OutKast - Idlewild (Album Review)

OutKast season comes to an end today, as we look at OutKast's final ever album, and the soundtrack to the movie of the same title 'Idlewild'. OutKast hadn't released a project for 3 years or a joint project for 6 years, so it was interesting to see what the pair would deliver so far into their careers - the question is would they bow out on a high?

The production on here is decent but some beats sound a little bit tacky, such as 'Chronomentrophobia' which has this slow electro beat, synth keyboard and deep guitar bass but it's also pretty bland. André provides a great verse with some great lines as he hints at leaving the rap game, "This ATLien ain't got no time to sit and mope // Made up my mind while y'all made up y'all beds // On a cold wooden floor is where I laid my head", as the songs title refers to the fear of time passing him by. André's singing isn't interesting at all and is very time consuming, the repetitive hook is also annoying - luckily his verse saves this track from being bad. It's full of deep guitar bass' creating melodies, catchy drum patterns and jazz influences. It's their worst produced album however because all the others were immaculately produced, but there are some great beats on this such as on 'Call the Law', it's this jumpy drum, piano and jazz influenced beat and sounds amazing. Janelle Monáe has some poetic metaphors and great vocals giving us an entertaining listen as the track focuses on a relationship where it felt like it was forever but it eventually started to break down. Big Boi's verse was entertaining with a great flow and the whole song is so bouncy and enjoyable - a very good song. 'Dyin' to Live' has this beautiful piano creating a melancholy mood as André talks on getting away from all the death that surrounds him and living how he wants. His voice sounds much better on this, the whole track creates an atmosphere that has been lacking from André on this project and the female vocals are a good addition at the end as they sound great.

Lyrically, it's their worst performances in their careers. Big Boi is still great and has his moments with punchlines, bars and great verses throughout, such as on 'Peaches' where he demonstrates vivid storytelling and gives us an engaging story about a man who cheats on his girl as he begins to reminisces on the good times and their children. There's two features here with Scar giving some whispering vocals which sound nice as Sleepy Brown has some decent backing vocals over this guitar, light beat and staggering drum pattern. Big Boi has a nice flow and hook, the beat isn't too interesting but it's a nice song. André 3000 also has his moments like on 'Mighty "O"' where he states OutKast's status in rap being on top of the game with some slick wordplay and well thought out metaphors, "To whatever make money, now he married to that cage // Divorce is not an option and prenuptial is void". Big Boi has some bars and clever punchlines, "Now that's a virtue; 'cause pussy n****, I'll hurt you // Like the president's approval rating by servin' yo' ass with words, fool", as he flexes how 'fly' he is and how he'll hurt anyone who does him wrong. The groovy guitar bass gives us a great beat and the simple but catchy hook and solid verses get this album off to a great start. They just don't have the power previous albums had, and despite still being good lyrically there's no standout verses for the pair. 'PJ & Rooster' is a good example of Big Boi having some decent lines but it not being a standout verse from him as he talks about shooting people while André talks on how no one fucked with his style so he takes control of his own life over this bouncy guitar melody and hard piano which doesn't do much for me. It does sound really suited to a musical so that aspect was captured but as an OutKast song it doesn't do enough, André's vocals aren't appealing and again it isn't one of Big Boi's best verses but it also isn't bad. Nothing different flow wise as the pair have a great flow and Big Boi's delivery is still solid but André is singing on this project more than rapping again but it doesn't hit the same as on 'The Love Below' with less effect and mood too it to make it more appealing.

The features on here for the most part are really messy or straight up unneeded, such as on 'Morris Brown' where Sleepy Brown is absolutely pointless and adds nothing while Scar had a nice hook but his verse didn't say much too interesting as his verse ruined momentum and spoke on a girl he's attracted to - a boring verse but at least the hook was good. Big Boi has some nice punchlines, bars and cool references to past OutKast music as he reflects on their legacy, as the trumpets and marching band drums to match the hook make a great beat. It's a great track with a great flow from Big Boi and a nice hook - overall it's flawed but a great song nevertheless. There are some good features on here still, such as on 'Hollywood Divorce' as Lil Wayne drops some classic Weezy punchlines and a really enjoyable verse with great energy to it, "I really think they're stealing from us like a sample song", and Snoop Dogg glides over this beat with a smooth flow and laid back delivery as he uses a marriage and divorce metaphor for his relationship with fame. André talks on not splashing all your wealth like encouraged by hip-hop as Big Boi goes at his haters and critics who spread rumours and women who lie. The song's key theme is breaking up with Hollywood and leaving the spotlight over this decent beat with a nice melody. André gives us a nice social commentary, Big Boi has some mean leans and decent punchlines as everyone turns up (with Big Boi having the standout verse) to give us a good song. The features just don't add much and spend half the album fitting into the songs awkwardly and it's the first time on an OutKast album really we've seen that. One thing to note however is how the features stepped up and were all great on the second half of the album, such as Janelle Monáe having nice vocals, Sleepy Brown giving us a nice addition and Killer Mike going hard with a great flow and some hard lines on 'In Your Dreams', "That's a little piece of lead, taken to the head // That n**** ain't live, that n**** there dead // Taken dirt naps, sleeping with the fishes // Done like dishes, this a wrap like Christmas". Big Boi's verse is decent, the bass guitar, catchy kicks and claps gives us a groovy sound which is nice as the hook is also groovy and catchy and the verses solid to give us a great song.

