For all the
talk these days about who runs what in the South, not a single artist or group
can be mentioned in the same breath as Outkast.
Even the legendary Scarface and his
incredible career can't be put on par with that of Andre Benjamin and Antwan
Patton. Only a handful of Hip Hop artists in the last 30 years can claim a
comparable career. Outkast isn't
just the greatest group in Hip Hop history; they have cemented their place
alongside The Beatles, Rolling Stones,
U2, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Radiohead, etc. as one of the greatest groups
in the history of music.
With a handful of albums 4.5's or better in the last twelve years, Outkast brings Idlewild with seemingly unreachable expectations and never-ending controversy. Rumors, claims and debates of their status as a duo have been raging for years now and regardless, people still expect a classic from the two dope boys in a Cadillac. There is certainly something to be said about expectations; they have led to great albums being called disappointments and good careers being referred to as busts. It seems as though every artist(s) always drops the ball at some point in their career, unable to maintain the lofty platform they'd climbed to with past works. Given Outkast's damn near flawless catalogue, the expectations for this album are seemingly limitless.
Somehow, someway, they have done it again. As the accompanying movie would indicate, Idlewild is on some throwback to the 30's swing era. It's not hard to hear, the horns blast, the pianos dance and the bass lines walk. Always the progressive pair, they bring that 30's sound to the new millennium; drums did pound like this 70 something years ago. You know you've got a dope album when you've got 19 songs (25 tracks all told) and there are at least 6 songs that could be the best song of the year. The lead street single "The Mighty O" is somewhat of a return to their mid 90's sound and the first time Dre and Big Boi rhyme together in over 5 years. Hearing Dre dust off his mic and lace a blazing I-ain't-missed-a-damn-step verse is pure goose bump material. As is the ridiculous posse cut "Hollywood Divorce" featuring top notch verses from Lil' Wayne, Snoop and 'Kast. Perhaps the most promising song comes in the form of "PJ & Rooster." If Dre continues to lean towards singing rather than rapping, this is the type of material we could be privy too. As much as I love hearing one of my all-time favorite emcees rhyme, his singing is every bit as unbelievable on this swing set.
But of course, much of the album is solo tracks from 3000 and Daddy Fat Sacks. The respective lead singles "Idlewild Blues" and "Morris Brown" are as good as it gets, both perfect continuations from the ying-to-yang Speakerboxxx/Love Below styles. To little surprise, Andre is less prevalent than his slick-talking counterpart. In addition to the aforementioned he chimes in with 5 solo cuts that largely feature only his singing chops. "Chronomentrophobia" is the best of the lot, and not just cause it's capped off with him spitting. While "Makes No Sense At All" is a little too out there for my tastes, "Life Is Like a Musical," "When I Look Into Your Eyes "and "Dyin' To Live" are archetypical great post-Stankonia Andre works. Big Boi does more than his share, blessing the LP with some of the best in cuts in "N2U," "The Train," "In Your Dreams" and "Call The Law." Though it needs to be mentioned that songstress Janelle Monae absolutely steals the show on the incredible "Call The Law."
As it is their habit, as the LP draws to a close they slow things down with that "watching ceiling fans go round" music. Andre and Whild Peach's "Matron Angel" is as dope as any song they've done that fits that billing (save of course "Spottieottiedopaliscious"). I wouldn't call the album perfect, as I could do without "Makes No Sense At All" and the rather mundane "Greatest Show On Earth" with Macy Gray. But a classic album doesn't necessarily have to be perfect from front to back and Idlewild is every bit the classic that their previous works have been. If you think in 5 years this album won't be held in the same esteem as certified classics ATLiens and Aquemini then you're sadly mistaken. Only the infinitely talented duo known as Outkast could manage to exceed the ridiculous expectations for this opus. Here is to hoping that the curtain they alluded to on Aquemini isn't closing on the greatest twosome music has ever seen.
Check out J-23's review of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below here