OutKast feat. Killer Mike – “The Whole World”

Released: 11.27.01

Peak: #19

What the whole world loves:

When you don’t get down

Or don’t stay down, at least. Though not given to Oprah-speak about “positivity.” OutKast are some chin-up motherfuckers. Boi is committed to “pursuing all that’s pursuable/ Doing God willing all things that are do-able”; Dre advises a hater to “Look forward not behind and you’ll see what you find.” As for Killer Mike, “Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss/  I catch a beat running like Randy Moss” is just one sick rhyme.

When you make that sound

Though “The Whole World” wasn’t as epochal as “Ms. Jackson” or “Hey Ya!” its style is all but unique in the OutKast oeuvre. The chorus of helium-lunged munchkins and guttural trolls, and the toy piano plinking the melody, suggest a baroque novelty period between Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below. But the only other recorded evidence is “Land of a Million Drums,” which, depending on who you ask, is either their “Addams Family Rap” (wrong) or their “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” (yes!)

When you’re in the news

Rappers are ambitious by default if not definition. But what set OutKast apart was the scope of their ambition: they didn’t want the South or the radio or the rap game or but “the whole world,” expressed not in terms of “taking over,” but of winning our love. And yet, the video combines elements of the circus, boxing match, and minstrel show, as though the MCs are uncertain what form of entertainment they provide, and hinting at the fickleness of stardom, as though they can’t help but wonder, when doesn’t the whole world love it?

When you sing the blues

All extraterrestrial flash aside, OutKast were never escapist–or, rather, they were explicit about how temporary a solution escapism must prove. Dre only listens to the radio for sports and weather. Boi chugs Pepto Bismol to watch CNN. Airport layoffs, political sideshows surface in their rhymes. No wonder Andre admits “Yeah I’m afraid, like I’m scared as a dog,” and asks us to sing along in solidarity. Outside, the whole world is turning. Without warning, it can turn on you.

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  • Craig B  On March 13, 2010 at 7:21 am

    I like Outkast, but I’ve never liked their music. Still don’t apparently. Their sound is overtly accessible belied by confusing elements. My problem is, to me they just sound confused.

  • Mike Price  On March 15, 2010 at 4:21 am

    I have no idea who you are or what your qualifications are as a music critic or as a writer (not that I feel any are needed), but this blog is fantastic. That’s all, really.

  • usefulnoise  On March 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Thanks Mike! Glad you like it. Just realized fwiw that my name isn’t anywhere on this blog. Wasn’t trying to be mysterious or anything–just preoccupied. Anyway, my name’s Keith Harris, and I wrote about music a bunch of places from 98-06 or so, though I’ve been semi-retired since.

    As for you Craig–don’t like Deadwood, don’t like OutKast, you’re a hard man to please. Seriously, though, I understand what you mean about the “confusion” — too many syllables per line, too many sound effects piled on top of the hooks, etc. I guess to me it sound more like overabundance rather than just a mess.

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