(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994), 6.5/10
ATLiens (1996), 6/10
Aquemini (1998), 7/10
Stankonia (2000), 6.5/10
Andre 3000: The Love Below (2003), 7/10
Big Boi: Speakerboxxx (2003), 6/10
Idlewild (2006), 5/10
Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot (2010), 7/10

Consisting of the Atlanta-based duo of Andre "Dre" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, Outkast coined a distinctive style of southern hip-hop, with its emphasis on soul melodies and pop arrangements, on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994), with Player's Ball, and ATLiens (1996), containing Elevators.

Incidentally, Player's Ball was the first song to use the term "crunk".

Aquemini (1998) was their masterpiece and one of the most innovative rap albums ever.

Stankonia (2000) marked a funkadelic detour with the hit singles B.O.B. and Ms Jackson.

Present (2002) is a (terrible) compilation.

Andre Benjamin, now renamed Andre 3000, released a pop-funk-soul-jazz Prince-style romantic concept, The Love Below (2003), containing the hit Hey Ya. The album's eclectic orchestral arrangements had a huge impact on hip-hop music.

Big Boi's counterpart, Speakerboxxx (2003), was more of a continuation of the Outkast project, containing the hit The Way You Move and the anthemic Ghetto Musick/ Prototype. Idlewild (2006) was an ambitious, sprawling, 80-minute disc (and film) that covered an impressive stylistic spectrum but at the expense of craftmanship. By the end of the decade Outkast had sold 17 million albums.

Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot - The Son Of Chico Dusty (Purple Ribbon Records, 2010), originally conceived in 2008, was his most ambitious venture yet. The brief sinister overture Feel Me starts a formidable sequence of creations: the booming multi-layered Daddy Fat Sax, produced by David Sheats; Follow Us, architected by Salaam Remi around the contrast between fractured Afrobeat guitar phrases and a sleazy synth counterpoint so that Vonnegutt's poppy refrain can truly tower; the hit single Shutterbug, for which Scott Storch lined up Big Boi's clockwork rigmarole, a robotic stutter, a languid Prince-like falsetto for the refrain, female whispers and so forth over the simplest of beats; and Tangerine, that Terrence "Knightheet" Culbreath smothers in exotic Afro-polyrhythm and quasi-psychedelic instrumental effects while injecting guest T.I.'s lascivious rap. Another highlight is Night Night, featuring Big Boi's trademark rapid-fire rap but mostly driven by DJ Speedy's surreal arrangement of horns and synths and lifted to a higher orbit by Joi Elaine Gilliam-Gipp's voice.
Outkast veterans Organized Noize (Patrick Brown, Ray Murray and Rico Wade) produce four of the most intricate pieces. Turns Me On is a satori of comic beat and multiple voices (during a break the girls wear their wigs and travel back to the 1950s). For Yo Sorrows almost chokes on its own plethora of events, notably tinkling beats and bass synth farts. The rap of The Train Pt 2 is modified to sound like different voices and coupled with Sam Chris' sweet phrasing against a romantic synth melody and a sitar-like guitar, Three female vocalists challenge Big Boi in Back Up Plan over a voodoo beat and turntable scratching.
There are redundant tracks: Andre 3000's contribution, You Ain't No DJ, is worthless despite its manic beat; and the silky soul ballad Hustle Blood, sung by Jamie Foxx on a dumb beat by Lil Jon, is embarrassing. Big Rube peppers General Patton with with symphonic snippets, a pathetic trick. Be Still, produced by Royal Plush (Rudy Govantes), is rescued by Janelle Monae's angelic crooning.
The wordplay, the way it is articulated (through endless shifts of register and vocal effects), and the way it is complemented by a plethora of side actors, makes for an exhilarating experience.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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