Artist: OutKastTitle: IdlewildRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Robert Longfellow
Despite what its artwork may say, Idlewild (LaFace/Zomba) damn sure ain't no OutKast album. And therein lies the rub, though you should have seen it coming. Hip-Hop's greatest two man collective's bi-polar affair that was their ultra-successful Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album was supposed to be an anomaly. Showcase their solo skills for a taste, then return to true form. Instead, they have slapped "OutKast" on what realistically is just a soundtrack to their Idlewild flick and will no doubt mislead plenty of their fans. But to their credit, the music here is jamming, though they will be hard pressed to dispel rumors of their break up since Andre 3000 and Big Boi appear together on a grand total of two tracks.
After the duo get through ripping the zoot suit worthy "Mighty O" and invite in Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne on the gothic "Hollywood Divorce", the Atliens go their separate ways. Though Mr. 3000 may be awol along Big Boi's side, Sleepy Brown gets a two for one special. Not only is his own solo album, Mr. Brown, soon to drop, but he flexes his vocal stylistics on the albums better jams. Along with Scar, he helps Big Boi strut over marching band percussion on the stanky "Morris Brown" (produced by Andre 3000, by the way) and on the groovy "Peaches".
Andre is in his usual too bored to rap so let me keep singing mode. Dre's speakeasy inspired ditties aren't as immediately engaging as "Hey Ya" but the man's continued growth as an all around musician is undeniable. Case in point is the guitar and harmonica driven juke joint revival that is "Idlewild Blue (Don't Chu Worry 'Bout Me)". "Life Is Like a Musical" is another gritty but funky display of his improved singing. Andre drops a slick rhyme on the too short "Chronomentrophobia" (and also on "Hollywood Divorce") that will surely spark fans to crave him to rhyme a just little bit more than he has lately.
The album is rounded out by Dungeon Family guests. Organized Noize produces a number of tracks including the Khujo of Goodie Mob assisted "N2U". Purple Ribbon artist Killer Mike drops a verse on "In Your Dreams" while singer Janelle Monae kills the walking bass of the uptempo "Call The Law". But there are snoozers, though they're weighted towards the albums close. Macy Gray under-whelms on "Greatest Show on Earth" and "Mutron Angel" never feels like it catches its legs.
After you become comfortable, or at least partially accept, that this isn't the next stop in the official OutKast train of classic albums, you will be appreciative of the good music available here. The duo's "unity" may be in the idle mode, but their music is still kinetic.