast caught this wave perfectly, expanding on their already unique sound that they had developed. The duo’s styles weaved in and out of each other, Andre 3000‘s dangerous and quirky flow, being matched by Big Boi‘s more classical style. Andre 3000 would poke and prod, Big Boi was the glue holding it together. At the end of the album the pair use the audio from the Source Awards back in 1995, the boo’s as they were announced the winner for ‘Best New Artist’ and Andre‘s acceptance speech. It’s like a ‘F*** You’ to anyone who doubted us, but as Killer Mike said in the above video, ‘thank you to those who booed’, because what blossomed out of that night was a duo that would not only be some of the most successful artists in hip-hop history, but the trailblazers for a whole new generation of artists from that area. Ludacris, T.I, Lil Jon, Young Jeezy and Migos, amongst many others, can be thankful for the duo’s defiance. You can hear the pain in Andre‘s speech, as he says “we got a demo tape, and nobody want to hear..”, and out of pain and suffering, great art is made.
Outkast would go on to release several more albums, winning numerous Grammy’s, most notably for their albums ‘Stankonia’ (2001), and ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’ (2003). They also released, in my opinion, two of THE best pop tracks ever made, in ‘Ms. Jackson’ and ‘Hey Ya!’ The duo eventually decided to go down their own solo routes, both featuring and releasing music under their own Monika. They both remain active to this day, and will forever remain influential in music. From that evening in 1995, amongst a chorus of boos, two stars were given the fuel to create some of the most influential and legendary art that has ever been made, subsequently changing the game forever.
Thank you for reading.