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OutKast propels hip-hop to new heights


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OutKast, helped by its hit song "Hey Ya!" and critically acclaimed CD, went from successful duo to super pop stardom.

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Atlanta (Georgia)

(CNN) -- Melding hip-hop, rap, jazz, R&B, techno and even a little gospel to create a self-described "sophis-ti-funk" sound, OutKast has enjoyed a global embrace with the release of its latest album.

Hitting store shelves in September 2003, the two-CD set "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" quickly became a fan favorite and a critics' darling, the ubiquitous anthem "Hey Ya!" shaking the music industry like a Polaroid picture.

"It's a double disc. ... OutKast dissected and opened up to see what Big Boi's thinking about or what Andre's thinking about," Andre 3000, half of the duo, explained to CNN earlier this year. "So it's kind of like giving us our own space, our own CD, to let us do exactly what we want to do."

After kicking off this year on top of the Billboard album chart, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, both still shy of 30, picked up the Grammy award for album of the year in February for the double-disc hit. OutKast also won best rap album and took home the best urban/alternative performance trophy for "Hey Ya!"

Although their latest offering may have catapulted them into super pop stardom, the two have been creating the OutKast sound -- not to mention garnering critical praise and commercial success -- for nearly a decade.

Attending the same high school outside Atlanta, Big Boi (whose real name is Antwan Patton) and Andre (Andre Benjamin) were at first rivals in rap and lyric competitions, but later teamed up to form OutKast. Atlanta-based LaFace Records signed the Dirty South duo shortly after high school, and OutKast quickly scored a hit with the single "Player's Ball."

Beginning with its platinum-selling 1994 debut album "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," OutKast combined intricate lyrics and innovative melodies to create sounds unlike most others on the hip-hop scene.

A few successful albums later, the multimillion-selling "Stankonia" in 2000 sealed the pair's reputation as ground-breaking musicians and earned the group its first No. 1 ranking on the pop album charts.

The Recording Academy also showered praise on OutKast, with "Stankonia" earning the rap album of the year Grammy, along with the best rap group performance prize for the song "Ms. Jackson." The duo took the performance award again the next year for "The Whole World."

Having expanded horizons in music, OutKast is now taking on movies. Andre appeared in the Harrison Ford flick "Hollywood Homicide" and has a part in this year's "Be Cool," the sequel to "Get Shorty." A movie musical based on songs from "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" is in development with HBO.

But Big Boi and Andre say they're not leaving music behind, and aren't worried about where or when inspiration will strike next.

"We never try and reinvent the past. We try to look forward to what's going on," Big Boi told CNN earlier this year. "We don't have a set plan -- you might have ideas, or a different set pieces you might use to put inside your puzzle -- but it's like you always have to look forward to what's beyond from where you just came from."


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