(Credit: Alamy/Hip Hop Hero)

Features

Behind the Mic: The story behind Outkast's smash-hit 'Ms. Jackson'

Diving into the archives to look back at a classic track and enjoy it at face value is one thing; however, to look back and try to find out who, where, when and why an artist decided to pen a legendary song is all the more fun. Today, we’re looking at Behind the Mic to discover the story behind Outkast’s 2000 classic ‘Ms. Jackson’ and bringing you the truth behind the tune.

Outkast’s simply delicious anthem ‘Ms. Jackson’ was released in October 2000, and yet, somehow, it still sounds as fresh today as it did when Andre 3000 and Big Boi shared it with the world. The hip-hop classic becomes even greater still when you get to discover the real reason the duo wrote the song. With an authentic sentiment behind the tune, it gives the track a whole new feel to it—that once again, somehow, re-invigorates an already flawless track.

A stand-out track from Outkast’s fourth record Stankonia, an album that took the band to heady new heights and provided a whole new generation a unique vision of what hip-hop could be. ‘Ms. Jackson’ went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards. The single rescued the album from a commercial standpoint of lead single ‘B.O.B.’ which failed to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100 and only reached number 69 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, whereas ‘Ms. Jackson’ made it to number one on both charts, as well as achieving top spots in a whole host of countries all over the globe.

But what was the song really about? At the time, Andre 3000 was dating a singer by the name of (soon-to-be-legendary) Eryka Badu. The pair had a child out of wedlock and Andre was struggling to realign this situation with his self-perception. Like any true artist, he decided the only way to really break through to those casting him as the villain in the relationship — Badu’s mother, in this case — was to pen a classic pop tune.

The lyrical content of the song, in truth, was probably a bad idea if he had hopes of rebuilding his relationship with Badu, who, at the time, Andre 3000 felt as though was keeping him away from the child on purpose. After hearing ‘Ms. Jackson’, she wasn’t in a hurry to change her mind. Furthermore, Badu wasn’t particularly pleased when she initially heard the track herself, stating: “It hit kind of a sore spot. I didn’t wanna hear that, especially when I heard Big Boi’s verse. When I heard André’s verse, I felt very good because his verse was really, really inspiring. He just said how he felt, and it was his honest feelings, and I always respected that and listened to what he felt and appreciated it.”

However, on the contrary, Badu did note that her mother loved the song, saying, “Baby, she bought herself a ‘Ms. Jackson’ license plate. She had the mug, she had the ink pen, she had the headband, everything. That’s who loved it.”

The track was a way for Andre 3000 to convey his emotions on a subject that was close to his heart in the way that he knew best, “I probably would never come out and tell Erykah’s mom, ‘I’m sorry for what went down,’” he once explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But music gives you the chance to say what you want to say. And her mom loved it. She’s like, ‘Where’s my publishing check?’.”

The song would set up Outkast for an explosive few years. Following the widespread success of ‘Ms. Jackson’, the group would release two more huge hits, with ‘The Way You Move’ and ‘Hey Ya’, confirming their spots as game-changing artists.

Listen below to ‘Ms. Jackson’ by Outkast.