I am an extremely casual hip-hop fan. It isn't my favorite genre, but I enjoy it and have always felt inclined to follow pop hip-hop as long as I followed pop music. In my memory, Outkast broke through at the exact moment we needed them.
I've mentioned that 2000 was a transitional year for me and my memory has been refreshed that "Ms. Jackson" was released in October of that year, coincidentally the same month Radiohead's "Idioteque" was released. Huh. As I mentioned in that post, life was good. I was in the process of graduating from college, Pete and I were really getting to know each other and ourselves as a couple. It was like a fog was lifting, where we were emerging from a difficult time and could see a future for ourselves.
I think Ms. Jackson is kind of emblematic of that both personally and in terms of music culture as a whole. I think the late 90s was a low point. I recall being in my first year of college and it randomly occurring to me that Third Eye Blind had replaced the bands I loved in high school as what was "happening" in rock music and it shook me. Like, a sudden realization that everything had turned to shit. Does that happen to everyone? I remember posting once on Facebook about how I felt lucky to have entered high school in 1993 because my salad days were richer than those 4-5 years younger than I and a handful of friends 4-5 years younger than I called bullshit and thought THEY were lucky to not have to endure grunge music in their formative years. I guess it's a matter of perspective.
I've mentioned that during the early 2000s, all music seemed to improve in a coordinated way. I think it's the same for hip hop as it was for rock music with the post punk revival and I think Outkast lead the pack on the hip hop side.
The OTHER thing that I think of when I think of this time and this song is that we had recently been blessed by MTV2 being added to our cable package. A common complaint about MTV is that they stopped playing music, switching entirely to garbage reality-style programming. I'm not sure if MTV2 was started to respond to these complaints, but it was the logical explanation at the time. When it was first introduced, they didn't seem to *have* a lot of options. Or maybe they were just trying to mimic MTV1's start. They played an eclectic mix of old shit and we ate it up. We spent all of our spare time watching it (in our underwear, in Pete's tiny apartment, eating sugar-free popsicles). Eventually their rotations stabilized and they started showing contemporary videos, including this one. And this one got the every-hour treatment just like in the old days. Somehow MTV2 eventually became all reality-style shows too. It's hard to believe that given all the vocal complaining about their programming, they'd still switch from a mostly-videos format, but I guess that's a decent metaphor for Our Times.
Anyway, I love this song. It's honest, it's soulful, it's just really good. Kelly has been saying as she's composing her list that she has to ask herself whether she likes the song that much, or just really likes the video. Then she suggested that we do a video list next. This one is guaranteed to make both lists. It's brilliant.