In the year of 1994 the Atlanta Hip-Hop landscape as we know it in 2021 is pretty much non-existent to the outside world. On a local level Atlanta had taken on a very Miami bass type of sound that was highly “Planet Rock” influenced. Local Atlanta artist like MC Shy D, Kilo Ali, & Raheem The Dream ruled the Atlanta landscape as far as nightclubs and late night radio mixes. Atlanta producers Dallas Austin and Jermaine Dupri were making noise with major label acts. Austin with Boyz 2 Men, Another Bad Creation, & TLC and Jermaine Dupri with his group Kriss Kross that he signed to his So So Def imprint distributed by Columbia Records.
In 1989 after the R&B band The Deele disbanded two of the group’s members (L.A. Reid & Babyface) founded LAFace Records which was distributed by Arista Records. LAFace was headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia which was unheard of at the time. All the major labels were either in New York or Los Angeles. LAFace has substantial success with a young Atlanta R&B trio named TLC. TLC’s lead singer T-Boz was good friends with Organized Noize producer Rico Wade. Wade and his two other production team partners Sleepy Brown and Ray Murray were looking for new talent to present to the LAFace label head and co-founder L.A. Reid.
Through a friend, Rico Wade heard about these two young rappers Antwan & Dre. The story is the two young Emcees came by the beauty supply store Wade was working at and spit endless bars over A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario (Remix)” instrumental. The Dungeon Family was forming and so was Atlanta’s new Hip-Hop scene. L.A Reid wasn’t feeling the young version of Outkast at first, they spit some verses on the TLC “What About Your Friends (Remix)” that were less than impressive based on what we know Outkast to become.
Nonetheless Reid gave them a shot at the LAFace Christmas album which was challenging especially for a young rap group in the early 90’s. No one wanted to be that group to make a corny Christmas song for their first look. Through the genius of Outkast and Organized Noize the song “Player’s Ball” came to be, which was their ode to Christmas and how it’s celebrated around their way as just another day. With the radio success of “Player’s Ball” Outkast was cleared to release their debut album “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” and the mission was to put Atlanta Hip-Hop on the map.
On a major label level there wasn’t a Hip-Hop artist or group that was actually representing the people of Atlanta. Calling out the streets of the city, shouting out different people and places in the city. New York has always had that “rep your hood approach” and so has the West Coast. Houston, Texas had Geto Boys and Scarface as a solo artist. Outkast and Organized Noize saw this album as a make or break chance to put the city of Atlanta on the map to the Hip-Hop world. Off of the momentum of Outkast’s single “Player’s Ball” the tone had been set for this album to be soulful with knockin drums.
Being from Atlanta at that time you’re almost equally East Coast influenced and West Coast influenced. The way I describe “Southernplayalistic…..” is it’s a great marriage of East Coast style of rap flow and West Coast funky production. David Banner once pointed out that the South and the West listen to their music differently than New York does. In the South and out West we listen to our music in cars so that music that is playing in your car has to have a certain knock to it. People in New York don’t drive so the approach to production is a little different.
Organized Noize knew that production was going to be key on this album. These guys were laying down the foundation for what Atlanta Hip-Hop was going to sound like on a mainstream level for years to come. Big Boi and Andre were both incredibly talented beyond their years but they were still two 18/19 year olds creating their first album ever fresh out of High School. Guidance from Rico, Ray, & Sleepy was necessary. Not only was this album put into play to put Atlanta on the map but it was put into play to put The Dungeon Family on the map as well. Open up the doors for the rest of the crew to get an opportunity at a major record deal as well.
Major record deals weren’t being given to rappers from Atlanta at that time in Hip-Hop history. “Southernplayalistic…” is the one Outkast album (and Dungeon Family album) where Sleepy Brown as a vocalist was showcased to a large degree. Sleepy’s presents on “Player’s Ball”, “Player’s Ball (Reprise)”, “Claimin True”,“Crumblin Herb”, & “Funky Ride” were totally necessary. This album was a family affair from Peaches on the album’s intro to Preston Crump on bass. No question “Southernplaylistic…” is a masterpiece, not just a southern masterpiece or a Hip-Hop masterpiece but a masterpiece in all of music.
Without this album’s incredible craftsmanship Outkast would have never become the group they became. They set the bar very high for themselves and for anyone that came after them. Outkast and Goodie Mob pushed one another to make better music each time out which also pushed the south to do better and eventually kick down the door in Hip-Hop. All of that starts with this album. In the grand scheme of things this album gave hope to a new era of rapper that may not have thought that they could have become an artist in Hip-Hop simply because of their geographic location.
You didn’t have to act like you were from New York or LA to get your music on MTV or BET anymore and Outkast (with the support of LAFace Records) proved that. Looking at Hip-Hop from and it’s totality “Southernplaylistic” is as important to Hip-Hop as “Paid In Full”, “RUN-DMC (Album)”, “It Takes A Nation Of Millions…..”, “Illmatic”, “The Chronic”, etc. Imagine what Hip-Hop in the 2000’s would be like without Outkast, T.I., Ludacris, Jeezy, Lil Jon, Crunk Music, or Trap Music. 25 years later and we are still feeling the effects that were laid down by Outkast’s debut album “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”. On an impact and quality level “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” is one of the 10 most important Hip-Hop albums of all-time.