Certain Songs #1420: OutKast – “B.O.B”

Album: Stankonia
Year: 2000

In his review of Give ‘Em Enough Rope, Robert Christgau noted that their “recent strategy has been to cram their dense, hard sound so full of growls and licks and offhand remarks that it never stops exploding.” That’s kind of how I feel about my favorite OutKast songs from Stankonia — things like “Gasoline Dreams,” “So Fresh, So Clean” and the utterly without precedent “B.O.B,” which sounded unbelievable in 2000 and still sounds fucking great today.

A glorious mix of electronica, rock, gospel and hip-hop, “B.O.B” starts running as fast as it possibly can from the start, and it doesn’t even care if you keep up or not, while both Big Boi and Andre 3000 are both so amped that they’re just tossing words out as fast as they can over massive electronic beats and a church organ, or maybe a synth burble, so maybe you might catch a phrase or two before it zips by you — “1-9-9-9” “cure for cancer, cure for aids” “packed your lunch” “control like Janet” — or maybe you don’t.

And hell, they don’t even slow down for the call-and-response chorus, featuring an actual gospel choir doing the response.

Don’t pull the thang out
Unless you plan to bang
(Bombs over Baghdaaaaaaaaad, yeah!)
Yeah, Don’t even bang
Unless you plan to hit something
(Bombs over Baghdaaaaaaaaad, yeah!)
Don’t pull the thang out
Unless you plan to bang
(Bombs over Baghdaaaaaaaaad, yeah!)
Yeah, Don’t even bang
Unless you plan to hit something
(Bombs over Baghdaaaaaaaaad, yeah!)

And then, after the second chorus, “B.O.B” just goes insane: while the gospel chorus continues to repeat “Bombs over Baghdad, yeah!” over and over and over, a wah-wah guitar joins in, and right after that, there’s a shitload of DJ scratching and what seems like someone randomly hitting the “roll” button on the electronic drums, as Big Boi and Andre 3000 chant and mutter. It’s a complete and utter mess, and yet it all hangs together because it’s continually hanging on for dear life.

Eventually, after Andre chants “Bob your head, rag top” for a while, the gospel chorus comes in and provides a fitting coda:

Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival
Power music, electric revival

There was this weird thing where after listening to a lot of hip-hop during the late 80s / early 90s, I missed much of went on in the genre in the back half of the 1990s — like metal, hip-hop is a thing I dip in and out of across the course of my life — so Stankonia was probably the first hip-hop album I bought since PM Dawn’s Jesus Wept, and the power and speed of “B.O.B” was what brought me into the rest of the album, as well as made me look forward to whatever they were going to do next.

“B.O.B”

“B.O.B” video (single version)

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