They keep doing it. Year after year, album after album, Outkast manage to dominate hip hop and rap while remaining innovative and distinct. On Idlewild, as in the rest of their albums, they take rap, turn it on its head, shake it up and down until all of the change falls out of its pockets, throw it on the floor, drape it in a pink feather boa and sprinkle it with glitter.
Outkast is a remarkable rap duo from Georgia, who survive and thrive on being different. Words like “adventurous,” “experimental,” and “unique” come to
mind, as does “fucking wonderfully weird.” Their crazy drag-queen-pimp-dandy fashion sense is just a physical manifestation of their music. They keep taking chances without sounding redundant or cheap. Unlike some other rap artists who refuse to evolve as soon as they figure out what makes them money, Andre 3000 and Big Boi never compromise. The thing you are pretty much guaranteed to get from an Outkast album is a weird, self-indulgent randomness that pulls the listener in all directions before coming together to form a coherent and breathtaking work of art.
Idlewild is no exception. On this album, which isn’t actually a soundtrack to the movie of the same name, the boys once again create their own affected freak show world and take the listener through all kinds of adventures. One moment we’re listening to Andre 3000 croon away Luther-Vandross-style, the next, Big Boi is rapping about hope and the future, then suddenly we’re on the street somewhere listening to a man talk about why Outkast shouldn’t make movies. The album is disjointed and goes off in so many different directions that at first, it’s hard to put your finger on exactly where it’s going. But once the grooves kick in, you realize that Idlewild is something special.
Just like on The Love Below/Speakerboxx, half of the album is distinctly Andre 3000 and the other is Big Boi, except in “Mighty O” where they exchange rhymes.
All of the songs are fantastic and surprising, if at first a little confusing. When Andre 3000’s “Makes No Sense At All” starts, it sounds like an homage to circus life, but as the song progresses, you hear under the odd helium-tainted voice, a gorgeous, soulful piano playing freestyle jazz. His best song on the album has to be “Dyin To Live” in which he sings his heart out proclaiming that he is “Dyin to love. Dyin to play. Dyin to get out of here. Dyin to live!”
After Andre’s six or seven melodies, the tone of the album switches drastically when Big Boi takes over. He brings the dirt, the rhymes, the beats and the power. “The Train” is a song filled with hope and dreams for the future. Big Boi takes us through his memories, bad and good, and declares each a stepping stone for the next phase of his life. This is my favorite song on the album, because not only is the music great, but the message is heartfelt and clear. “Peaches” and the popular “Idlewild Blue” are great songs as well, but perhaps the most energetic and powerful song is “Morris Brown,” which drops you into the middle of a marching band performance during the halftime show. It’s gritty, energizing and wild.
Since their debut album, southernplayalisticadillacmusik, Outkast have continued to pump out hit after hit. They’re a household name for any rap fan, and have earned their place in music history by slashing and burning their own path through the charts.
Idlewild is just the most recent entry on what will continue to be a growing list of their exceptionally “fucking wonderfully weird” music.