By Paul de Revere
An OutKast reunion tour arrives as unexpected, even dubious, news to anyone familiar with the rap duo’s legacy. For an act of their massive size and pervasive influence, OutKast has only done a few major U.S. tours, co-headlining Moby’s now-defunct Area:One festival tour, a month-long trek with Ludacris as their opener in 2001, and the Smokin’ Grooves Tour in 2002.
Because of this, or in spite of it, plenty of rumors and wishful thinking have surrounded an OutKast reunion since the duo’s formal hiatus in 2007. Even at its peak, calls on the duo to, please, do a proper tour already, weren’t heeded. But why? Live shows, or lack thereof, have been a main creative rift between Andre “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, who formed the influential Southern rap act in high school in 1992. So is this reunion tour an opportunistic publicity/cash grab or a genuine, new chapter for OutKast?
In 1992, Patton and Benjamin couldn’t have foreseen just how large they would become, stepping up with their Dungeon Family crew as emissaries of Southern rap to the rest of the hip hop world in the late ’90s — among the first to introduce the very concept. OutKast are one of the most successful rap duos of all time, selling over 25 million units to date, including the diamond-certified Speakerboxx/The Love Below, a split set of two solo records and the only rap record to win an Album of the Year GRAMMY.
But Benjamin’s reluctance to bring that success on the road has been more of a personal issue. In hip hop’s world of hustle and ambition, OutKast have habitually missed the boat on touring opportunities. But given what Benjamin has been up to since OutKast’s 2007 hiatus— movies, television and the occasional dribs and drabs of music, consistent rumors of a proper solo record, mostly low-key guest verses — maybe he’s better suited for screen than stage.
One of the more heralded of Andre’s guest verses appeared on T.I.’s “Sorry”, off last year’s Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head. It was Benjamin’s apology to Big Boi— for whom he played the verse before its release— and OutKast fans for the personal, professional and creative difficulties, directly as a result of the duo’s touring difficulties.