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Local CD spotlight December 05 2001

In terms of marketing, the timing of an OutKast hits compilation is entirely appropriate. Sure, a four-record catalog hardly constitutes a deep well to draw upon. But it's never too early for retrospection: While rolling high on the mega-success of albums three and four (Aquemini and Stankonia), now's the time to maximize sales of the back catalog.

As such, Big Boi & Dre Present ... OutKast seems largely meant for the millions of OutKast's post-crossover fans who haven't heard their 1994 debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, or 1996's ATLiens. How can you tell? Because five of the disc's 15 tracks (including the original Christmas version of "Player's Ball") come from the successful, but hardly hit-filled, debut. And there's at least a handful of more recent cuts missing, even though they scored higher on radio. (Why only one track from ATLiens appears is a mystery — a retroactive sophomore slump, perhaps?)

What's more, the three obligatory new songs offered here, while all pretty good, sound closer to filler than highlights. "Funkin' Around" opens the disc with a mild-mannered, horn-driven bump and Dre in an odd English accent. "Movin' Cool" closes out with a breezy glide, led by jazzy piano and Joi's crooning. And somewhere in the middle, "The Whole World" provides the most ambitious departure, but seems fairly lightweight with its singsong and simple beats.

But for anyone who knows "Rosa Parks" and "Ms. Jackson" but has never met "Ain't No Thang," "Crumblin' Erb" and "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," these early tracks sound better than ever scattered among more recent triumphs, including the hyperkinetic "Bombs Over Baghdad." And, like the idea of dropping bombs on Baghdad, the music sounds as fresh today as it did in early '90s.??