In hip hop music, not many artists or groups can claim to have the impact or commercial success Outkast had during their career.
Stankonia cemented their legacy as innovators and assured the group would have a rightful place in the history books. As Andre 3000 put it, the group was ready to take you to “the center of the Earth, seven light-years below sea level” to a “place from which all funky things come” from.
Managing to stay true to their ATL roots, the group began the recording process for the album in the Berkeley Park neighborhood of Atlanta in a studio that would be named after the album. As Andre once put it in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the studio was a place “where you can open yourself up and be free to express anything.” It was here where the duo would craft their fourth studio album, the one that would change hip hop forever.
With commercially successful singles, such as “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson,” Stankonia helped cement rap music into the mainstream. However, many fail to mention the deep cuts in the album, which at the time brought some of the best experimental hip hop around.
Endless quotables and a marketable sound were what the industry was looking and although Outkast delivered, the duo expanded their sound with funk instrumentals, psychedelic hard rock, gospel and jazz music. This wasn’t expected, at least not by many. Having dropped an instant classic in Aquemini, which managed to earn a perfect five-mic rating from the Source, pushing the boundaries is typically not what an artist would do.
Andre knew that.
“We’re in the age of keeping it real, but we’re trying to keep it surreal.” He said regarding the purpose of the album. Many artists at the time competed with each other, but not the duo. Making it a priority to not listen to hip hop music while recording the album, Big Boi and Andre took inspiration from artists like Prince, George Clinton and Little Richard instead of contemporaries like Ludacris, Jay-Z and Eminem.
Outkast won Best Rap Album at the Grammy’s in 2002, beating out Ja Rule, Eve, and Ludacris and even Jay-Z’s The Blueprint. This proved to be a victory for the South, making sure that the world knew they had something to say.
Stankonia ensured Outkast would become most universally beloved rappers alive.
Happy 18th birthday, Stankonia.