OutKast’s Stankonia (2000)

Artist: OutKast
Year: 2000
Reason Featured: #1 Album on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll for 2000, #6 Album for Rolling Stone’s Top Ten Albums of 2000, #42 on NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album
My Favorite Songs: Ms. Jackson, Spaghetti Junction, I’ll Call B4 I Cum, B.O.B.
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (4/5), NME (9/10), Robert Christgau (A)
My Grade: 93%

It’s funny writing about OutKast after their huge comeback. The fact they headlined nearly every major festival they played this year should serve as proof their dormancy post-Idlewild has been something of a hip-hop sleeping giant. There’s a catchiness, originality and accessibility to their sound that still sounds so fresh, so clean all these years later. They released some of the best hip-hop ever recorded because they threw so many other elements into the blender and still made the drink taste good. Stankonia, in particular, is a great example of how they could make their hip-hop authenticity pop with funk and soul.

Clocking in at over an hour, the skits and songs of Stankonia never stop running out of surprises. Boredom can’t really set in when every song has some hook, some vocal line by Andre 3000 or some clever turn of phrase (usually all three) to keep the listener engaged. Where Wu-Tang Clan’s The W set itself apart through its masterful use of horns, OutKast’s secret weapons on Stankonia were their mastery of keyboard atmosphere and Commodores-funky bass licks. “Ms. Jackson,” the album’s second most popular song after the anthemic and wild “B.O.B.,” is as much a perfect soul single as it is a hip-hop one. The same goes for “I’ll Call B4 I Cum” (yes, I am assessing a song entitled “I’ll Call B4 I Cum” critically right now and that assessment is “and he saw that it was good”) and plenty of the other songs here.

Stankonia remains so impressive because it’s as much Stevie Wonder with an edge as it is Dr. Dre declawed. It became a near-perfect hip-hop record because of how well it functions outside of the conventional boundaries of hip-hop. With Stankonia, you have great soul, great pop, great grooves, great comedy and great rap. Disagree with me? I’m sorry, Ms. Jackson. I am fo’ real.


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