This was my first exposure to Outkast; I’m pretty sure I heard it somewhere on Radio 1, and was entirely blown away by it; soon after, “Miss Jackson” came out and I was hilariously put off by it. Even now, it seems depressingly weak after this, and too much of a sop towards mainstream tastes and singalong styles. Quite where my prejudices come from, I have no idea.
(I seem to remember, but could be wrong, that this song was banned from the BBC following the Iraq war in 2002; it’s possible I’m getting that mixed up with the earlier blanket ban on anything by the band Bomb The Bass during the 1990s Iraq War, for similar “Don’t say bomb!” reasons.)
Outkast’s Idlewild album, ostensibly the soundtrack to their movie of the same name, was depressingly uneven and a disappointment considering the hidden gem that the movie itself is. But Andre 3000’s various contributions to the endeavor, rooting further into a particularly American musical tradition that his earlier massive “Hey Ya!”, were well worth paying attention to. “Y’all know about the blues, don’tcha?” he asks at one point in “Idlewild Blue,” and it’s kind of amazing to think that this song’s very structured, syncopated version of the traditional blues riffs (both musical – listen to that guitar – and lyrical, with the whole “I live a life/But it just ain’t mine” posturing) might actually be their introduction to the blues. If so, it’s an easy entry point; the doo-woppy backing vocals and upbeat detournment of the downbeat genre sweeten what the blues have to offer, but still give enough of a taste of what the blues are to tease the ears of those who get it. After hearing this, there’s a lot of temptation to wish for a straight-up blues song from Andre, just to hear what he’d bring to it.