In first year university I lived a few doors down from a girl who played “So Fresh and So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson” on repeat for what felt like weeks. (There were probably other songs in between but I don’t remember them. I certainly don’t remember a single other track from this album.) That, combined with a friend’s roommate spending weeks trying to learn “Hey Ya” on guitar, etched an intense dislike of Outkast into my soul for quite some time. But then they broke up and I didn’t hear the hits from this album for years. So when it came time to listen to Outkast.
This is the third album of theirs that I have heard and I think it’s the most mature and consistent. There are still skits, which drive me crazy, but they’re mostly pretty short. (And some of them are musical! Imagine!) And the level of songwriting does seem to have improved from their earlier records. (There’s still plenty of immaturity, particularly in the skits, though.)
But the two other things (aside from their ability to write catchy songs) which always impress with Outkast are the relatively organic sounds and the diversity. This is a diverse record as you might imagine. The hits do not give you an idea of what’s inside – these guys are still rappers and still make hip hop that sounds like hip hop, not just catchy pop rap songs. And, like previous records, some of these tracks (a majority?) are performed by an actual band (or what sounds like it). As much as I can be one, I’ve turned into a sucker for hip hop performed by actual bands. (Or, rather, hip hop that sounds like it was performed, at least in part, by actual bands.)
It’s too long, like basically every ’90s hip hop album ever. There are too many skits/interludes. And I’m not sure the material is all up to the same standard. But this is probably the best album they’ve made to date. And, for me, it’s certainly much more listenable than a lot of hip hop I’ve heard.