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Outkast are among the greatest rap groups of all time. Full stop.
Among hip-hop heads there are few absolutes, but here is one that brooks no argument: Outkast are among the greatest rap groups of all time.
Big Boi and Andre 3000 have never—repeat, never—had a bad album, or even one that was less than fantastic. Even at the height of Andre’s spats-wearing, warbling-vocals-phase such as Idlewild and his half of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast were still light years ahead of even the most experimental rap crews. Bottom line: they made this look good.
And although rap historians will quite rightly single out LPs like Aquemini and ATLiens as their finest work, Stankonia is where they got the balance right. This is a hip-hop album that refuses to read hip-hop’s playbook. There are enough blazing verses to keep any fan happy, but they’re nestled in a multitude of different styles, influences and nuances, like the finish of a really good whiskey.
You can sum up Stankonia in three letters: ‘B.O.B.’ It’s the finest track on the album, and is comparable to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in how perfectly it has come to represent the group. Only Outkast could turn their drum machine on that high and make it sound good. Only Outkast could take a drum-and-bass track, mix it with a gospel choir and nonsensical hook, and turn it into among the greatest rap tunes ever made. There is not and probably never will be anything else quite like it.
And yet, this is an album dripping with quality. If you ignore the slightly annoying skits and the fact that it has way too many slow jams at the back end (“Please, Big Boi, please let me sing on a few of the cuts? Pleeeeease?”) you’ll find gem after gem here. Like the beautiful ‘Humble Mumble’ with Erykah Badu and ‘Xplosion’ with B-Real – both tracks polar opposites but both equally dope. Or ‘Red Velvet’. Or ‘Gasoline Dreams’. Or ‘So Fresh, So Clean’.
And do we even need to mention ‘Ms. Jackson’? Damn. Just buy it.
Words Rob Boffard