LaFace Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


You know you're in for a mind-expanding experience when the intro to an album takes you to the center of the Earth, science fiction style, then brings you back up to the sound of a huddle before a big football game in about a minute.

Outkast's newest album, Stankonia, takes you on a musical journey unlike anything else released this year. So much so, this progressive funk rap group makes even Radiohead's Kid A, sound surprisingly serene. Sure, bands have tried to mesh a whole bunch of styles into albums, but few have sounded so amazingly unified as Stankonia.

If you have seen the antics of Big Boi and Andre in concert or their urban Dali videos, you know that they practically bleed funk. And their latest album is their funkiest yet. "So Fresh, So Clean" and "I'll Call Before I Come" are so smooth that they will probably be make out anthems next summer, even though this album was released this fall.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Outkast wants to do more than provide rump moving music. "Gasoline Dreams" and "?" fiercely address issues such as urban violence, pollution and poverty. The beautiful "Ms. Jackson" takes a great turn and makes some of these issues personal as they address infidelity. Like some of the best songwriters, Outkast are able to paint landscapes of imagery with only a couple of daft phrases.

U2 and Midnight Oil Outkast are not, however. "Snappin' & Trappin" and the gleefully un-PC, "We Luv Deez Hoez," would fit great at the "Up In Smoke" tour with such misogynistic and posturing kings as Dr. Dre and Eminem. Somehow, Outkast can make all of this seem perfectly sensible. Songs that decry narrow-mindedness and ignorance toward all things different are riding shotgun to songs bragging about sexual conquest and being "the coolest motherfuckers on the planet." How can they do this? Because they may be the coolest motherfuckers on the planet (Chris Rock, Shirley Manson and Tom Jones the only exceptions).

Like many rap and concept albums, Stankonia is littered with intermissions. A rapid-fire delivery of lines that command the "reverse" button is followed by a cry of "Break!" If this sounds like a blitz, that's because Outkast does just that throughout Stankonia. Whether it's the reflective moments in "Xplosion" or a relentless onslaught of "B.O.B.," Stankonia is a mature work that actually builds on what their last album, Aquemini, accomplished and takes it to another level.

Perhaps the crowing achievement of Stankonia is the confidence of two dynamic rappers and the amazing production of Organized Noize. Some bands and artists' risk alienating fans to pursue a different musical direction. Some do it because of self-indulgence. In Outkast's case, it's the confidence in their work that drives them to challenge listeners. Just look in the liner notes to what you are going to expect with Stankonia: "Powerful music/electric revival." If you're looking for the first benchmark album of the new decade, look no further than this one.

Rating: A

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© 2000 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of LaFace Records, and is used for informational purposes only.