Outkast's 'Stankonia' a spiritual and innovative leap forward

by Tim Forcella and Kane Russell | 11/6/00 6:00am

Hip-hop groups attempting to stay on the cutting edge will now have to work a little harder. Outkast's fourth offering, "Stankonia," has pushed today's limits that much further. More than a change in mentality, "Stankonia" is simply the next step in Outkast's evolution. Lesser known tracks off of "Aquemini," Outkast's third album, integrated futuristic ("Chonky Fire") and P-funk ("Synthesizer") techniques.

Building on top of this foundation, Outkast has added a few more stories. Outkast defines "Stankonia" as the "place from which all funky things come." Luckily, we're able to follow Outkast on their journey to this futuristic origin of funk.

"Bombs over Baghdad" preceded the album in clubs all over America. The infectious beat commands the listener to dance all over the room. Comparisons to "Rosa Parks" are inevitable. Both tracks electrify a crowd easily. "Bombs over Baghdad" supercedes "Rosa Parks" with its blinding speed and macho baseline. Though it does not have as much commercial appeal as "Parks," "BOB" will still attract mainstream hip-hop listeners while maintaining the new sound signature to the album.

"Ms. Jackson" is the second single off of the album, continuing the Outkast storytelling tradition seen on tracks like "The Art of Storytelling" off of "Aquemini." An apology to mothers of single mothers encompasses Ms. Jackson's story. Though much slower, it may be more memorable than "BOB" because of Andre's signature voice over the chorus and bridge.

Like all other Outkast albums, "Stankonia" includes hidden gems that might never be released as singles. "Humble Mumble" features Erykah Badu who, coincidentally, is the mother of Andre's child. This fast-paced track is highly metaphorical and is indicative of the new production techniques developed by Outkast over this past year.

"I'll Call Before I Come" is arguably the best track on the album because of its longer-lasting appeal. It has a distinct P-funk edge complemented with reality-based content.

The Goodie Mob, longtime friends of Outkast, appears throughout this album. Each of the four appears individually on different songs on the album. Most notable is Khujo's verse on "Gasoline Dreams," which opens the album.

The most pleasing aspect of the new album is the fact that Outkast produces almost the entire album. Organized Noize produced much of the group's earlier work. "Aquemini" featured production by Outkast on more than half of the album. "Stankonia" features Organized Noize on only three of the album's 24 tracks.

The new production team of Earthtone Three, comprised of Outkast and Mr. DJ, handled the bulk of the album, enabling Outkast to be more spiritually involved in the music.

"Stankonia," despite its exceptional qualities, may not be for the average hip-hop listener. The album's ventures away from mainstream hip-hop may discourage radio listeners. People looking for 24 "Rosa Parks" will be seriously disappointed.

Long-time Outkast fans and people who can appreciate innovation, however, will feel that this album takes a giant leap in the right direction.

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