From UNC Press Blog excerpting Regina N. Bradley’s Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South
While I do not suggest that hip-hop’s presence in the South is the sole marker of its contemporary existence, I do suggest that hip-hop is integral to updating the framework for reading the South’s modernity. Although southern hip-hop existed before OutKast, they are the founding theoreticians of the hip-hop South. Their lyrical whimsicality and sonic and cultural experimentation with their southernness situates them as the epicenter of recognizing a collective—though not monolithic—contemporary southern black cultural landscape. Further, OutKast’s moniker embraces their (initial) displacement in hip-hop and is an acronym for “Operating under the Krooked American System Too Long.” Their embodiment as outcasts can be read on multiple levels, including outcasts of hip-hop’s dominant northeastern aesthetics and outcasts as less-than-respectable young black men in the post–civil rights South.
Yet OutKast still uses rapping as a tool signifying their existence as young black men, gauging hip-hop as a lens for contemporary scripts of blackness in the present while referring both to the past and the future to annotate their southernness. OutKast’s intentional disjuncture of their southernness from the space and time vacuums that often dictate how the South is understood shifts paradigms of modernity and urbanity to reflect the on-the-fringe narratives of southern blacks. OutKast pivots on the use of the South as a renewable source of cultural currency and agency for blacks.