Outkast are the hippest hip-hop group on the planet, no question. A quick trawl through some of musicOMH's interview transcripts tells us that much, with everyone from young British jazz star Jamie Cullum to Aussie retro-rockers Jet name-checking the Atlantan duo as a band they respect.
What many people, particularly those outside the US, may not realise is that André Benjamin and Antwan Patton (aka André 3000 and Big Boi) have been peddling their unique brand of G-Funk infused hip-hop for over 10 years now. While in Europe we got excited over Ms. Jackson in 2000 and then semi-forgot about Outkast until Hey Ya! last year, the Americans have been giving them platinum single and albums since Dré and Big Boi were barely out of high school.
This collection of Outkast's 10 single videos does the honourable thing by starting at the beginning and working through in chronological order. 1993's Player's Ball is light years away from 2003's Hey Ya! both musically and visually. Back in the day, the dynamic duo were 18-year olds looking like 14-year olds, doing quick-fire raps, while the Puff Daddy-directed video features the lads doing that seemingly de rigeur action of '90s hip-hip videos - riding in a car with the top down...
Player's Ball segues into their debut album title track, the Mary Poppins-monickered Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and, if we're being honest, you'll struggle to spot it's a different video. Or a different song for that matter.
However, by 1996's Elevators (Me & You), Outkast were really beginning to carve out their niche and their videos were a significant component of the package. This one was themed around aliens (or "Atliens" according to the album whence it came), with people walking through the jungle, men in protective suits and a finale of pyramid discovery and otherworldly beings.
Atliens itself continued the mystical sci-fi theme and the song is cool too, with an undeniably catchy chorus and refreshingly straight edge lyrics ("no drugs or alcohol so I can get the signal clear").
Next, we skip forward to 2000 and B.O.B., where André looks like Jimi Hendrix in a fun-packed, psychedelic video that features everything from lots of bikini-clad women to Gospel singers. And the song? Well, it's a thumping, almost drum 'n' bass monster that even rocks out on electric guitar towards the end.
Ms. Jackson and So Fresh, So Clean are the singles that broke Outkast in most of the world and it's not hard to hear why with their increased emphasis on shiny, happy choruses and melodies. The videos are hilarious too, with Ms. Jackson's cute touches of cats, dogs and owls miming the words, and the utterly over-the-top costumes and hair in So Fresh, So Clean.
After the circus and grotesque make-up in the video to the otherwise forgettable The Whole World, come the biggies - The Way You Move and Hey Ya! Both videos are egotistical affairs. In the former, Big Boi indulges his fantasies by having various scantily-clad women fan him and kiss him whilst he sits on his throne. This is the first and, so far, only Outkast video to go full-tilt towards the standard, sexist rap crap. I hope it will be the last.
The video to Hey Ya! is equally conceited, though much more tasteful, as André 3000 portrays every member of a band that has a '60s TV audience of women screaming so hard in adoration that it makes Beatle-mania seem as if it was a rational, cold set of human reactions. And you really can't fault the dance-tastic, pop perfection of the song...
There is a whiff of the cash-in about this DVD. Hey Ya! is featured three times in various forms in an effort to pad the length out to an hour and there are no special features (interviews would have been nice) save for a superfluous set of 10 stills in a photo gallery.
However, if you and your wallet can get past that, this is still a more than interesting journey through the music and videos of one of the most innovative acts around.