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An Album You Must Own: Stankonia

posted Mar 27, 2011, 10:59 AM by Golden Knight   [ updated Mar 29, 2011, 2:21 PM ]

Posted in Music 

By Christian Romo


Picture Credit: La Face Records

So, which rap group is the greatest of all time? There were certainly none more influential than Run-DMC, none more powerful than Public Enemy, none more profound than the Wu-Tang Clan, and none more revolutionary than NWA. Every single one of these artists has a claim to that title, but for my money, there has been no group as talented as Outkast.

 Pound for pound, there is no hip-hop album more impressive than Stankonia, the duo’s fourth release. The album shows Possum Allawishes Jenkins (or Andre 3000, for short) and Sir Luscious Left Foot (Big Boi) at their creative peaks. It’s gigantic, not only in number of tracks (it’s practically a double album) but also in delivery. On previous Outkast albums, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to review each rapper separately, but Stankonia shows that even people as self-motivated as rappers can co-operatively create a masterful work of art.

 The opening track “Gasoline Dreams” shows a willingness to attack the American system like no artist after Public Enemy had ever been ready to do. “Don’t everybody like the taste of apple pie?” Andre sarcastically shouts, sounding like he’s ready to lead a charge on the gates of the White House. The group would show the same concentration of anger on “X-Plosion” and “?”, two tracks that could easily be features on a lesser group’s album, but tracks that nonetheless barely register on the radar of this one.

 Outkast makes this album profound by ripping down some previously untouchable barriers. The “I’m Cool” interlude is a chilling representation of a tweaking crack addict while the “Drinkin’ Again” interlude provides some uncomfortable working class insight (“man, they said a computer could do a better job than I could!”) Not all of the interludes are worthy of a listen, but some like “Kim and Cookie” provide some needed comic relief to the tough topics the group addresses.

 As disrespectful and misogynistic as most rappers are, it still shocks me that a song like “Miss Jackson” would be included on the album, much less be the biggest hit. We all hear stories of family abandonment, but from the male side? That’s unheard of. “And let her know her grandchild is a baby and not a paycheck”, Big Boi affirmatively flows while the duo makes a trillion apologies, hopefully enough to make up for all the hurt any man has given any mother.

 But the hands-down best track on the album, and maybe of the decade, is the mind-blowing “B.O.B.”. “In-slum-national/underground/thunder pounds when I stomp the ground” may be the most powerful opening line in hip-hop since Chuck D roared: “Bass! How low can you go?” Too much can be said about the following three minutes and the gospel choir at the end sings “power music/electric revival” as if they were announcing their presence to a greater force.

 Both artists have their strengths, but in the end, nothing else can be said other than they are among the best to ever rap. Big Boi shows that there isn’t another person with a flow like his on “So Fresh So Clean” while Andre shows that there isn’t another musician cooler than him on “I Call Before I Come”. Their talents combine to create a Lennon/McCartney effect where each artist tries to top the other to create a competitive, yet cohesive sound.

 The album ends with the longest track, “Stanklove”, a great use of instrumentals that drags on as if they knew we wouldn’t want it to end. Stankonia is one of those albums that can be blasted from the speaker boxes of a university lecture hall and can be appreciated by any fan of the music community. That’s an accomplishment every artist should be envious of.