My heart is like a marching band
I'm a fan in the stands
Yes I am and I'm hollering hey baby
Sayin' hey baby
— "Morris Brown," Idlewild (2006)
When OutKast dropped "Morris Brown" in 2006, most fans were more worried about the status of Atlanta's favorite musical offspring than the financially strapped historically black college for which the song was named.
The Big Boi solo joint featured Sleepy Brown and Scar on vocals, but no Andre 3000, who was credited as the song's producer. Despite a funky video with a purple dog and the introduction of Big Boi's then-signee Janelle Monáe, the second single from OutKast's Idlewild project just cracked the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 95. Though the ambitious musical set in the 1930s blended together almost every incarnation of 20th-century black music, from blues to rap, it caught a cold one at the box office.
But the song was still a cool come-up for the 133-year-old Morris Brown College. With a hook that celebrated the tradition of black college bands, the track's musical backbone prominently featured Morris Brown's Marching Wolverines. It was almost enough to overshadow the PR hit the school had taken earlier that year when former Morris Brown President Dolores Cross pled guilty to embezzling student financial aid.
The unaccredited school's enrollment has dwindled to 35 students, and it still faces debt of about $30 million. But the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in March that talks with Mayor Kasim Reed's office could soon resume. The college turned down an initial offer of $10 million from the city last year that would've enabled Morris Brown to stay put while a portion of the land was rented or leased.