Album: OutKast <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Idlewild, LA FACE
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The Independent Culture

Given the way that both rappers, especially Andre 3000, proved to possess such potent visual charisma during the promotion of the duo's eleven million-selling Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, it's hardly surprising that OutKast have opted to follow many of their colleagues into the movies, starring in the forthcoming Idlewild.

The film's perennial gangster theme - a Prohibition-era tale involving the classic combination of musicians and mobsters - enables Big Boi and Dre to import modern hip-hop sensibilities into the period narrative, via the blend of jazz, blues and rap stylings that comprises this expanded soundtrack. It's a neat trick that allows the songs to reflect back and forth across both past and present, implying the essentially unchanged nature of the black hustler experience: the pressures and transgressions dealt with in tracks like "Peaches" and "Call The Law" apply equally to then and now.

In strictly musical terms, this entails strategies such as adapting Cab Calloway's "hi-de-hi" catchphrase into the group's immodest self-assessment "Mighty 'O'", and employing a cute jazz horn arrangement to illustrate their characters in "PJ And Rooster". At their best, the results fizz with imagination on tracks like "Morris Brown" - an infectious combination of slick vocal refrain, free-flowing Big Boi rap, and funky groove incorporating - and "Call The Law", where Janelle Monae's accomplished Pointer Sisters-style vocal rides a swingy, retro-nuevo jazz piano arrangement.

The approach allows Andre 3000, in particular, plenty of scope to demonstrate his diverse musical skills, coming on like a latterday Fats Waller on the jaunty piano piece "When I Look In Your Eyes", a Bootsy/Clinton freak on the crazy "Makes No Sense At All", and Sly Stone on the relaxed funk-blues joint "Chronomentrophobia", which finds him mulling over his situation: "Got tired of being broke/This A-L-I-E-N got no time to sit and mope... Born in 1975, never thought I'd make it this far/Still battlin' in this racial war". As on "The Love Below", he's the one who stretches the OutKast style to its furthest extent here, ending proceedings on "A Bad Note", a psychedelic-soul-jazz excursion wild enough to have been on Common's Electric Circus.

But despite his more limited abilities, it's Big Boi who makes the biggest impact here with "The Train", where he reflects on childhood, fatherhood and death over a winning, wispy synth and guitar riff buttressed by a great horn hook. "All aboard!" he calls out, "Or, are all a'y'all bored?"

Not for a moment.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'The Train', 'Call The Law', 'Mighty 'O'', 'Chronomentrophobia'