Photo Credit: Warwick Saint – Music

It finally happened: Big Boi and Andre 3000 are officially back together. It’s been a decade since this southern-playalistic duo dominated the rap game before suddenly deciding to pull a Jordan, bowing out while at their peak to pursue other interests.

Michael Jordan walked away from 3-consecutive championships to try his hand at baseball; similarly, Outkast dropped the collective mic at a time when they where comfortably positioned atop an industry that beckons rappers to challenge for the throne. Vacating the title was unheard of, unthinkable, and unwanted by fans.

All the money and fame in the world couldn’t keep them together. It was never about a rift, as critics immediately implied. After all, it was the only reasonable explanation to those that could not see the bigger picture. There was never an official announcement. Explanations of seeking new challenges and expanding artistically failed of to provide critics with the answers they craved. It just didn’t make sense.

The two have always insisted they are more like brothers than friends; but like real brothers, they needed to stand apart from one another to discover their individuality. As up-and-coming Atlanta rappers, Big Boi and Andre were always an odd couple of sorts. Antawn Patton (Big Boi) was the quintessential image of 90s hip-hop, while Andre Benjamin (Andre 300) portrayed an artistic persona that was mocked early in his career, long before he was acknowledged as a fashion luminary.

The combination of two different personalities that shared a sacred brotherhood unlike anything seen before in rap sparked a musical movement of epic proportions. Suddenly, southern rap had a distinct and respected voice in the hip-hop community.

It started with a little album called Southerplayalistikcadillacmusik (1994) whose name was as unique as the music itself. Gangsta infused with funk, poignant lyrics coded in southern slang, and a cynical-yet-uplifting swag was what defined the then-new rap tag team.

Since that album, Outkast has evolved. A lot.

Next came ATLiens (1996), which was instantly labeled an insta-classic. Aquemini (1998) defined a generation of crunkness, debuting rap masterpieces to mainstream audiences such as hard-hitting bass-banger, Rosa Parks. The duo dropped Bombs Over Baghdad (B.O.B) on Stankonia (2000), which also featured So Fresh, So Clean and Ms. Jackson.

The ensuing double-album, Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003), introduced the idea of two artists versus one group. Big Boi branched out to join up with Jay-Z on Flip-Flop Rock and dominated radio-play with The Way You Move. Andre 3000, however was not to be outdone; his single, Hey Ya! Won a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance, and the corresponding music video started a national trend of polaroid-shaking party dance moves.

The real success of the album, though, was proving that two separate artists that had always been identified as great when together were, in fact, two ridiculously talented individuals.

Idlewild (2006) would serve as soundtrack to the movie of the same name and would mark the end of Outkast… until now. They’re back! And they’re working on new music, which, by Outkast standards, means it’ll be something that’s not just new, but completely original.

With 40 live performances already scheduled for 2014, the Michael Jordans of music are back, and they’ve caught their second wind.