OutKast Has Forgotten Songs On Soundtracks That Are Better Than Most MCs’ Catalogs (Audio)
“Imagine being able to control your own destiny. Shape your own future. And then, one mistake take all that away. The reality of it is, you do control your own destiny and future, and one mistake will take all that away. Think about it.” – Big Rube, “Benz or Beamer.”
In the spring of 1995, New Jersey Drive hit theaters, preempted by an ambitious double-disc soundtrack. Disc one alone was populated with features from Redman, Queen Latifah, Heavy D & the Boyz, MC Eiht, Lords of the Underground and OutKast.
Directed by Nick Gomez and executive produced by Spike Lee, the crime drama centered around the thrill and consequence of joyriding and carjacking, as did ‘Kast’s contribution to the OST, “Benz or Beamer.” The track became a video single, one directed by Hype Williams on the heels of blockbuster visuals like Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” remix and The Notorious B.I.G.’s “One More Chance.”
Williams was effectively tasked with making a film inside a film. Unlike many other soundtrack videos, “Benz or Beamer” does not rely on the splicing of scenes from the movie in to the music video, giving it a standalone feel that leaves the record feeling like an authentic OutKast single. The saga opens with the carjacking of a Mercedes-Benz dealership, an inside job orchestrated in part by a dealership employee. The haul makes its way to a chop shop and parking-lot parties, but the most consequential scene comes when a passing mailman sees Big Boi recounting a story of a carjacking to a room of friends (most of whom will be familiar to Heads as Organized Noize and the extended Dungeon Family) and promptly snitches to the police.
The visual storytelling comes second, though, to the song itself. With no hook to speak of (replaced by a sample of Das EFX’s “Brooklyn to T-Neck”), “Benz or Beamer” is a true sparring between Big Boi and Andre 300, who trade ten-bar verses all underscored by the question “Is it really worth it?” Or, as Dre puts it, “Ask me if that material sh*t is worth your life / I don’t know about yours, but if so, you smokin’ pipes, right?” The duo’s signature art of storytellin’ really hits its stride at the close of Dre’s second verse:
“I guess, I feel that getting a Benz is out of the question / The world is yelling ‘Hootie Hoo’ but in my pockets nuthin’ but gum and lint / To sum the sh*t, up, I’m broke / Nothin’ but hope, so Big Boi, tell ’em what you toke.”
Big Boi then puts on his raconteur hat and begins the story that gets him tied up with the nosy mailman: “I’m travellin’ up to Jersey with four keys off in my trunk / And thinkin’ of startin’ the ways to get that motherfucker crunk,” he spits. It’s a perfect example of the aquemini’s ability to merge into a singular, seamless pairing.
As if the storyline, raps and joyous Bankhead bounce scenes weren’t enough, the “Benz or Beamer” also features a cameo from The D.O.C.