There are songs that you vividly remember the first time you heard them. Most of the time these types of songs are radically different than anything else you’ve ever heard. They’re the type of song that alters your perception of what music can sound like and where it will go afterwards.
I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who had that type of reaction the first time they heard Outkast’s “B.O.B”. Even 13 years afters its release, it still sounds unlike anything else, even in Outkast’ genre-bending style of hip-hop.
In the fall of 2000, I was a freshmen in college. In between classes, I occasionally watched MTV in my room to bide some time. Most of the time, the videos were really shitty. It was the era of The Backstreet Boys and Blink 182 (who were essentially The Backstreet Boys disguised as punks).
I’m not a morning person. I need coffee to function in the morning and it usually takes back 30 minutes for it to work its affects. One morning, I was startled and taken out of my morning haze by a strange chant coming from the TV along with an absurdly fast rap. As my eyes adjusted to the TV, at first I just assumed I was still asleep.
It was too weird to be a dream. Images of purple grass and green roads flashed on the screen trying to keep up with the song’s fast-paced momentum. While most other hip-hop videos of the time exuded a laid-back cool (unless of course you were Eminem), this one reveled in its sheer flashiness and energy. Both Andre 3000 and Big Boi tried their hardest to make sure their bodies moved almost as fast as their lips.
But it was the music that was the most jarring. The rapid-fire pace of the rhythm was both radical and mind-blowing. The duo’s fast-paced flow was a feat of super-human vocal dexterity. It was a hip-hop version of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” – the words jumped out of the speakers like lightning with imagination and creativity. As if that weren’t enough there was the song’s hook – the soul chant of “bombs over Baghdad!” – and a guitar solo that sounded like it was played by a voodoo priest. All of it added up to a declaration of “instant classic”.
Right then I knew that popular music would never quite be the same. With a mix of soul, funk and a little bit of Jimi Hendrix thrown in for good measure hip-hop seemed to be a crossroads. “B.O.B.” paved the way for other artists to expand their sound beyond a great beat. The likes of other genre-busting hip-hop luminaries like Kanye West, The Roots (though they’ve been around just as long as Outkast), Kid Cudi and Common -just to name a few – owe a lot to this song somehow getting through the cracks.
Because the song is now so familiar, it can be easy to forget how different the song was (and still is) than anything else. Outkast may have gone on to greater fame with the likes of “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move”, but they were never this fearless or bold again.