April 26, 1994
Atlanta rap duo OutKast dropped their debut album. With tremendous buzz following the success of their single "Player's Ball," teenaged rhymers Big Boi and Dre looked to be the hottest thing coming out of the ATL. Of course, anyone who knows Hip-Hop knows that southernplayalisticadillacmuzik would not only kickstart OutKast's storied career; the hit album would also break the bicoastal grip of East and West Coast Hip-Hop, and launch the Dungeon Family into orbit.
Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin were still in high school when they started floating around Rico Wade, Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown aka the production team Organized Noize. "Dre talked about these producers," Cee-Lo Green says of those early days. "I was almost a part of OutKast. We talked about it. I introduced Dre and Big to DJ Win and [he] did a demo on them early on. But Dre found these new producers and was like 'They so dope. We about to get a deal with LaFace.'"
"I wound up singing for Sleepy Brown," he says. "And Dre walks in with Big Boi and Rico Wade."
OutKast may have been first to the land a deal, but they were the youngest faces in the still-forming Dungeon Family crew. Goodie Mob's Big Gipp was already a big brother to so many of the aspiring artists hanging out at Rico Wade's basement, and his eclectic sensibility was a major influence. Dre and Big were soaking up game at the Dungeon on a daily basis.
"That's what made OutKast so good. They had us." Gipp explained. "We'd been out here performing for LaFace trying to get a deal. That's why they had so much flair. They'd seen it."
"Me and Andre 3000 went to elementary school together," Cee-Lo explained. "We'd been friends a long time, [but] I hadn't seen Dre since we were children. I didn't bump into Dre again until we were in the 11th grade."
Organized Noize was, of course, the braintrust. Rico, Ray and Sleepy crafted the sound and built the connections that propelled the collective success of the Dungeon Family. They'd coined their name recording in the basement (aka "The Dungeon") of Wade's mother's house. And after taking their first steps and landing a production deal with L.A. Reid at LaFace Records, the Dungeon Family was ready to explode. OutKast would be the match.
"92, 93, 94," Sleepy Brown says with a grin. "That was a great time in Atlanta!"
Khujo Goodie of Goodie Mob remembers how hard everyone worked to get things off the ground. OutKast's success meant the Dungeon Family's success.
"It was a grueling journey but it was well worth it," Khujo says.
There was a cultural boom happening in "The City Too Busy To Hate" during the early-to-mid 1990s, and it was the perfect time for OutKast to hit the city hard. Big Boi remembers how a beloved college festival helped give the duo the high profile boost it needed.
"We launched our career of the back of Freaknik," Big Boi says. "We was passing out our sample cassettes right there. The Dungeon was right in the middle of where Freaknik was. So we walked down the street, passed out the lil "Playa Packs." We had dice, incense and a snippet tape of the album. We were out there campaigning, letting people know: Atlanta, we comin.'"
And there was a spirit amongst the Dungeon Family, a united desire to tell pure, Atlanta stories.
Occurring at a time when the spotlight on the Georgia state capital was growing, Khujo remembers just how much it mattered to tell the truth about what was happening in the streets. Even as the powers-that-be were looking to revamp the ATL's image.
"When it was time to [show] what was going in our city, you had this other thing going on with the Olympics and the gentrification of a city," Khujo explains. "The South is a hub. But you had people who moved away to find work up North. But they family still had ties in the South. At one point, we all related. But for us to be able to put those landmarks in the music..and be able to recognize and document in the music, it was more than just rap."
southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was OutKast's debut, but it was the product of the collective ambitions of the entire Dungeon Family. Cee-Lo's friendship with Dre and Big brought him into the fold, and Big Gipp wound up on "Get Up, Get Out," as well. The camaraderie within the camp was the life blood of the project.
His connection with Big and Dre is how Cee-Lo landed on "Git Up, Git Out." southernplayalistic... dropped that April, eventually going platinum and earning rave reviews from Hip-Hop publications and general music critics. Singles like the title track and "Git Up..." received heavy airplay on MTV and BET. OutKast had arrived.
Big Boi knew that their grinding had paid off.
"And a lot of people that came from Florida and everywhere else to come to Freaknik," Big says. "They took those tapes back and that was their first introduction to The Dungeon Family and who OutKast and the whole collective was.
"Along with pussy poppin' at Freaknik!"