Review Summary: Stankonia is immersive craziness: a confident fusion of genres that shouldn't fuse.
I’ve been a fan of Outkast (and I mean fan) from the age of 9, but I’m still hearing new things in their music. This is the complexity of the ‘Kast: their mind-frazzling funk wizardry is too complex to ever be grasped, but its effect is tingling infiltration nevertheless. I was listening to Promental***backwashpsychosis by Funkadelic – which everyone should check out, by the way – and was infected with an Outkast vibe. Googling revealed the front man of Funkadelic to be George Clinton: an Outkast affiliate. Stankonia is a fusion of this time-warping funk with southern rap, and it is done masterfully.
Stylistically the album is vast, but this should not distract from the skill of the two MCs. Their vocal dexterity is what transforms the album from sprawling to chaotic precision. Their delivery is agile and energetic (demonstrated by rapid-fire, ricocheting verses on Spaghetti Junction) while remaining sharp and merging with their eccentric backing; the result leaves the listener more comfortable than they should be. The duo are lyrically exceptional. They cover intense themes – war on B.O.B, suicide on Toilet Tisha – but a combo of groove, aggression and over-the-top slang counteract any sort of pretension. This is the genius of the record: Outkast at their peak are able to tackle emotive topics without being painfully overbearing. On Humble Mumble Dre performs:
“I met a critic, I made her *** her drawers,
She said she thought hip-hop was only guns and alcohol,
I said "Oh hell naw!”
There is a character to this album: the duo doesn’t bounce over their beats, rather; the two blend. The music is unlike any in hip-hop; Stankonia perfects the textural experimentation they’d been searching for since Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik. It incorporates gospel; soul; rave through its 73 minute running, but Outkast aren’t overshadowed by these wacky-for-the-sake-of-wacky backings. The album is messy, but the duo is a mess. Aimed at eccentricity and diversity, this self awareness defines the album as a sort of immersive craziness, rather than a clutter. Every song is oddly controlled: the album opens with screaming guitars on Gasoline Dreams, but Dre’s energy fuses aggression to the vast body of funk that follows. These dichotomies are made to work.
Stankonia is ludicrously charismatic. It’s the flamboyance of the two MCs - Andre’s alias is ‘Possum Aloysius Jenkins’ – that transforms Stankonia from an absurd experiment to magnetic funk, infiltrative as only great albums are.