Outkast - Idlewild

2006-12-18 16:22
Outkast (André 3000 and Big Boi) has made a kind of hip-hop gangsta Oklahoma of an album. What do the music marketeers call this? "Urban Country"? It's the soundtrack to their self-promoting recent movie of the same name (which was a bit of a turkey by most accounts).

Outkast may not have made a great film, but they have very nearly made a brilliant album. Catchy songs, inventive concept, and great collaborations with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Macy Gray to Whild Peach. Of course, this is exactly the formula they're so famous for.

On the other hand, Outkast may have taken the "musical" concept thing too far. They open the album with a supposedly "funny" intro skit about acting that is unlikely to provoke a laugh even the first time you hear it. And these unfunny interludes are scattered throughout. This is against the ethic of album making. Even if you're pretentious enough to enjoy the funny voices, do you really want to hear them the fifth time you play the CD? The prominence of this hip-hop cliché is one of the mistakes that mean Idlewild is not their best album so far.

Luckily, thanks to digital technology, we can all correct Outkast's mistakes before they annoy us so much that we never buy another album. This is done by removing everything with the word "(Interlude)" next to it from the playlist. You know how.

Then, once you've cleared all the crap out of the tracklisting, Idlewild becomes a satisfying, even rousing listen that pushes boundaries while remaining entertaining and accessible. "Might-O", with its "Aidi ya di ya / odi yo di yo di yo" opening steams along nicely and it's just the first of many awesome songs.

"Idlewild Blue" is a funky, meaty number. The itchy harmonies of "N2U" are wonderfully addictive - here's a song that's produced to be played over and over, even though the lyrics are, to put it mildly, inane. It's even rare enough to be forgiven for the eye-popping spelling of its title. Percussion and melody team up to blow you away on "Morris Brown". Unlike a lot of chart-storming releases, "Idlewild" doesn't trail off towards the end. Some of the best tracks are hidden in the last third of the tracklisting.

Verdict? An essential in you music collection. Even if it suffers from being a little self-important, even self-indulgent at times, at least it doesn't suffer from not being one of the most important, and fun, hip-hop releases of 2006.

- Jean Barker


Ambitious but flawed, at turns stunning, maddening and confusing, Idlewild is a curate's egg - but the good parts are implausibly delicious
- Alex Petridis for The Guardian

The rooster is going to jump off the mic stand when he hears this piece of crap
- Tom Breihan for the Village Voice

Anyone hoping for the return of the spark that made their great stuff great is, sadly, as big a fool as the kid sitting up nights waiting for his folks to get back together.
- Jess Harvell for Pitchforkmedia

Related link

Outkast's Speakerboxxx / The Love Below

Five out of five for packaging and concept. Outkast's seventh album Idlewild (sounds like a country album?) cover shows a player of an upright piano, with a cigar-smoking club owner type in the background, and a cock (a male chicken) on a microphone on the back.

Abram Ndlovu 2007/05/31 4:17 PM
Acceptible I think that this album was a welcomed break from all the "bling-Bling" naked-girl rap that a lot of people are releasing these days. I love the drumline on Morris Brown. The 60's influence on Call the Law gets my finders snapping. Mutron Angel brings tears to my eyes. Not quite hiphop, but a pretty enjoyable album to drive to.
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