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OUTKAST, Idlewild, LaFace
Outkast has peaked. They stayed at that high plateau for longer than expected -- or at least longer than most hip-hop artists -- but they are definitely on their downhill slide. The descent started on Speakerboxx/The Love Below, even though most deemed the album a success. But their division is more evident than ever. And on Idlewild it stings more than on the double disc (simultaneous hit singles can mask a flawed relationship well). The duo gets the ad for the movie of the same name out of the way on the first track, but other than the title, the two have little else in common. This isn't the soundtrack; the movie's a period piece. "Mighty O," the first track, is too, starting the album off right with Andre 3000 and Big Boi trading rhymes. There isn't much more of that the rest of the way. Instead, the album mostly alternates between Big Boi tracks like "Peaches," with its inspired Too Short cuss words sample, and Andre's continued journey away from where Outkast started. Combining the tracks on one album as opposed to doing another double album proves to be a bad idea -- and a disjointed listening experience. Andre's songs start to be a distraction to what seems to be a solid underlying Outkast album, thanks to Big Boi. (No doubt some Andre fans feel just the opposite.) Even using a cassette "B-side" mentality and putting one MC's collection at the front and the other's at the back would have prevented some whiplash. The beauty of Speakerboxx/The Love Below was the fact that it was really two solo albums. It's obvious now that the two shouldn't be pieced together anymore. The puzzle doesn't fit. An Outkast album is not the sure thing it used to be, but it's still solid. Apart, $20 seems to be the ceiling, a rating they accomplished last time out. They either need to come back together for real to reach that $50 classic level again -- or pursue solo careers.
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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