As far as new artists are concerned, Frank Ocean certainly ruled 2012. Not only was his first full album, “Channel Orange,” released to nearly-universal acclaim, but he managed to do what was thought to not be possible: bring together the two volatile halves of Outkast.
Though it’s technically only for a remix of a song that André 3000 was already on, it’s still pretty significant, especially considering that the last official pairing of the duo was for the 2006 soundtrack to the perfectly unremarkable film “Idlewild.”
Though Big Boi recently released his second solo album, “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors,” and André 3000 has dropped some guest bars on tracks by Rick Ross and Drake for some reason, it was seeming more and more like any kind of Outkast reunion would never happen. When Big Boi hit the interview circuit for “Vicious Lies,” he was quoted as saying that though André was approached to rap on a few of the album’s songs, he “must’ve been too busy doing some Gillette s—.”
It was also revealed that Ocean had originally wanted “Pink Matter” to be an Outkast reunion, but André didn’t want a reunion to take place on someone else’s song. Despite the very public nature of the group’s disagreements, the remix eventually came out anyway, which is certainly a win in the fans’ eyes.
Make no mistake; despite the presence of one of hip-hop’s most beloved duos, “Pink Matter” is very much a Frank Ocean song. Before I had even devoured the rest of “Channel Orange,” “Pink Matter” was one of the tracks I paid the most attention to. The alliterative language of the song, from talks of dueling senseis and probably the only mention ever of the Dragon Ball Z character Majin Buu in an R&B song, is hypnotizing even without the lurching beat behind it.
On an album loaded with great slow jams, “Pink Matter” was already the best of the bunch before Big Boi dropped a verse on it. The song begins in a very halted manner, with Ocean discussing peaches and mangos with the clear intent being metaphorical. It doesn’t take long for Frank to get his unhinged-Marvin Gaye on, nearly yelling about “pleasure over matter” until you know exactly what he’s getting at.
The actual groove of the song doesn’t drop until two and a half minutes in, just at the point when you become afraid that it is never coming. But when it does start, there is nothing else.
For all the hype, the remix itself is pretty lazy. Other than Big Boi saying the word “remix” at the very beginning and inserting his verse in there, “Pink Matter” is essentially the same great song it was. Sir Lucious Left Foot’s verse is pretty lazily misogynistic at some points, which clashes with the essence of the song, but Big Boi’s natural flow carries it to the finish line. Interestingly, Big Boi’s verse is wedged directly in between Ocean’s singing and André’s absolutely killer verse with the only overlap being Patton’s quick shout out to one of his own pseudonyms as Dre’s verse begins. It comes across as somewhat of a pompous move, albeit a forgivable one.
The baton pass from Big Boi to André is a great moment, and even though their verses are unrelated and stitched together, there are flickers of classic Outkast here with both sides taking the idea of “Pink Matter” and going in opposite directions with it.
For André Benjamin, that means fitting as many disjointed syllables about love into the groove as he can. For Antwan Patton, it means attempting to match the funk presented in the song but with lyrics, detailing some scenes I wish I could type in this column.
Any real or fake animosity is hard to linger on with the amount of talent on display on the “Pink Matter” remix. With Big Boi’s verse falling into place, “Pink Matter” is still the same oozing slow jam it was before, but now there is the extra layer of accomplishment on top.
During the last couple of years, the bureaucracy of the music industry has often been the blame for the complete lack of partnership in Outkast, but it’s starting to seem like André 3000 simply can’t be bothered to work on music. Maybe Justin Timberlake was right in his recently released promo video about releasing music and André needs no less than 10 years to be in the right place mentally for another Outkast record.
Whatever the case, the world, or at least the part of the world that is aware that Outkast made more songs than “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move,” is waiting in baited breath for one of the best partnerships in hip-hop to continue to work out their differences. If they don’t, I suppose Big Boi can continue releasing solo albums and André can shape his facial hair.
5 Completely Inessential Albums From 2012
“A Different Kind of Truth” — Van Halen
“Kisses on the Bottom” — Paul McCartney
“Living Things” — Linkin Park
“Fortune” — Chris Brown
“Havoc And Bright Lights” — Alanis Morissette
Kevin Stairiker can be reached at email@example.com.