The main themes of the album include saying goodbye, their status in rap and more life lessons from the pair, such as on 'The Train' where Big Boi reflects on his career and who he's lost along the way as well as saying goodbye to the rap game. The trumpets are nice giving us a soft bass but overall the beat is forgettable, and while Sleepy Brown has a decent hook the verses just didn't grab my attention despite being lyrically good and the whole thing feels boring with me not enjoying an aspect of this song bar the hook. A lot of content is around love and fears too, such as 'When I Look in Your Eyes' as André talks about a girl he desperately wants and realises this when he looks into her eyes. The jazz beat, piano and brass solo is great, I really enjoy this beat but it carries the song as André's lines are as simple as nursery rhymes here and there's just a lack of conviction in his voice despite his nice melody - a decent song overall. It's not really coherent, and some songs don't have a clear theme or just don't talk about anything interesting - perfectly describing the song appropriately titled 'Makes No Sense at All'. The track literally makes no sense both thematically and lyrically, "Razz-a-matazz, Thing-a-majig, whatchamacallit, bullshit // So and so, such and such (bullshit!) pretty much", as the very stripped back beat with fast paced bass and piano keys aren't interesting. The song makes no sense, the vocals from André are annoying - there's nothing to like about this track.

Other tracks to look at include 'Idlewild Blue (Don'tchu Worry 'Bout Me')' which opens up with a harmonica and catchy guitar bass, clicks and drums giving it a proper western feel to it as André is telling people not to worry about him as he tries to make it in his own life (which is how I interpret it). The lines are meh but André captures the whole western feel to it but it's not overly interesting but also not bad either. 'N2U' see's Khujo Goodie have a pointless feature and Sleepy Brown a great hook as the track talks on wanting to sleep with a girl with no feelings attached - just sex. The guitar bass melody sounds decent as well as the light synth keys and overall it's decent but that Big Boi verse just doesn't have the fire other OutKast songs and specifically Big Boi verses have. 'Life is Like a Musical' tells us that as time goes on, don't let them change us (André could be aiming this at critics, fans or OutKast them-self. The distorted drums act as a nice bass and the rest of the beat is very jolly and sounds good despite being a bit cheap, but again André's vocals aren't attention grabbing and it's another song which just simply doesn't sound good and make you want to come back. 'BuggFace' is about OutKast's music and how elite it is as Big Boi provides some vivid metaphors and a great verse, "Spreading strawberry preserves on ya nervous program". The beat is very party like and upbeat as it's a catchy song with solid enough verses and a nice flow from Big Boi.

'Mutron Angel' has a very mysterious way of wording things with a lot of weather imagery as the track sets up an almost end of the world scenario with these reversed drums which always sound good, and very misty/cautious mood created by the beat which reflects on the track. Whild Peach is a great addition with great vocals as the hook with André's backing vocals works really well and is good on the ear and the whole dystopian mood is expressed effectively. 'Greatest Show on Earth' is about a boy leaving his family to join the circus - there's excitement around this as the boy calls it the greatest show on Earth. André is pointless on here as Macy Gray steals the show as her vocals fit the whole circus cinematic being created. The chaotic and electronic beat is decent, but I couldn't get into this track too much as it was carried by Macy. The finale to this album 'A Bad Note' has this eerie and suspenseful beat with this faded electric guitar and hard piano for around 6 minutes as it keeps you engaged and waiting for this climax until you get bored of waiting - and then it's an anti-climax as André's vocals aren't very interesting despite trying to sound evil and menacing. The track is about a bad note not being bad to André, which may have a meaning that OutKast are ending their career on a bad note? I'm unsure why they'd want to push that narrative though. The track had potential but dragged on for too long and is a dud in the tracklist along with many others.

To conclude, OutKast didn't exactly bow out the way expected. They weren't working as a duo much on here and it didn't feel like an OutKast album, it doesn't even sound like that much effort was put in. This album had their worst production, least effort and worst performances from the rappers with messy features too, there's too many flaws to ignore. André's performance was underwhelming and while Big Boi was decent he's been better on every other LP. The album is alright, it has its highlights but also its low points (in fact one of the most mixed albums I've heard) - I'm glad they retired the duo before their music declined. The skits on here were also decent but once again not as good as on other OutKast albums where they push a narrative - not bad but a disappointing album.

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Mighty "O", Peaches, Morris Brown, Hollywood Divorce, Call the Law, BuggFace, In Your Dreams, Mutron Angel, Dyin' to Live



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