I change my favorite albums more than I change my boxers, but there are two that never change: College Dropout and…
Channel fucking Orange.
I love that album not just for the 17 musical masterpieces, but for what it did for me musically. At the time I was into one thing and one thing only, hip-hop. Live From The Underground and Tech N9ne’s Welcome To Strangeland dominated my speakers. I listened to a ton of music, but never really got into R&B. For no reason other than curiosity, I gave Franky Ocean a shot, but the first few listens resulted in a cocktail of boredom and confusion. It’s such a different, unique album, especially for someone relatively new to R&B, I wasn't quite sure what I was listening to. Still, something inside me told me to stick with it. As I hit 495 traffic on a sweltering July afternoon it all changed. I was transported from bumper to bumper traffic to a pristine universe full of new experiences and fresh sounds. For the the rest of the summer as I rushed around the Maryland suburbs for work, Channel Orange was my soundtrack and it’s been that way ever since. There really is no album I enjoy listening to more when the weather turns from foe to friend, from chilly to funky. Still, while I marveled at the density of "Pyramids," the simplicity of "Lost" and the heartbreak on "Crack Rock," there was one song I’ve always had trouble with.
Now, Frank’s vocals are amazing - I’ve harmonized with him so many times when he sings “PLEASURE” I’m convinced I could be his backup singer. I love the sticky bass line, fitting for a song called “Pink Matter.” And Andre’s verse??!?! Well, let’s just say it makes me want to rob a motherfucking bank, no mask on and a rusty revolver. Still, no matter how many listens I gave it, I never turned the corner like I did with the rest of the album. Unlike “Sweet Life,” which nourishes me with each and every listen, I always felt like something was missing. It’s like when you're served a meal, and you get exactly what you wanted, but when you get up from the table you aren’t hungry, but aren't exactly fulfilled. You can’t complain, but you also feel like it was missing something. Maybe bacon?
Big Boi added the bacon.
Seven months after Channel Orange was released, a remix of the same song I had struggled with dropped and Channel Orange was complete, at least in my book. It took an astounding album and made it one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. Utterly flawless. A masterpiece. I never mess with albums arrangements and I never take tracks off - albums are meant to be heard as the artist intended, not as we want - but the remix replaced the original in mind, body and playlist. Big Boi had done what Andre had so many times before with a remix, made the original irrelevant, and now “Pink Matter 1.0” is tucked away in a box in the basement with the original “Ignition.” Thanks to his smouldering, raspy flow Big Boi added a certain weight to the song that the feathery vocals of both Ocean and Benjamin couldn’t. I almost always prefer the abstract Andre to traditional yet effective Big Boi, the construction and delivery of his bars are so abstract and perfectly executed, but here Big Boi takes a 3 stacks-esque approach and shines. If I simply read the lyrics, I would have thought they belonged to 3000.
"She was the perfect ho
-stess, when I come over, we would do the grossest, most beautifulest..."
He manages to glide atop the beat despite the tongue twisting bars and the weight of his flow. You could look at delivery or construction, but you don’t need to. All you need to do is listen. The vibe of Big Boi’s verse is unreal, it’s cooler than the other side of an Eskimo’s pillow. I really can’t explain it any other way. It just makes me feel cool, shades on, windows down, smoking a J kind of cool. It’s an incredible addition to an already incredible album and it almost didn't happen because of 3 Stacks finicky, neurotic, typical self.
It may be blasphemous to defy the royal decree of King Benjamin the First, but that’s what I am going to do.
There’s something special about Outkast. Something even a 6th grade me could recognize on “Ms. Jackson” and something 22-year-old me could recognize looking back at an album like ATLiens. In every single aspect - personality, approach and flow - they are two distinctly different artists. I’m convinced if they weren’t both from Atlanta, if they didn’t go to the same school, they would have never come together. Big Boi is boisterous, glossy, and powerful. Andre is reserved, stark and airy, yet combined they make perfect sense. There’s a magnetism there that defies all logic. A tangible energy. It can’t be explained yet it’s obvious when you hear their music. Outkast isn’t a group, it’s a feeling. Even when they aren’t technically “Outkast,” like on “Pink Matter,” even when they record and release their verses separately, it’s magnetic, you can feel that chemistry. When they are together they take a great song and make it legendary. It goes from satisfying to making you whole. It may be unlike anything you have ever heard before but it’s immediate and universally understood. From the sinuous, funky progression, from the bar construction to the feeling you get listening, this is an Outkast song through and through.
We could obey Andre’s request and ignore the “Pink Matter (Remix),” and considering what he’s done for hip-hop maybe we should. This article is exactly what he was afraid of, his worst fears coming to fruition. He seems to want new Outkast music as a concept to be dead and buried, but here I am, charging volts of electricity into what he sees as a corpse, a stitched-together monster. He sees it as a slight against the Outkast name, a loogie in the face of the natural order, but I am so desperate for new music from the duo that I’ve convinced myself a two-year old song he expressly never wanted to happen is, in fact, the last great Outkast song. I know it, Big Boi and Frank know it - they steamrolled over Andre’s hesitation and released it because it was just too damn good - it seems like Andre is the only one who wants this musical Frankenstein locked in a lab.
I refuse to let “A Bad Note,” the last song on Idlewild, or “The Art of Storytellin' Part 4,” a mixtape tune, be the the last Outkast song. They don’t represent what Outkast is. In every single aspect, the song itself, the vibe, and of course the the controversy surrounding it, this “Pink Matter (Remix)” is the last Outkast song ever.
They didn’t Channel Orange, they channeled Outkast.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth]