The Implications Of An OutKast Reunion Show In 2014

Before diving into the implications of an OutKast show in 2014, it’s important to take it at surface level: Big Boi and Dre sharing the stage would mean the world to throngs of fiercely loyal fans. Get chills just thinking about the whirring of a spaceship to kick off “ATLiens,” the craterous holes left from foot-stomping on “Rosa Parks,” and the cloud of indo fogging “Crumblin’ Erb.” Every OutKast song takes on a new dimension when performed in concert, be it the energy of the back-and-forth, the kick of guitar and percussion or the aesthetic of sets and dancers. But those songs would take on an even bigger implication in Hip Hop’s current milieu, where concerts lack cohesion, live instrumentation is scant and the theme of afrocentricity is all but absent in the mainstream. An active OutKast will foster competition among emcees far better than a “Control” verse.

A reunion would also make a discernible statement to a genre grappling with the theme of longevity. Maturity has been a thorny subject in Hip Hop this year; Jay Z went from “Big Pimpin” to unconvincing raps about his insecurities as a father, while Eminem went from “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” to shout-apologizing to his mother. Kool G Rap just released a new album with Necro seemingly unnoticed; KRS-One and Rakim have all but disappeared from the public; Lord Jamar is known more for his feud with Macklemore and Yelawolf than for his membership in Brand Nubian. Where 40, 50 and even 60 is a viable age in rock and roll, Hip Hop has yet to field an artist that can maintain a middle-aged career.

OutKast, of course, would make serious headway with that. Big Boi’s most recent LP, 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, deploys the same sharp lyricism and experimental production that fans have come to expect since ‘94; Andre’s verse on “Pink Matter” is a brilliant exercise in balancing southern braggadocios with romantic candor. Even at 38, both members of OutKast clearly still have it.

Hip Hop’s always been a young genre, and it is now more than ever in the age of digital immediacy and social media virality. Only three of the top 10 selling solo albums in the genre last year were by artists over the age of 30, and each installment of XXL magazine’s freshman class seems less like a list of burgeoning come-ups and more like an All-Star lineup. For the genre to tackle the concept of mortality with dignity—A Tribe Called Quest just did an alleged final show as an opener for Kanye West, replacing Kendrick Lamar—it needs an OutKast show to command what it deserves. The best live show in Hip Hop would come from 20-year vets.

There’s no doubt that show would sell, too. Big Boi was quick to remind the world that OutKast was reeling in a million dollars each night, and though Idlewild was received tepidly by fans and critics, it is still certified platinum with first week sales over 195,000. And of course, there’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which sold over 11 million copies and spawned two No. 1 singles —“Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move.” All six OutKast albums went platinum; when “the South had somethin’ to say,” everybody listened.

Much of OutKast’s expanding mystique over the past decade can be attributed to the duo’s eschewal and taciturn intention. We glorify Daddy Fat Sax and Andre 3K because we simply haven’t heard from them, and we’ve fetishized songs like “Royal Flush” and “International Players Anthem” because they represent untapped potential. It was so effortless and brilliant when they actually came together, and we’re convinced that they would make an instant five-mic album today if they put the bullshit aside.

What if the most venerated group in the game doesn’t realize expectation? What happens if the two do actually settle their differences, reunite, put together a flawless set list and just don’t sound that good? Can we come to grips with that? On some level, Andre already has.

“I’m a rapper, and I just have to be honest, once you get to a certain point—I’m a fan of hardcore Rap. Sometimes I like stupid gangsta Rap, and I know at a certain age it doesn’t match. I want the raw Rap. At a certain age your life changes, at that point you become something else,” he told Fader last year. “And I never want to be the uncle or grandfather kind of guy, so I’ll just have to shift my qualities elsewhere, find something else to do. I love Rap so much, I don’t wanna taint it with old blood. I don’t want to do that.”

If the reunion show is rusty, there’s no doubt it hinders OutKast’s legacy, albeit very slightly. Then again, it may be necessary to give it another go after Idlewild was a critical flop and one of Hip Hop’s most complete discographies left something to be desired.

A reunion at Coachella also has the potential to be ridden with gimmicks; this is a show 2,000 miles from the group’s origin, a festival that shells out ungodly amounts of money to major-label performers and is best known in Hip Hop for the use of a hologram.

Ultimately, it’s redemption or anticlimax; a risk either way. But OutKast was founded on taking risks and going against the expected. And though the stakes aren’t self-imposed like they were in the ‘90s, unpredictability is certainly not out of character.

For now, we have to be cautiously optimistic. An OutKast reunion show has staggering potential, potential with implications that extend to an entire genre’s culture and an entire career’s vindication. Above all else, a reunion show has to be just that, a return to roots rather than a reappraisal of success. Until the news is official, it all seems so hard to believe, so entangled in weighty complication that it can’t be more than a blogger’s pipe dream. But none of that matters if somehow, someway, that woozy bass plays, those bells chime and the scene gets so thick…2014 gon’ be that year. We hope.

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