Brothers From Another Planet
They altered hip-hop’s geographic axis and in some ways changed hip-hop itself. Andre 3000 and Big Boi emerged at a time when heads barely paid any attention to music originating outside the East and West coast scenes. Not satisfied with leading the charge in gaining Southern hip-hop a modicum of respect, the duo soon set about sonically and conceptually redefining hip-hop itself with a series of innovative and genre-defying releases. This spirit has fostered the stark contrast between Andre 3000 and Big Boi, fuelling persistent break-up rumours. The duo has parlayed opposing personalities into a key asset and calling card; with the simultaneous release of a film and new album, both called Idlewild, OutKast has become one of the most creative forces in music, period. "It’s a relaxed place to be,” says Andre 3000 on the eve of their release. "It’s almost like we’ve won the Super Bowl. You already have a ring, or three or four of them, and it’s not coming from bragging, but creatively you’ve done it. You’re competing against yourself; anything from this point on is kinda extracurricular.”
1975 to 1990
Antwan Patton is born in Savannah, Georgia on February 1; Andre Benjamin is born on May 27, 1975 in Decatur, Georgia. The oldest of five children, Antwan helps raise his siblings after his parents split when he’s five due to domestic abuse. Though he harbours dreams of becoming a football player, his grandmother’s tastes (Parliament, Ohio Players, Bob Marley) spur his interest in music. At one point, the Patton family lives in a motel for a year. Andre also lives in a motel as a child; after his parents separate, he stays with his mother, who works the assembly line at General Motors. Andre grows up in a black neighbourhood but is bussed to a white school. His school bus drops him miles from home; he walks the rest of the way to prevent classmates from learning where he lives. His interest in art gives way to music influences from school (Depeche Mode, INXS) and at home (Eric B. & Rakim, Too Short). He catches the acting bug and appears in a school production of Charlotte’s Web; he’s also an avid skateboard enthusiast, and writes "Skate or Die” in classmates’ yearbooks.
1990 to 1992
To escape his strict mother, Andre moves in with his father in the East Point section of Atlanta, where he steals clothes from laundromats and tricks pizza boys into delivering to empty apartments, where he orders them to drop the food and run. He attends Tri-Cities High School, as does Antwan, and they are in a tenth grade class together but only formally meet at a Ralph Lauren store at a local mall; they bond immediately over eccentric sartorial tastes and love of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. They steal cars and try to sell dope but smoke more than they sell before getting retail jobs at shoe stores. They form a group, 2 Shades Deep; Andre’s handle is Black Wolf while Antwan is Black Dog. They’re invited to appear on a cable access show, but Antwan can’t make it, so Andre invites Cee-Lo to step in — they’d met in third grade and reconnected at an alternative high school Andre attends. After more name changes, Andre settles on Dre and Antwan calls himself Big Boi. Because another local group is called 4 Shades Deep, they change their name to Misfits and eventually OutKast. Through a high school friend, they connect with 19-year-old producer Rico Wade, who has some industry connections. The bald-headed duo sit with Wade in the Isuzu Trooper of future Goodie Mob member Big Gipp and freestyle over the five-minute instrumental of A Tribe Called Quest’s "Scenario (Remix)” without missing a beat. Impressed, Wade invites them to his studio, the Dungeon, which he’s set up in the basement of a house he and his mother are renting from a former Atlanta police chief. Amongst the red clay and exposed pipes, Wade has assembled second hand equipment and instruments and leads a production team called Organized Noise with Pat "Sleepy” Brown and Ray Murray. Taking advantage of Wade’s mother’s lax rules, they congregate, party, sleep over and work on music "We were all living in a house making music so it was like a family creation thing,” says Andre. Dre’s mother becomes alarmed that he’s dropped out of high school. Dre and Big Boi are the youngest members of the crew, known as the Dungeon Family, which includes future members of the Goodie Mob. Through Wade’s connections to TLC’s T-Boz and LaFace Records executive L.A. Reid, OutKast make their first recorded appearance on a remix of TLC’s "What About Your Friends.”
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