It's hard to classify any particular album as quintessentially Outkast. Everything they created was quintessentially themselves.
Each album was sonically distinct from its predecessors and successors, but not out of sync with itself. Each was a development, but not a deviation. Each was complex, but not unattainable.
Yet, perhaps none in their catalog of classic albums better encapsulates their forward thinking of the moment and current lasting legacy as fiercely as Stankonia.
In a new mini-doc, which features unreleased interviews from 2000, as well as new ones with Big Boi, CeeLo Green, Tip, Wale and more, MTV News celebrates that legacy.
The album, which celebrates its 15th anniversary on Oct. 31, was their fourth overall, arriving after three which had positioned them as Atlanta legends, Southern ambassadors and hip-hop mainstays. But Stankonia was the first to send a shock to the mainstream music system, and allow the world to begin to fully recognize Kast as the musical mavens and cultural icons they would become.
Perhaps, at the time, at least, that was a tricky proposition, overshadowing an incredible body of work spanning more than half-a-decade.
"Stankonia's not Outkast's first album -- do the history," Andre 3000 said, before shouting out their debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, during his acceptance speech for Album of the Year for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below at the 2004 Grammys.
Indeed, all that previous work needs to and deserves to be celebrated -- I waver by the hour between their second and third albums, ATLiens and Aquemini, as my personal favorite -- but Stankonia has had the most tangible impact on the current landscape, state and sound of hip-hop of any Kast album.
The understanding of that reality can start in many places, including with "Ms. Jackson," the primary reason they became those mainstream darlings. The raps are exceptional technically, and the subject matter is personal and revealing, approaching an often tread subject of broken homes and relationships from a completely fresh standpoint -- addressing, of course, "the baby mama's mamas."
The influence of the track, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, is even grander from a sonic standpoint.
With Dre's singing -- territory which he dabbled in on 1998's "Liberation," but waded far deeper into on this album, with songs like "I'll Call Before I Come" and "Slum Beautiful" -- he set the stage for what we'd see for years to come.
In 2003, he fully adopted this new form of vocal expression on The Love Below; a few years later, we'd hear Kanye West pivot and trade rap for sung with 808s & Heartbreak; Drake has allowed us to wholly accept the idea of the rapper-slash-singer in a way we never would have without Dre's forays into that world -- which really began to take shape on Stankonia.
The album is immaculate well beyond this point, though.
It wasn't just "Ms. Jackson" that broached topics about women and relationships with them in renewed ways. "I'll Call Before I Come," rather than objectifying women as only objects of sexual desire, as rappers have often been criticized of doing, finds the fellas placing a woman's sexual pleasures ahead of their own.
Then there are tastes of the duo's particular social lens, evident on "Gasoline Dreams," and darker fare, like "Toilet Tisha." There are moments of funk, like "Spaghetti Junction," and experimental futurism, like "Red Velvet."
Even a look at the other singles reveals something special. "B.O.B." is a merger of rock, electric and hip-hop sounds that jolts your entire being, with dizzying rhymes to match; "So Fresh, So Clean" is pure Southern cool, with the slicks flows and flexes.
Taken in its entirety, the album is a masterpiece. It causes you to think. It forces you to enjoy yourself. It keeps you engaged, despite its length, with the rhythm of its sequencing: aggressive moments lead to more mellow ones; soothing sounds lull you to peace before more manic ones snap your spine back up straight.
We can look back at it and see its legacy take many shapes: The boundary-pushing production; the influence of electronic and rock music; the singing; the storytelling; the abundance of subjects broached.
Above all else, though, it's just jammin'.
Even after 15 years, we should proudly pledge allegiance to Altered States of Stankonia.