OutKast’s sixth album had to do double duty as a proper release from the hip-hop duo and a soundtrack to its movie of the same name. The movie made back its budget but was more or less a flop (it’s at 48% on Rotten Tomatoes), which left the album without much of an event to peg itself to. It debuted at number two on the Billboard charts, failing to sell more than P. Diddy’s reality show-concocted girl group Danity Kane’s debut (Puff wisely demurred from bragging).
XXL commented in a blog entry, “I can only imagine how many people are going to be out of a job once this shit fails to go platinum.” Five singles from Idlewild were lofted and all failed to gain much attention.
But taken in total—Hollywood divorced of its accompanying movie and the expectations surrounding ‘Kast coming off of its massive crossover hit “Hey Ya!"—the album is actually brilliant, though challenging in spots. It groans under the weight of having to house Big Boi’s more conventional (yet spectacular) rap tracks, Andre 3000’s weird excursions, and songs written and recorded explicitly for the movie, but Idlewild pulls it off.
Plus it boasts a fiery appearance from a then-unknown Janelle Monae on “Call The Law” and a verse from Lil’ Wayne, then in the midst of his career-redefining mix tape hot streak between The Carter II and III.
The album rambles toward the end as it begins to sound more and more like the soundtrack for a musical set in Georgia in the 1930s, but always adds some redeeming touch of weirdness to its show tunes. It ends on “A Bad Note” with Andre paying homage to Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” with a nine-minute guitar solo.
The album’s only flaw is the division between Big Boi and Andre 3000. Their previous album had seen them move their respective material to entirely separate discs and that trend continues here; the two appear on few tracks together.
Six years later, there has been nothing further from OutKast and it has no plans to record a new album. Though, Big Boi’s solo albums are more or less OutKast albums without any Andre 3000, who has contented himself with turning in perfect cameos on other artists’ albums and doing Gillette commercials with Adrian Brody.