In 2000 and the years that followed, unless you were living under a rock or encased in sound-proofed bubble wrap, chances are you have fond memories of Outkast’s fourth studio album. A classic that has achieved universal critical acclaim and immense success, the LP serves as a reminder that some urges - the urge to belt a high-pitched “Oooooh” after apologizing to Ms. Jackson, or to just go batshit crazy during “Bombs Over Baghdad” - can’t and shouldn’t be denied.
Even so, as I started to pick out some of the best lines from Stankonia for its fifteenth anniversary, I wasn’t sure what I’d come up with. Aside from frequent listens to “Ms. Jackson,” “B.O.B.” and “So Fresh, So Clean,” the album hasn’t been in my regular rotation for several years. When I do listen, I often get hypnotized by the funky production and by Big Boi and Andre 3000’s intricate flows, not paying as close attention to the lyrics as I normally would.
With that being said, I braced myself for all the sensations that an Outkast album throws your way, and after giving it several more listens over the past month, I’ve picked out five of the most standout lines from the album. Here we go...
“Teddy Pendergrass, cooler than Freddy Jackson sippin’ a milkshake in a snowstorm.”
In case anyone forgot that he could out-cool a polar bear’s toenails, Big Boi serves a friendly reminder on “So Fresh, So Clean.” The line is delivered with that perfect Daddy Fat Sacks southern swagger that actually makes me want to endure the pain and drink a milkshake in a snowstorm just to get on his level. It’s hard to think of someone besides Big Boi who could pull that off. Probably not even you, Kelis.
“Hope that we feel this, feel this way forever / You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather!”
I CANNOT listen to “Ms. Jackson” without jumping in on this line alongside Andre’s melodic singing voice. His words about a pretty picnic evoke the same joyful, carefree feelings as the sing-song way he delivers them. And yet, within these breezy lyrics is a deep truth about the unpredictability of life and love. It’s a perfect example of why Outkast has been able to achieve such a rare combination of critical success and popular appeal.
“Forever? Forever ever? Forever ever? Forever never seems that long until you’re grown.”
Let’s be honest. Like the last line, this whole song is impossible not to sing along to. But this is one line that just sticks with you. I’m pretty sure that I subconsciously tilt my head to the side with each “forever” as Dre’s voice gets higher and more incredulous. Besides, it inspired the second greatest series of quizzical “forevers” in Kanye’s “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” (which almost made it as one of my top lines from Late Registration). That has to count for something, right?
“So now we sittin’ in a drop-top, soakin’ wet / In a silk suit, tryin’ not to sweat / Hit somersaults without the net / But this’ll be the year that we won’t forget.”
Nestled within the infectious, head-banging beat of “B.O.B.” are some dope metaphors like this one, where Andre details Outkast’s expectation-defying success as they continued to make path-breaking music without a safety net to fall back on. And of course 3 Stacks’ breakneck, staccato flow makes it easy to see how he and Sir Lucious Left Foot were able to make it rain and why Stankonia indeed made it a year not to forget.
“The game changes every day, so obsolete is the fists and marches / Speeches only reaches those who already know about it / This is how we go about it.”
Just one more instance in Andre 3000’s long history of brilliant insights. At the end of a verse where he flat-out dismantles critics who pigeonhole hip-hop as only guns and alcohol, Andre shows that it can often be a better way to spread ideas and to inspire change and action. To impart wisdom, with the goal of helping to change how the world is viewed, is one of the main reasons I love hip-hop. And few do it better than Andre 3000 and Big Boi.
So now that it’s the 15th anniversary of the funky engine that could, I recommend taking an hour and thirteen minutes to hop back onboard the Stankonia Express for some funky beats, insane flows, and—oh yeah—some top shelf lyrics. It’s still a hell of a ride.
[By Spencer Schmider. This is his Twitter.]