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Dungeon Family tree

An oral history of OutKast and the extended crew's first decade

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Gipp: With Still Standing, we knew we had something. Our first tour we went out with the Roots and the Fugees -- three live bands back-to-back, all really breaking ground. After that tour, we knew we could do things other hip-hop artists couldn't. We knew we had a voice.

Ray: It's a dark album; that was the vibe. It was a dark time. 'Pac and Biggie had died. We had been with both. That's why we called the record Still Standing. Goodie Mob had just come from the West Coast; they were about to record some stuff with 'Pac.

Cee-Lo: We traveled to Helen, Ga., and got a cabin in the woods and sat and talked about concepts -- just the four of us. I did the bulk of my writing for that album after I had my tonsils out. I had about two weeks to just write and be quiet and reflect.

Ray: By Aquemini, it was running on its own. Where we might have been worried [about Dre's direction], that died down. We understood a lot better what he was doing. At first, I took it as kind of personal when he switched up. We felt like [Southern-playalistic] was their best expression of themselves. True indeed, how can somebody else tell you how to express yourself? But I didn't think it called for putting on the headwrap, you know, being non-smoking, non-drinking. But with Aquemini, when he changed up, I could see clearly that it was more of a growth.

Sleepy: I always thought our crew was like the Parliament of hip-hop, but I never thought anyone would be willing to go there with it. The first time Dre started dressing that way, we were doing the "Skew it On the Bar-B" video at the Tabernacle. I was backstage, and he came out in that white feather suit. I was like, "Wow, either the crowd is going to laugh at you, or they're going to be with you." He had the white wig on, the shades. He jumped up on stage and the crowd went bananas.

Mr. DJ: Dre, Big and me started trying to produce from watching Rico and them. And Big Boi and Dre came to me and said, "Hey, why don't we start a production company together?" I was no longer DJing for them, but I was still an OutKast fan. And we had good chemistry together. So we formed Earthtone III.

Big Rube: Organized Noize still did some tracks on Aquemini, but I think it was out of respect. OutKast was getting to the point where they could produce their own stuff.

Andre: Things were really about me and Big at the time, and I liked the way Aquemini [combining their astrological signs, Aquarius and Gemini] sounded. It meant something really smooth, the coming together of two forces.

Mr. DJ: Aquemini was right when everybody was starting to deal with adult-type things. Right around that time Big's aunt passed, and Dre had his relationship with Erykah [Badu]. Everyone was really finding themselves, and you can hear it in the music.

Rico: When The Source gave Aquemini five mics [its highest rating], we knew we had world supremacy. We were given respect by the industry, by our peers, and by the public.

Last week of 1999: Goodie Mob releases its third album, World Party, which many view as a departure from the group's grittier, more outspoken earlier records.

October 2000: OutKast releases its fourth album, Stankonia, recorded in the group's new West Atlanta studio, also called Stankonia.

Cee-Lo: Gipp initiated the whole change of direction. World Party was unconscious -- it's so simple to speak ignorantly. I plead temporary insanity because of what we went through, being the ones who helped to kick down the door and not reaped the same benefits as the rest of Southern [hip-hop]. I don't think it was whack, but after we set such a bar, it was regression. We were ahead of our time and turned our space ship around to come back to earth to simply fit in. The market was congested with bling-bling, and people were waiting on Goodie Mob. If anybody's going to keep it real, Goodie Mob will. And we didn't. We failed the people.

Gipp: We were on our third album; we had been through the ropes, starting to get tired. We put together what we thought people wanted to hear.

Big Rube: I think they got a little scared they weren't selling as many records as OutKast. They were going gold, though. Just one more time without changing what they were doing [and] they would've gone platinum. Sometimes you drop the ball right before you get to the end zone.

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