The music of a Georgia-based band OutKast has been continually marked by innovation, unexpected turns, a degree of boldness, and a fair amount of experimentation. The famous hip-hop duo of André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton has really expanded the boundaries of hip-hop and explored daring combinations of music genres and the ways to present music to the listeners. Their fourth album Stankonia was released in 2000 and has been rather successful among the critics as well as the audience. The three singles within it, namely “Ms. Jackson”, “B.O.B” and “So Fresh, So Clean” have gained a lot of praise (“OutKast Biography”). Album as a whole serves as a good example of how drastically different music genres can be combined into a coherent collection of songs.
Even listening to the album for the first time one is struck by the way the songs come together and how there is a clear transition between parts of the album. Those twenty-four songs are separated by seven shorter Interludes that mark the new part of the album (OutKast). These Interludes at the same time unite the different pieces together and help to create a solid and coherent body of music. It often feels like a dialogue between the artists and the listeners. That is why I believe that it is a more gratifying and rewarding experience to listen to the album in the order it is presented.
The performance throughout the album is superb. Under the definition of “performance” I surely mean not only the vocal part of it but also the music delivery, the sound effects and the way all elements are combined. Talking about vocals, those two performers definitely deserve a round of applause. They deal with quite different tempos, pitches and rhythms; and each song sounds convincing and emotional.
One of the album’s singles “So Fresh, So Clean” catches the audience by its smoothness and clarity. The song features Sleepy Brown and the transition between the parts sung by him and the duo are extremely natural and just blend together into a continuous flow. This indicates the high level of professionalism of the singers as well as hints at the level of close cooperation between the performers that allowed to produce this kind of outcome. The verses are clearly enunciated no matter how fast or slow the tempo is. In fact, this is the defining feature of the majority of OutKast’s songs. Such songs in Stankonia as “Humble Mumble” and “B.O.B.” reveal the most respectable level of performance. In spite of the fast-paced rhythms of the songs Benjamin and Patton manage to keep the voices clear and words discernable.
One of the other singles “Ms. Jackson” is a whole other story. It is so full of raw emotion that one can almost physically feel the pain and regret of the singer. It also has this wonderful blend of smoothness and rap that takes the audience on an emotional music journey. Finally, as a grand finale of Stankonia we see the mind-blowing song “Stankonia (Stanklove)”. In my opinion, this is where the band takes the listeners on the even higher level. This is where they prove that a hip-hop band can be diverse, unpredictable and successful in other genres. The song has a psychedelic feel to it, it hypnotizes the listeners as the verse goes on and on without pauses but with uninterrupted lyrics’ flow. The only slight drawback of the song is the longer pause closer to the end of it which then ends and the song picks up again. This might be just a personal preference but the pause does keep the audience hanging a bit and when the song resumes its closure does not justify the time spent waiting for it. Other that this little detail, “Stankonia (Stanklove)” is a worthy end to a more than an hour of good quality music.
Overall, Stankonia by OutKast gives the audience a unique opportunity to experience different genre blends within one album. One has to be open-minded enough to accept this kind of experiment by a hip-hop band. However, once accepted, this strange mix becomes a source of inspiration, background for reflection or a mood-booster, all in one album.