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Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

otkstspeaklove_rev

Artist: OutKastTitle: Speakerboxxx/The Love BelowRating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: aqua boogie

On Outkast’s new double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below they take the bipolar nature of their music to the extreme; creating two separate solo albums.

OutKast has always consisted of two separate, though kindred, personalities. As they’ve grown artistically and as men, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton has solidified his rep as the Southern hustler with the sharp tongue while his partner Andre “3000” Benjamin continues to be the eccentric yet misunderstood poet laureate of the mixture. But, with the blatant musical split, does that make it a true OutKast album?

The Love Below

From the opening of Mr. 3000’s disc, “The Love Below (Intro)” a showtunes inspired ditty, Andre is testing his crooning abilities. His urge to sing-think Frank Sinatra in cornrows-shouldn’t be a surprise; he has been publicizing his intent of making a ‘different’ album for a while. Andre is a grown ass man so if rapping doesn’t do it for him anymore so be it, as long as it’s up to par with the body of work he has created so far; and it is.

The lead singles; the atmospheric groover “She Lives in My Lap” or the electrical barn funk of “Hey Ya!” aren’t close to being the album’s best cuts. That would be the celebratory “Happy Valentine’s Day”, where spry drums and addictive guitar licks are married to Dre’s sing song, spoken word delivery. When he does rap (three times over the entire album), his wit and wordplay is as fresh as ever. Such is the case with the sexually charged “Spread” where he kicks: “Fuck the rhythm, tuck the rhythm, under your bosom/You’re the prism, Shirley Chisolm/Was the first, let’s rehearse making a baby/Put in your order, I want a baby daughter/Dance on the time of my tongue/Shake the clouds til’ theres no more wetness in them/Tell your homegirls that you will send them/A postcard from 3000…HARD!”

While some songs have a traditional R&B feel like the bouncy “Behold a Lady”, the majority of the album’s lyrics seem to have origins stemming from his most personal poetry. “Prototype” with its slow dragging bass manifests his search for love in song and vocal guest spots from Kelis on “Dracula’s Wedding” and Norah Jones on “Take Off Your Cool,” help round out an impressive album from our odd dressing friend.

The Love Below is Dre’s opportunity to fully explore topics (i.e. his inner demons and feelings) more thoroughly than he was able to in a group scenario due to the compromise necessary to make it work. Hip-hop music may not inspire Dre anymore, but it’s obvious that good music, in all its forms, always does and he continues to create it.

Speakerboxxx

While Andre 3000 is off experimenting, Big Boi’s disc sticks to the script, if there ever was one, that Outkast has followed to their success, Southern branded hip-hop funk, plain and simple. It’s not just crunk, it’s more refined. Shuffling drums and horns make “Bowtie” (Sleepy Brown & Jazzy Pha) a gangsta mack anthem and “The Way You Move” is another winner due to its soulful instrumentation and the crooning of Sleepy Brown on its hook. But the stand out on this disc is “The Rooster” where female drama becomes a sonic party due to the tracks erupting horns, plodding bass and commandeering hook to match, “Throw your neck out! Throw your back out!”

Big Boi has never been one dimensional, balancing his tales of debauchery with political and spiritual ruminations. On the Andre 3000 produced “Church” he contemplates on why we are all here and on “War” he calls out President Bush’s shenanigans in Iraq. With many guests (Jay-Z and Killer Mike murder “Flip Flop Rock” and other appearances include Ludacris, Lil’ Jon & The Eatside Boyz and members of Goodie Mob) to hold him up in case he were to stumble-he doesn’t-Big Boi still manages to keep this album his own.

Speakerboxxx is a continuation and fine-tuning of the melding of hip-hop with funk, rock and anything in between that OutKast has trademarked in their phenomenal, near ten-year career. It makes his line, “We never relaxin’, Outkast is everlastin’,” off of “The Way You Move” truth rather than aspiration.

Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Speakerboxxx/The Love Below leaves you feeling cheated not because of the music (yes, Dre is singing, get over it, tt least he can carry a note.), with both albums containing some of the best music released this year. But theories about how good a unified creation from the Aquarius and Gemini could have been will abound. Big Boi does make an appearance on The Love Below with a scathing verse aimed at money sniffing women on “Roses” while Dre has more of a presence on Big’s disc by contributing his production to three tracks. Venturing to the left, particularly Mr. 3000, when everyone expects you to go right might ostracize you from your contemporaries and fair-weather fans, but in this case, that diversion has led to more great music, which is what really matters.

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