NAS1Outkast, one member of which is a self-described player and the other a poet, is an anomaly in popular music. Innovative, street-savvy rappers, the duo's appeal cuts across all borders, even within the feudalistic, highly competitive world of hip-hop. Dre and Big Boi's spectacular success as artists not only lies in their ability to pioneer new sounds with each recording, but in accepting their different personalities and building on their common interests — a shared love of Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix.

The team's friendship goes back to Atlanta in the early '90s, where they both attended Tri-Cities High School in the East Point area. A single child, Andre Benjamin lived with his mother for most of his early life, eventually moving in with his father at 15. In contrast, Antwan Patton lived with several brothers and sisters in Savannah before moving to Atlanta as a teenager. At Tri-Cities High School, the two quickly connected.

Though their paths momentarily diverged — Benjamin dropped out of high school during the 10th grade, while Patton received his diploma — they continued to rap together, eventually starting a group called 2 Shades Deep. While pursuing their musical ventures, the two did what most teenagers do — working odd jobs, partying, and running the streets. Patton, meanwhile, pondered selling drugs to get enough money for studio time, as the Wu-Tang Clan, Eazy-E, and countless other groups had done before.

Before that happened, however, the duo was signed by L.A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds to their LaFace label, shortly before Patton graduated. In 1993, the two released their first single, "Player's Ball." It was an immediate hit. Though other Atlanta rappers had garnered success before them (notably Kriss Kross), Outkast was the first to have a hit with specific references to its city, calling out neighborhoods like East Point and College Park.



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