“I’m just warming you up,” Kid Cudi said in between songs during his opening set Saturday night at Centennial Olympic Park. “We know who you came here to see tonight.”
If it wasn’t obvious at that point, it sure was by a little after 9 p.m. by the time Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton took the stage, a hometown reunion show a decade in the making.
After a triumphant set on Friday, the men who met as kids at East Point’s Tri-Cities High School returned for the second of the weekend’s three shows dubbed the Outkast #ATLast weekend. The crowd, many who had been there since the doors opened at 4 p.m., roared as V-103 DJ Ryan Cameron presented the duo with a plaque signed by Mayor Kasim Reed declaring Sept. 27 “Outkast Day.”
It was a fitting way to kick off a show celebrating 20 years of music from the guys who put Atlanta hip-hop on the map, and they put the reasons for the incredible staying power on display for a solid two hours Saturday: Clever, catchy beats and lyrics and mind-boggingly good delivery, with a dash of humor thrown in for good measure.
To that end, the black jumpsuit 3000 has worn throughout the summer (along with a platinum wig) featuring a different message in white lettering at each show last night read, “Teacher’s deserve more.” Get it? They also introduced themselves, although they cheekily acknowledged, “If you don’t know us by now, you probably never will.”
The guys charmed right out of the gate, opening with an energetic “B.O.B.” and sticking pretty faithfully to the setlist they’ve used throughout the 30-odd festivals they’ve hit this summer, including an appearance at April’s Counterpoint Music Festival in Rome, Ga., a week after their somewhat-maligned sets at Coachella that kicked off their tour.
Their Counterpoint set was good, but looking back it was clearly a warmup for the Centennial shows. The guys have had a chance to kick off some of the cobwebs over the past few months, and they sounded as tight as they ever have on joint efforts including “Gasoline Dreams,” “Elevators (Me & You)” and “Hootie Hoo.”
The entire effort was assisted by their impressive backing band, many of whose members have played with Outkast for years, including brothers Jason and Jerry Freeman, who got a workout, and backup singer Joi.
They also got an assist from Goodie Mobb’s Bigg Gipp on “Black Ice (Sky High)” and producer/rapper Sleepy Brown helped out on several songs, including “The Way You Move” during Big Boi’s venture into some of solo work from “Speakerboxxx.”
It didn’t hurt, of course, that the crowd was whipped into a fever pitch from the moment the guys stepped on the stage and maintained their enthusiasm throughout the set, singing along to every word and turning the more up-tempo tunes into a giant dance party.
Even 3000 and Big Boi seemed taken aback by the love and the sheer number of people who came out.
“It’s really lovely to see the city like this,” 3000 said. They closed with “The Whole World,” a song, 3000 said, they performed for “everyone – black, white, gay, straight” – and which indeed turned into a collective singalong for the diverse crowd, who, if nothing else, had in common a singular devotion to one groundbreaking musical act straight out of ATL.
The duo left the stage to heavy applause and returned for a bass-heavy encore of “Gangsta S**t” featuring members of the Dungeon Family, including Slimm Calhoun. It was a nice nod to both their roots and how much they’ve contributed to hip-hop for the past two decades. Even if they never put out another album together, they’ve left a lasting legacy that’s being cemented in Centennial Park this weekend.
The night was kicked off by three opening acts handpicked by Outkast, including the promising Atlanta act Raury, who did an impressive, faithful cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and the aforementioned Kid Cudi, whose set was cut to only 30 minutes for reasons unknown.
“They want to speed this thing up, so I’m going to do ‘Pursuit’ and then get the f*** out of here,” he said, referring to his hit “Pursuit of Happiness.” It would have been nice to see what else he would have delivered if given the chance, but as it stood, the opening gold star went to Childish Gambino, aka stone Mountain native Donald Glover.
Childish, who played a headlining show in April at Masquerade Music Park, came alive during his hour-long set, quickly losing his Hawaiian shirt while dancing manically to “Sweatpants” and the slinky “Pink Toes,” which he recorded with Jhene Aiko. He shouted out to his parents and cousins in the audience, and seemed to delight in the crowd singing along, especially to tunes off his debut album, “Camp.”
Andre 3000 was documented attending Childish’s show in New York over the summer, a nod of confidence in the fact that the guy previously best known as Troy from “Community” is arguably becoming as well known, if not more known, another addition to the Atlanta hip-hop legacy.
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