[midlife 150] #114: outkast “ms. jackson”

September 3, 2010

Album cover for Stankonia by Outkast

#114 Ms. Jackson by Outkast, taken from Stankonia, 2000 [buy from Amazon.co.uk]

Reportedly penned for the mother of Erykah BaduOutkast member André “3000” Benjamin‘s former lover with whom he had a son, Seven – Ms. Jackson recounts the complicated, bitter/regretful fall-out from a failed relationship.

It’s the lyrics, therefore, that deliver the song’s initial impact. That they are wrapped up in Outkast’s still-peerless hip-pop hooks, beats and melodies lifts it to another level altogether.

The word that springs to mind when listening (critically) to Ms. Jackson is “care”. Not only the evident care for the emotional well-being of all the protagonists/victims (in particular the child) in the tragedy the song depicts, but the care – as in attention to detail – taken in constructing the music too.

Let’s break it down. The reversed toms and snare, the plaintive piano riff and the devastatingly sparse use of electric bass (a characteristic of a number of Outkast’s best songs: witness Big Boi’s The Rooster from 2003’s Speakerboxxx) combine to create possibly the best R&B chorus of the noughties.

It’s not known how the “baby’s mama’s mama” felt about the song, but Benjamin’s trillion apologies were appreciated by many, many others.

This review is part of close to 94 ‘s [midlife 150] series, which counts down favourite music 1970-2009.

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