Somehow I’ve actually managed to listen to a substantial portion of Outkast’s catalogue at this point. But I’m sorry to say I’m still not really in a position to evaluate this album (or any of them) in relation to the catalogue simply because it’s usually a year or so between listens. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the other ones well enough.
So the thing that stands out to most, as it usually does, are the lyrics, and how both of them do not rap about the usual topics of hip hop. Sure, there have been more than a few rappers who did that before them, but these guys are often aggressive about it. There are also some pop culture references that I missed on their other albums. (Me missing lyrics is not a surprise.)
Their flows are also notable, faster than many other rappers and sometimes they do little things that you aren’t expecting, such as pauses. (Again, others do this.)
The production is weirder than west coast as you would expect. And, as far as I can tell, manages that usual southern thing of combining the quirk of (some) east coast production with a little more soul. As usual, there are more organic instruments on this than on other contemporary hip hop albums. However, as far as I can remember, there are fewer on this one (that I notice) than on later albums. That might have something to do with these guys getting more sophisticated as they go. I don’t know.
It’s still too damn long. And neither of them are the songwriters they would become – though the music is certainly more interesting than your average hip hop album, there aren’t that many strong hooks. I can handle the length of something like this more than other hip hop albums of the era (simply because I find it more musically compelling) but it still drags.
I agree with some others reviewers that it’s a bit of a transitional album. They’re arguably more sophisticated than they were but, musically at least, they’re not as sophisticated (or as catchy) as they would get.