OutKast Warned About The Dangers Of Phobia 20 Years Ago…They Were Right (Audio)

To follow up Poetic Justice, John Singleton’s 1993 romantic drama starring Tupac and Janet Jackson, the Boyz n the Hood director released his third movie two years later, in 1995. Higher Learning confronted issues like racism and sexual assault through the lens of students on a fabricated multicultural college campus. To reflect its diverse ensemble cast and subject matter, a mixed-genre soundtrack was released shortly before the film, boasting original music from ’90s staples like Ice Cube (who also acted in the film), Tori Amos, Rage Against The Machine and the Brand New Heavies. The album also featured a song by Southern Rap trendsetters Outkast, then-relative newcomers who had dropped their debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik only a year prior.

Always ahead of the times, André 3000 and Big Boi provided the soundtrack with a spacey, heavy synth bass and 808 driven banger loosely based on the concept of paranoia. Produced by Atlanta hit-makers and fellow Dungeon Family members Organized Noize, the “dusty but digital” beat (to use Run The Jewels producer/rapper El-P’s terminology) would almost sound at home on an R.T.J. record today — and the song is oddly more reminiscent of post-9/11 dystopian Rap than it is indicative of its own era.

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For example, the track opens with a powerful prose of poetry recited by another Dungeon Family representative, Big Rube, about the nature of paranoia, as opposed to rational fear: “The feeling of being 12 years old and waking up in the middle of the night with somebody in your room / Your heart starts beating so fast, you can hear it pumping / The veins in your temple pulsate as you stare at the intruder / Then, after a few minutes, you realize he ain’t movin’ / So finally you let ’em hang and turn on the light and the killer turns into your coat throw’d over the chair.

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After describing another possible paranoid episode — preparing to combat a group of men perceived to be car jackers while waiting at a stop light early in the morning, when they are really only pedestrians en route to the corner store — Rube clarifies: “Many of us mistake phobia for true fear. Whereas fear is a gift from God to be used for self-preservation, phobia are obstacles strategically placed in society by opposers of positive existence. Through stereotyping, innuendo, false documentation and glorification, they’ll turn your fear switch to a permanent on.

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In a sociopolitical climate where fear-mongering is prevalent, this message is as important to remember today as it was then.