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Dungeon Family tree 

An oral history of OutKast and the extended crew's first decade

Page 3 of 9

Andre: We had started to perfect our craft, meet after school and trade rhymes in Big Boi's auntie's kitchen. We had two meetings set up. One was with a manager called Don Ray, he's Cody ChestnuTT's manager now. But we met Rico first that day. He worked at the beauty supply store right up the street from Big Boi's aunt's house, so we just walked.

Ray: Me and Rico were at this hair products store that Rico worked at. We were having some creative differences with P.A., and we were saying to ourselves, "Man, we need two fly-ass young MCs that we can really get with and help shine, help nurture." Right as we said that, these two dudes came walking over the hill.

Rico: I was like, "What y'all got? Y'all got songs?" Then they put in [A Tribe Called Quest's] "Scenario" -- the seven-minute instrumental version -- and they went back to back until the tape stopped. No hooks, no errors. As soon as one finished the other one came up right behind.

Gipp: I played the tape in my Isuzu Trooper. They could really spit like an up-North rapper.

Sleepy: They had bald heads, and that was kind of crazy; nobody was into that yet. When they first rapped for us, I just thought they rapped long as hell. Each one had a rap for like 15, 20 minutes. I was just standing there, like, "Damn, when you gonna end?"

Rico: They reminded me of myself. One of them had on cut-off jeans; they had thermals, sweatshirts, some huaraches on. They were fresh; they weren't no ghetto Atlanta niggas -- no gold teeth. They were hip-hop.

Andre: The first thing Rico said was, "That's dope, come to my house tonight." Rico was the hustler, the mouthpiece of Organized Noize. He would say stuff like, "Yeah, we can get you a deal next week." And we believed him. So we went to the Dungeon.

Big Rube: It's funny, because the personalities were already there. Dre had the kind of quiet personality, Big Boi had this reputation for not giving a fuck -- talking about you right in your face even if he don't know you.

Big Boi: I thought it was going on over there. Ten, 15 people in the studio downstairs. Niggas just writing on pads everywhere, smoking their herb, 40 ounces. The atmosphere said, "Damn, this is where we need to be."

Ray: We didn't have anything. We used to scrape money together to go buy cigarettes. Everybody would eat off of a $3 basket from Church's. Ten, 15 niggas in the room, on the wood floor with blankets rolled up as beds.

Rico: Every day after school they'd come to the Dungeon, spend the night, go to school from the Dungeon sometimes, stay over on weekends. It was to the point where it started to get ugly. Andre's momma was just so concerned, like, "What the fuck is going on?" That's when she started making crazy comments, like calling my momma and asking me some really disrespectful shit, like, "What, you gay or something? Why they want to be around you?" She turned around years later and became the most important person in his career. She's a great person, so I don't fault her for nothing.

Cee-Lo: We happened to be in Greenbriar Mall one day, and my homeboy was telling Marqueze [Etheridge, Organized Noize associate who co-wrote TLC's "Waterfalls" with them] that I sing. He was going over to the Dungeon, so we decided to give him a ride. We went over there, and I sung for Sleepy Brown. At the time, Rico, Dre and Big Boi had rode off to get something to eat. They came back and saw me sitting there and Dre got excited, like, "That's my homeboy Cee-Lo I was telling you about. He can rhyme, he can sing." That particular day, T-Mo and Khujo and Gipp walked in the door -- I knew them from high school. When I saw their familiar faces, I was immediately comfortable.

Khujo: Me and T-Mo started fucking with them Crown Royal liquor bags, the purple and gold bags. We used to strap them on our belts and have goodies in them -- weed, a couple dollars. Just a little bag we used to walk around with, and it would swing on the side. We'd say, "It's the goodie bag, man."

Late 1992: OutKast makes its first recorded appearance on an Organized Noize-produced remix of TLC's "What About Your Friends."

Andre: Organized Noize had a relationship with L.A., so L.A. said he'd check us out. He called in the entire staff of LaFace and says, "Go." I'm nervous, but Rico puts in the DAT and we start rapping. I don't think L.A. got it, but he said he wanted us to do a showcase. After that, he told Rico he didn't like it. At that point, I decided I didn't want to do it anymore. Big Boi was like, "We came this far; we can't stop now." We kept on, and the buzz started going around town. Polygram had us showcase for them. I think L.A. got wind, and that helped us get another showcase for him. He gave us a single deal to put a song on their Christmas album. We decided to keep it real -- talk about what Christmas was about to us. "Player's Ball" changed OutKast's sound. We were rhyming in a way that was melodic and funky.

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