Outkast Stankonia

Continuing their penchant for shattering hip-hop conventions, Atlanta duo Outkast retreat to their world of Stankonia, situated in the centre of the Earth, "the place where all funky things come." From this subterranean view, Andre 3000 and Big Boi cast a critical eye on perceived normalcy and bring their neglected concerns to the forefront through their audacious yet immediate sonic explorations. By starting with "Gasoline Dreams," at once a raucous reclamation of black musical heritage and a railing critique of the American dream, Outkast form the basis to freely apply and validate their contesting logic. Whether they suddenly kick the beat into reverse to extol the virtues of their lifestyle down to sartorial detail ("So Fresh So Clean"), or totally reconfigure the sound of Miami bass ("B.O.B"), they make rote fare sound radical. It doesn't hurt that their largely self-produced arrangements remain irresistibly invigorating. Their P-funk fixation has never been more apparent, but "Ms. Jackson," an instantly affecting olive branch to "Baby mamas‚ mamas" and their moving take on teen suicide, "Toilet Tisha," betray the influence of Prince. Elsewhere, they revisit the Curtis Mayfield meets dub shuffle of Aquemini's "SpottieOttieDopaliscious," on "Slum Beautiful," and consistently adapt their quicksilver flows. Unfortunately, not everyone who grabs the mic impresses and unflattering guest appearances from the Dungeon Family, on ill-advised ventures like "Snappin‚ & Trappin" and "We Luv Deez Hoez," don't add any value. However, as their numerous aliases indicate, Andre and Big Boi restlessly move from one style to another, as if anticipating short attention spans. "Speeches only reaches those who already know about it/This is how we go about it," asserts Andre 3000 on the nimble funk of "Humble Mumble," knowing their freeform approach has yielded another subversive triumph. (Arista)