Outkast Big Boi & Dre Present... Outkast

If Outkast's Stankonia is the only encounter you've had with Atlanta's Dungeon Family, then you should seriously consider adding these records to your collection. Displaying the rampant creativity of the groups and artists that make up this clique - the most well known members are Outkast and the Goodie Mob - Even In Darkness is essentially a showcase of what the underrated and influential Organized Noise producers have done and where they are going. This production team is responsible for a large chunk of the production on Outkast's first three albums. Ironically, the then teenage combo of Big Boi and Dre were among the last artists to join the crew, but Organized Noise's ability to grow with the inventive duo - from their genesis of junior mack daddies to reigning funkateers - is demonstrated on Big Boi & Dre Present Outkast. Apparently this isn't supposed to be a "best of" compilation but a sample of the group's creative styles. No matter, the album contains most of their singles, and the Outkast trademark of laying down an experimental funky groove that remembers to reign things in for a ridiculously catchy chorus becomes more unorthodox the later the release. With Outkast gradually assuming the production helm for most of their more recent work (under the name Earthtone 3), Dungeon Family has continued to work with artists in the clique who appear on Even In Darkness. Unlike the majority of rap compilations with nepotistic leanings, Even In Darkness is solid back to front, with minimal filler, and is rooted heavily in funk, soul and gospel. "Crooked Booty," with the irrepressible Cee-Lo (Goodie Mob) and Andre 3000 registers like a Stankonia aftershock, while the sticky slow funk of "Rollin'" and the fractured funk of the closing posse track "Curtains," featuring the newer, lesser known members, only reinforces that this crew runs the Dirty South. Despite the addition of three new tracks, Big Boi & Dre Present... Outkast is really only for neophytes, but Even In Darkness is essential listening for everybody. (Arista)