Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How Come Nobody is Talking about the New Outkast?

I will review this movie once it comes out in theatres

I finally got around to watching the BET Awards last night (I was about 50/50 in my predictions). The last awards presenters of the night were rappers Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast.

'Kast have been and always will be one of my favorite music acts, period. Their innovation has always been the key to their success, a rarity in this sometimes contrived and copycat musical artform called hip-hop.

When everyone else was gangsta in the early to mid-90s, they were rapping about aliens and Cadillacs, and Andre was wearing a turban.

In the late 90s, everyone else in rap was flossed out and rapping in shiny suits with bottles of crystal in hand. 'Kast rapped about civil rights leader Rosa Parks and Andre was rocking silver wigs and shoulder pads.

When the game switched to players and pimps and hustlas in the Y2k-plus, 'Kast got to redefining black rock and soul music and Andre was dressing like a prohibition-era Southern gentleman/barbershop quartet singer, or something like that.

Actually,I'd be remiss in trying to define Andre's style at all.

So, anyways, they were on the BET Awards announcing the video of the year, and Andre jokingly announced the winner as "Idlewild." With perfect comedic timing, Andre uttered "Nah, we're just playing," and they let it be known that the movie and soundtrack would be dropping in late-August.

That's right, 'Kast is releasing a movie and an album, both reportedly titled "Idlewild," or some variation of that name.

I've heard the first singles, Big Boi's "Morris Brown" and Andre's "Idlewild Blues," seperate songs released at the same time.

The songs make good use of each MC's strengths: "Morris Brown" bops along with a marching band drum line and horns, while Big Boi just settles into the groove as "D-A-double-D-Y Fat Sacks." I love rap songs that use marching bands (like Trick Daddy's "Shut Up" and TI's "Bring Em Out"). More rappers should use this sound.

"Idlewild Blues" is a straight up blues song with a thick drum track underneath. Andre sings with a little more authority than I've noticed, compared to his past singing efforts. It's definitely a different feel from the Big Boi single.

The release of two separate, solo singles is the same strategy they incorporated with their last album(s), "The Love Below/Speakerboxx." That effort was a double-disc that could have worked as separate, stand -alone projects. This time, they promise to release a cohesive album as a unit.

The one song I've heard featuring both rappers is called "Mighty O." It's a synth-driven, foot-stomping, hip-hop blues banger. Andre actually raps, which is a relief (I can't say I'm a big fan of his Prince-style falsetto). Big Boi does his usual pimp strut flow, and all seems well on the planet Stankonia.

But it's weird that less than a month before possibly their riskiest release (and that's saying a lot given the experimental vibe of their last album) I haven't seen a whole lot of public anticipation.

No big ads on TV or radio. No magazine covers. No posters at record stores. I have only seen the movie poster once, and that was a few weeks back. When they announced "Idlewild" on the awards, my friend turned to me and asked "What's that?" When I told him that it was their movie/soundtrack, he looked perplexed.

It sometimes takes a minute for the hype machine behind big releases to get going,so in two weeks this post could be a moot point. At the same time, this is Outkast. Everyone should be talking about their upcoming release like now.

I wonder if the surprise success of "The Love Below/Speakerboxx" prevents them from really being able to sneak up on people with a release. In other words: the public feels like they've already seen the group at it's riskiest, so nothing will be quite surprising anymore.

So, given all of their past non-conventional approaches, maybe the Outkast schtick has run it's course. We expect them to be different and envelope-pushing and brilliant. We don't need to hype them up because they're all but guranteed to deliver.

I'm probably wrong in all of this, but it's still interesting that a group whose career has been defined by the art of mystery and intrigue may have run out of surprises for its audience. Regardless, I'm still eager to see what they come up with this time around.

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