"Ain't no town better in the world than Atlanta," said Dre "Andre 3000" Benjamin, the hyper-animated half of the stanky super-duo. Such sentiment would set the tone for the evening of entertainment co-starring Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, and a cast of assorted ATLiens. It was an ongoing reciprocal celebration, with the city showing its love for the hometown heroes, and the heroes giving that love right back.
Opening act Ludacris was the first to bask in the warm homecoming glow. Toward the end of his characteristically raunchy set, the Atlanta rapper, who once penned the line "even the mayor, reach up in the sky for the hoe zone layer," was presented an honorary award signed by none other than Mayor Campbell himself. Declaring Sunday "Ludacris Day," the award dedicated 24 Atlanta hours to the young artist, whose delicate cultural contributions to the city include the lyric, "I wanna get you in the Georgia Dome, on the 50-yard line, while the Dirty Birds go for three."
The city too bizzay to player-hate saved a piece for the main attraction as well. When OutKast took the stage to the charged thrash of "Gasoline Dreams," the diverse audience erupted in unified idolatry. Decked out in a full-body glittering gold suit (replete with cheeky oversized cod-piece) Dre bobbed and weaved around the stage like a funky robotic pharaoh, while Big Boi traversed the performance with equally energized, though somewhat less crazed, abandon.
The onstage chemistry between the two performers hinted at the creative equation that has turned out some of the most progressive material in hip-hop over the last decade. Big Boi and Dre worked together in baiting the audience, playing off each other like seasoned pool sharks. After a performance of "Aquemini" that didn't quite get the desired audience response, Big Boi addressed Dre, poking fun at the runaway commercial success of the group's most recent release. "So what you're saying is everybody here thinks Stankonia is the first album? That 'Bombs over Baghdad' is the first song OutKast ever put out?" When the crowd booed in disapproval, the duo rewarded them with the veteran favorite, "ATLiens."
But try as they might to prove themselves "down from day one," the crowd consistently got the biggest charge out of the evening's Stankonia selections. Performances of "Mrs. Jackson," "Humble Mumble" and current TRL-sweetheart "So Fresh, So Clean" represented hyped-crowd highlights.
In homage to the hometown, the stage was a high-traffic area on Saturday night, as OutKast continuously made room for special guests from their Atlanta-based hip-hop collective, the Dungeon Family.
About halfway through the show, OutKast protégé Slimm Calhoun took the stage, first performing "That's Okay," with Big Boi, and then launching into a mini-set of his own solo material. True to OutKast form, the placement of Slimm's performance had sly commercial subtext, as the first recording artist on Dre and Big Boi's Aquemini record label (his debut album is coming out this week) was given prime endorsement and exposure by the twosome.
Slimm stayed on stage and joined Backbone and members of the Goodie Mob, as OutKast launched into the special-guest laden "We Luv Dez Hoez," and "Gangsta Shit."
Finally, the show was brought to a close with the "hip-hop on crack" thrust of "Bombs Over Baghdad," as just about everyone short of Ponce de Leon himself flooded the stage in a blow-out celebration.
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