Outkast Casts Wide Net with Album, Movie
Published: July 14, 2006
NEW YORK (Billboard) - OutKast duo Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin
are sitting in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills
picking at pancakes. They need to figure out the track listing for
their upcoming soundtrack album, the companion to the film
``Idlewild,'' in which they co-star.
Zomba Label Group president/CEO Barry Weiss, pen in hand, writes out
different scenarios. Patton keeps picking at his breakfast. Weiss
leans back on the couch and says with a laugh, ''We need to figure
this out! We need this album to be done!'' Patton and Benjamin smile.
``We know,'' Patton says. ``We're getting there.''
Patton, aka ``Big Boi,'' and Benjamin, aka ``Andre 3000,'' are
perfectionists as much as they are innovators. ``Idlewild'' would have
been released to theaters last year -- if the music had been done.
Now, after numerous postponements, OutKast is ready -- sort of. They
still keep going back in the studio to ``tweak'' some tracks. But come
hell or high water, the LaFace/Zomba album will be released August 22,
with the film hitting theaters three days later.
``This is probably the first musical that didn't have the music done
before it was shot,'' Benjamin says. ``That has been the biggest
lesson I've learned in this whole thing. Next time, we'll do the music
To do a film/album package has been a longtime dream for OutKast.
``Idlewild'' (Universal/HBO), directed by OutKast's friend and video
director Bryan Barber, has been in the works since the group's 1998
``We had a movie called 'Aquemini' (in development) with Bryan,''
Patton recalls. ``It was crazy. We were so excited, but we had no idea
what it took to put it all together.''
Benjamin says with a laugh, ``We didn't know it takes two years to put
a movie out, and we had a script three months before 'Aquemini' came
Also at that time, OutKast, though critically acclaimed, hadn't yet
broken through with multiplatinum ``Stankonia''and ``Speakerboxxx/The
Love Below'' (2003).
``We made a lot of progress since 'Aquemini,''' Benjamin says. ``We
were young. We were trying to put all of our friends in the movie!''
The duo had meetings with MTV, who Benjamin says loved the film idea
for ``Aquemini.'' But the network wanted to buy the project and cast
Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, who had more star power than OutKast.
``We're like, 'But this is our movie!''' Benjamin says. ``So, it
didn't work out. You have to have some appeal to get people in the
theater, and we weren't big enough at the time, so I can understand
why MTV would say that.''
Patton sighs. ``We were heartbroken.''
Not to be deterred, OutKast and Barber kept working on ideas, and
``Idlewild'' was born.
The film is set in Prohibition-era Georgia and follows two childhood
friends and the business of running a speakeasy.
``The characters are loosely based on our personalities,'' Patton says.
Benjamin concurs. ``The characters are an extreme version of what we are.''
There is a lifelong bond between the two main film characters even
though they don't spend every second together. In fact, there are only
three or four scenes that feature them together. The same is true in
real life: Patton and Benjamin often record separately. Patton goes on
tour, and Benjamin no longer does.
``It's not like 'Beverly Hills Cop' or 'Rush Hour' where it's a buddy
type of thing,'' Patton says.
It's also not a traditional musical. Benjamin and Patton do not
spontaneously break into song. The songs are used in performance
settings or as background music.
During the film's production, the duo would hit the studio after a day
of filming to write music for a scene. Then, of course, they would
change their minds and rewrite it. The bulk of the writing happened
after the film wrapped, when they could just be OutKast, instead of
Patton and Benjamin, the actors.
``We went into the studio and did what we normally do,'' Patton says.
``But we kept in mind that it was a 1930s movie. We tried to keep
ourselves hip and fresh, but at the same time keep that 1930s frame
musically, so it all fit together.''
For example, the first single, ``Mighty O,'' is a take on Cab
Calloway's famous scatting from the 1932 recording ``Minnie the
In the three years since ``Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,'' both artists
have been busy with side projects. Benjamin has been honing his acting
chops, including a starring role in last year's ``Four Brothers.''
Patton runs his own record label, owns a real estate company and
markets an energy drink, Kryptonite.
Both Patton and Benjamin have wanted to do solo projects. Fans have
long noticed the duo veering in different musical directions, most
noticeably with the double album ''Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.''
``Speakerboxxx'' was Patton's album and ``The Love Below'' was
But one of the biggest misconceptions is that the pair never record
together. Just thinking about all the rumors floating around on the
Internet and in the tabloids makes Benjamin shake his head in disgust.
``People say we are never in the studio together, and that's just not
The duo are simply untraditional because they both have home studios.
``It's like working your hut,'' Benjamin says. ``I produce a song,
then take it to Big Boi and say, 'Check this out, what do you think
about this?' Sometimes you want to at least get the idea out and not
have to worry about if it's good enough. It's more like a confidence
thing ... I just think people have blown it out of proportion about us
not being on a song together just because we're not singing or
Even though they may go in different directions musically, Patton and
Benjamin, who attended the same high school in Atlanta, are friends
'til death do them part.
``We've been friends since we were in 10th grade. At the end of the
day with no records, no movies, no nothing -- we are friends, we are
homeboys,'' Benjamin says. ``I know I'm going to know this man until
I'm pretty much out of here. I know his kids, he knows my kids. We all
hang out together. We're talking about Antwon and Andre. That is
something that was born, not out of music, but from hanging out in
high school. We just decided to do music one day. We weren't two guys
that a record company put together.''