OUTKAST feat. LIL’ WAYNE & SNOOP DOGG / “Hollywood Divorce”

MP3 10 Hollywood Divorce.mp3 (4.96 MB)

“I called Big Boi on the telephone and said…, ‘Hey, let’s make a musical.’”
— Famous last words, as sung by André 3000.

Surf the web for reviews of Outkast’s new release and you’ll find writer after writer stretching both their writing abilities and credulity itself in the attempt to say something good about the sprawling, disjointed mess that is Idlewild. Some praise Outkast’s ambition—it’s a hip-hop musical! Some praise Outkast’s integrity—they’re multi-platinum and still weird! Some praise Outkast’s eclectism—marching band meets hip-hop!* Look people, somebody has to say it, so I’m gonna. [Deep breath.] It’s over. Outkast is done.
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I know it’s hard. We’re talking about a duo that’s been giving we thirty-somethings beautiful headtrips since ’93. But the truth is, the two dope boys from ATL have been on a long, slow slide into over-produced grandiosity and needless eccentricism ever since their fourth album Stankonia back in 2000. Of course, most of us (and by ‘most of us,’ I guess I mean me) see this in retrospect only. I was as apprehensive as the next person about the whole separate-but-equal double-CD thing. But somewhere between “Hey Ya!” and “Take Off Your Cool,” I went ahead and sipped the Kool Aid again. The massive success of that album (eleven times platinum and counting) put André 3000 and Big Boi in the enviable position of being able to do anything they wanted to do, be anything they wanted to be, and you’d think that would be a good thing. But who knew that Big Boi’s deepest desire was to be a potty-mouthed Philip Bailey? (Seriously, think about his last few hits.) And as for 3000, writers are running out of ways to describe the often cringe-inducing one-man freak show he’s turned into. Inevitably, Prince’s name comes up. People, please. Prince is as self-consciously weird as they come, true. But he’s also the most talented songwriter and instrumentalist in the last 30 years of popular music. By comparison, André is…well, I won’t finish that sentence. Let’s put it this way: the best thing you can say for André in the whole Prince comparison thing is, Prince can’t rap. That’s something, I guess, but it sure ain’t enough.

It doesn’t help that André is relentlessly self-obsessed. By all accounts, Prince labors under the weight of a massive ego as well, but at least he still writes songs about something other than Prince. At this point, Dré’s only subject matter is himself. I know, I know, calling a rapper ‘self-obsessed’ is like calling the sun hot or water wet. But honestly, do we really need to hear Big Boi still complaining about money-grubbing ho’s after his money? Are we really interested in Dré proclaiming his own unusualness…again?

That’s why I’m surprised that I was so surprised when the best verses of Idlewild were turned in by two MCs who aren’t from Atlanta. That’s right, the only real ‘press repeat’ moments of the entire album come courtesy of Long Beach’s Snoop Dogg and New Orleans’ own Lil’ Wayne on the unlikely collabo cut “Hollywood Divorce.” At one time, it would have been unthinkable: Outkast upstaged on one of their own records? Um, yes.

The biggest reason Wayne and Snoop outshine Boi and Dré is the former two actually manage to stay on topic. (Well, in fairness, Dré does too. Maybe I’m just tired of him.) “Hollywood Divorce” isn’t about an actual divorce, like, between a man and a woman. Nor is it about a ‘divorce’ of a band, say, between André and Big Boi. It’s actually about the pop music life-cycle, both personal and historical—a little something Ice Cube encapsulated way back when with the phrase ‘they’ll have a new nigga next year.’ (At the time, Cube was talking about then-love affair between MTV and MC Hammer. At this point, I think it’s safe to say point taken.)
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Wayne opens “Hollywood Divorce” with a subdued yet skitterish vibe that anyone from New Orleans will recognize as something called Postkatrina-itis. But when he raps “hurricane came and took my Louisiana home,” he’s talking about more than August 29th. And when he raps “I’m so not sober,” talks about putting $100,000 of shiny stuff in his mouth, and claims to have invented the term ‘bling’ (I’m pretty certain he did…for what it’s worth), I guess you could call it the same ol’, same ol’. But if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that his tone is, if not quite confessional, at least conflicted. In other words, Wayne might be walking down that aisle, but he knows his girl isn’t exactly what she appears to be. “That’s why I got a pre-nup,” says Wayne. But, “I do.”
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“I do,” Snoop agrees, picking up where Wayne left off. “But you hate me at the same time.” (Yes, I’m skipping Dré and Big Boi’s verses, which are sandwiched in between. If you’re a ‘Kast fan, you’ve heard it all before. I promise.) It’s kind of funny to hear a self-professed pimp like Snoop talking about being played by a woman, but I guess that’s the point. Hollywood’s no ordinary woman. Ultimately, the pimp/ho relationship isn’t about sex or even money, it’s about power. And in the marriage between artist and Hollywood, Hollywood holds all the cards. “I never ever though we’d separate at all,” Snoop raps, “But you played me.” As a rapper who’s seen both the highs and lows of superstardom, Snoop is in a better position to know than just about anyone else: doing the nuptials with Hollywood is a high-risk, short-term proposition. Sooner or later, once she’s gotten what she can from you, she’s going serve you with papers. And you’d best believe she has a high-powered public relations department and cut-throat legal representatives, both of whom are going to do everything in their considerable power to make you—the ex—look like shit. (You have to love the incredulity in Snoop’s voice when he raps, “Domestic violence? Is that right?”) “Used to feed me, need me, dress me,” Snoop concludes, “Now it’s so messy / Straight cut out and left me.” As the song fades out, I can’t help thinking about Wayne and that pre-nup of his. Good luck, my man. You’re going to need it.

—Mtume ya Salaam

* But it’s been done. And done far better. See our Rebirth Brass Band writeup from a couple weeks ago.

          Can’t say nothing…         

Do we really need to hear another version of this tired old song of self-destructive self-indulgence? When the wardrobe is more interesting than the lyrics, you know it’s time to quit…

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 24th, 2006 at 2:13 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “OUTKAST feat. LIL’ WAYNE & SNOOP DOGG / “Hollywood Divorce””

Uptown Says:
September 24th, 2006 at 6:22 am

Wow, Kalamu. LOL

Daika Says:
September 26th, 2006 at 11:10 pm

y’all said it…now who else is going to admit they agree with it?

Paul Says:
September 28th, 2006 at 1:36 pm

I think y’all may have sounded the death knell a little too soon.

While I agree that Stankonia, Speakerboxx/LoveBelow and Idlewild have been the three weakest Outkast albums, I don’t think their creativity is tapped out.

To me, it is all a question of motivation. You sell soo many records and everyone is on your jock – NO WAY are you then going to release your best work.

I hope that people do start writing similar things to what appears above – motivate these cats to go back to the lab and release a true hip hop record. Tell the ATLiens its over, and give them the fuel they need to make a focused and collaborative record.

Don’t believe me? Look at the Roots. The critical love affair with them fell off significantly with The Tipping Point. How did they respond? By dropping Game Theory – which is straight fire – a reemergence of what I loved most about the Roots.

i definitely think Kast can do the same. I struggle to think of any band or artist that realeases good material when they are swept up in critical hand jobs and swimming in cash. You need to fall off – have that VH1 behind the music “downward spiral.”

Now, I’m not saying all artists bounce back from that – but that is what you need to really test if the magic is gone.

And for the record – I consider ATLiens the best hip hop album of all time.

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