By Joshua Joshua Keller
The second and final Seminole State College Speaker Series event focused on the cultural importance of southern hip-hop with
a specific focus on the duo “Out- Kast,” consisting of Atlanta-based rappers Antwan “Big Boi” Patton and Andre “3000” Benjamin.
The college partnered with the 32nd Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities to present “The Demo Tape Aint Nobody Wanna Hear”—a Zoom webinar with Dr. Regina N. Bradley, assistant professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University.
She discussed her books “Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip Hop South” and the upcoming “Boondock Kollage: Stories from the Hip Hop South.”
Bradley said her books and the discussion are useful in chronicling and discussing music relating to the South.
“We can theorize OutKast’s body of work to conceptualize an understanding of southern blackness after the civil rights movement,” Bradley said.
Throughout the presentation, the author paralleled events that happened to OutKast with cultural theories of the post-civil rights
south specifically focusing on how southern hip-hop culture influenced the Black generation that grew up in the 1980 and 1990s.
Bradley said she was introduced to southern hip-hop when she moved to southwest Georgia in 1998. For her, “getting into southern hip-hop was an act of social desperation,” to fit in with her peers.
She later realized the usefulness of southern hip-hop in understanding the viewpoints and narratives surrounding the post-civil rights south.
“Hip Hop was an access point to understanding what a post-civil rights south looks like,” Bradley said.
OutKast’s albums offer exploration and a re-conceptualization of the American South during the 1990s, Bradley said, citing Andre 3000’s declaration that: “The South got something to say” at the 1995 Source Awards as the beginning of the theorization behind an idea of southernness and a distinctive southern sound in hip-hop.
With this distinction along with the release of their first album “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik,” the duo had established Atlanta as a hip-hop city, and the interlude, “Welcome to Atlanta,” among other themes on the album expands on this idea.
“OutKast introduced this possibility of a distinctive southern sound with Southernplayasliticcaddiclacmuzik. It’s an introduction to the possibility of Atlanta being an urban space below the Mason-Dixon Line that can also be considered a hip-hop city,” Bradley said.
With their 1996 album “AT- Liens,” the duo introduced new ideas and styles into their music, Bradley said.
They play on the idea of being outsiders from the music world as southerners and not being accepted in other music scenes.
Bradley explained that the album also makes use of “Afrofuturism,” which is the “opportunity for Black folks to think about themselves in the future using their own experiences, not necessarily having to focus on a white gaze.”
This idea of Afrofuturism is most prominent on the band’s song, “Elevators.”
Bradley also discussed Out- Kast’s third album “Aquemini,” on which the duo moves away from previous ideas of southern blackness that were prominent on their two previous albums.
“Aquemini” changes the narratives and touches on themes of nostalgia with the songs “Rosa Parks” which discusses the civil rights movements and “West Savannah,” which was influenced by OutKast’s upbringing.
The album also introduces ideas of future expectations with the song “Synthesizer,” discussing the over-dependence on technology. The last three songs—“Nathaniel”,” Liberation” and “Chonky- fire”—tackle questions regarding the OutKast’s future.
Bradley also discussed the duo’s fourth album, “Stankonia,” where OutKast changed the sound and style significantly, moving away from funk and gospel influences and introducing the sounds of electronic dance and rock.
Bradley pointed out how the interludes on “Stankonia” are significant because of their use of humor.
“In the South, humor plays such a significant role in how folks work through trauma and victimizations that occur on a daily basis,” Bradley said.
“Ultimately, thinking about OutKast as a theorization of southernness is useful.”
“OutKast provides that spectrum of southernness that is useful for picking out these multiple ways that southernness exists,” Bradley concluded.
The presentation was followed by a Q&A session in which both students and faculty participated.
It was also announced that Seminole State has planning underway for the 2021-22 academic year Speaker Series events.