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Artist: OutKast
Album: Stankonia
Label: LaFace/Arista
Production: Earthtone III, Organized Noize, Carl Mo
Guests: Goodie Mob, Killer Mike, J-Sweet, Gangsta Boo, Eco, B-Real, BackBone, Erykah Badu, Slimm Calhoun, C-Bone, Big Rube, Sleepy Brown
Stats: 2000, 24 Tracks at 73mins19secs
Reviewed by: Eitan Prince aka Supafly

'Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik', 'ATLiens' and 'Aquemini' - three albums in five years and all certified dope. In fact at least two of those can be (and often are) considered classics. So OutKast have quite a reputation to live up to with 'Stankonia', their fourth - and possibly most anticipated - release. Think about it, how many Hip-Hop crews have released four albums, maintained their high standards and yet kept reinventing their style - the stakes are most definitely high for OutKast.

The album, as a package, doesn't depart much from the sound they established on 'Aquemini' - a convergence of their pimped-out debut 'Southernplaya...' and the venture into outer space that was 'ATLiens'. Once again 'Kast present an eclectic mix of music that is held together by the personalities of Andre (the poet) and Big Boi (the player). As an experience, Stankonia is way funky, and yet succeeds in taking you on different courses, from the Earth into outer space and back again - with several tangents in between. If this album has a flaw, it's that the group's obsession with being creative results in tracks that are somewhat haphazard.

"Gasoline Dreams", an electric guitar-driven joint featuring some vicious flows and angry lyrics by our boys from down South, sets things off: "Fuck the Ho-lice/If you're racist or ya crooked/Arrest me for this dope/I didn't weight it up or cook it". "So Fresh, So Clean" is OutKast at their playa-braggadocio best over macked-out sounds crafted by Organized Noize (who surprisingly take a back seat to Earthtone III - Andre, Big Boi and Dungeon Fam producer Mr DJ). "Ms Jackson", the album's latest single deals with the unchartered domain of the "baby's mama mama" drama - an admirable undertaking that is belittled by its cluttered production and Big Boi's surprisingly off-beat rhymes. "BOB" (Bombs Over Baghdad) is a drum-n-bass-influenced groove that is so hype that you can't help but accelerating when this is jamming in the ride. B-Real from Cypress Hill joins Andre and Big Boi to drop some bombs on "Xplosion" - a collaborative effort that works, even though you'd expect these two entities to mix like oil and water.

The album, however, can't hide its low lights. "I'll Call Before I Come", despite its humorous take on being selfish in the sack, is undone by some uninspired production and even less-inspired rhymes. OutKast show their Southern roots on the gangsta-fied "Snappin' & Trappin", but Andre passes up on the mic and guests Killer Mike ("attempted murder dick, for ways I choke chicks) and J-Sweet are quite simply inadequate substitutes. For every OutKast slip-up, however, there are about four other tracks that are spot on. "Humble Mumble" with Erykah Badu is an obvious album highlight, while the Dogg Pound-ish "We Love Deez Hoes" is surprisingly tight, although the obviously misogynistic content will not appeal to all.

The album draws to a close with "Toilet Tisha" - a touching representation of how a young girl is ruined when she discovers she's pregnant. There's no rapping on this one, but appropriately Andre's crooning and Big Boi's spoken-word narrative convey just enough. Finally, "Slum Beautiful" and "Stankonia" are two melodic excursions similar to earlier OutKast tracks like "Funky Ride" but with a twist for the 2000, and bring the album to a satisfying conclusion.

Andre and Big Boi have always had an ability to appeal to a broad spectrum of Hip-Hop listeners and they'll maintain that reputation with this album - there's definitely something for everyone. Yet 'Stankonia' is far from being their best effort - you could even argue that it's their worst - but they haven't fallen off, and the truth is that, despite its flaws, it's one of the outstanding releases of the year. [8.5/10]

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