Da Art of Storytellin’ (A Prequel)

By Kiese Laymon

Issue 111, Winter 2020

November 10, 2020

Illustration by Three Ring Studio

“Da Art of Storytellin’ (A Prequel)” was the second essay I wrote when I moved back to Mississippi in the fall of 2015. My editor Maxwell George asked for a piece on OutKast to go in the Georgia Music Issue. I had an idea to write this weird framed essay, but I wasn’t sure the OA wanted an exploratory essay so I initially submitted a pretty conventional piece about Charlie Braxton, the Mississippi legend who taught me how to hear and write about OutKast. Maxwell said he dug it but he wanted more. I wrote a piece about Aquemini’s influence on my vision and art. Maxwell said he dug it but he wanted more. The day the piece was due, I decided to write the piece I wanted to write all along, exploring the way my grandmother’s freshness was part of what made OutKast so stank. Maxwell felt the draft, and to this day, “Da Art of Storytellin’” is not only the best essay I’ve written, it’s the only essay I’ve written that I’m sure is done. The OA gave me space to fall in a different kind of love with Grandmama and OutKast and the possibility of finishing art I started. I’m really thankful for that. This exact playlist is what got me through the revisions of the piece.

Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon is the author of the memoir Heavy, which received the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and the novel Long Division. A revised edition of his essay collection, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, was released in November.