I’m not sure if there is another artist that has consistently exceeded my expectations as much as OutKast. Although I certainly enjoyed “Aquemini”, I find their next album “Stankonia” to be on an entirely different level. I think this has quickly emerged as one of my favorite hip-hop albums, and perhaps overall albums I have ever enjoyed. It has such a diversity of sound, and this makes more sense to me when I read that while working on this album, they essentially shut themselves off from the world of hip-hop and immersed themselves in Jimi Hendrix, Prince, George Clinton and a variety of different sounds. What emerged was an album rich in musical complexity while retaining all of the fun and bounce one would hope for on an OutKast record. “Stankonia” is ranked slightly lower than “Aquemini” on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, but both are classics, and I would reverse that sequence if I was voting.
The album starts out somewhat uneventfully, but really kicks into motion with the funky kick of “So Fresh, So Clean”. The more I listen to this song, the more I absolutely love it. Next comes “Ms. Jackson”, which is probably the only other OutKast song I was familiar with prior to diving into these records. It reminds of a Prince song, and I like it a lot, even though there are several others on this album I like even more.
The next song that really hit me like a hammer (literally) was “Spaghetti Junction”. On the right sound system, the bass thump of this track is truly filthy. It reminds me of a summer night in a crowded beach town where A1A is packed with cars, and one ride shakes the entire foundation of the city with the wallop of its bassline.
“Kim & Cookie” is one of the most hilarious interludes I have ever heard, and the “report card” every guy dreads. I’ll leave it at that, but it certainly serves as an effective prelude to the next song, which is a funka-delic lesson on how to do things right. Once again… I’ll leave it there.
“B.O.B. – Bombs Over Baghdad” is an interesting song title for a tune that preceded our disaster in Iraq by several years. On a much lighter note, the chorus features the Morris Brown College Gospel Choir on backing vocals, and somehow, they manage to sound just like a different set of Georgia natives, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson from the B-52s. How unreal would it be for any hip-hop act to actually borrow the talents of these two for a song? Oh well, even if my hopes were dashed, the Morris Brown choir does a fantastic job on this song, and I’d like to think they had an amazing experience working with Andre 3000 and Big Boi on this track.
“Xplosion”, featuring B-Real, has another crazy bass beat and prominently features at Andre 3000 at his best. My son is quick to rank Andre in his Top 5 of greatest MCs ever, and it is hard to argue with that after hearing a song like this.
Erykah Badu, who had a child with Andre, makes an appearance on “Humble Mumble”, and the crushing funk-rap keeps flowing on “Red Velvet”. One of the most powerfully unique song openings blows up on “Gangsta Sh*t”, which features Slimm Calhoun, C-Bone and T-Mo. Aside from their own success, OutKast helped to define and raise the profile an entire generation of Atlanta-based hip-hop.
As Andre 3000 pushed the boundaries of blending singing with rapping, one of the more compelling vocal tracks that also features Cee-Lo is “Slum Beautiful”. Oddly enough, I don’t love the last track, the title song, but there is so much to truly savor on this amazing record, I can overlook one track amidst a blockbuster blend of my favorite music, to include funk, hip-hop, and psychedelia along with anything else you can mix in the potion. This album is pure greatness.