Artist: OutKastTitle: Speakerboxxx/The Love BelowRating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: aqua boogie
On Outkasts 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 theyve 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. 3000s disc, The Love Below (Intro) a showtunes inspired ditty, Andre is testing his crooning abilities. His urge to sing-think Frank Sinatra in cornrows-shouldnt 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 doesnt do it for him anymore so be it, as long as its 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! arent close to being the albums best cuts. That would be the celebratory Happy Valentines Day, where spry drums and addictive guitar licks are married to Dres 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/Youre the prism, Shirley Chisolm/Was the first, lets 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 albums 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 Draculas Wedding and Norah Jones on Take Off Your Cool, help round out an impressive album from our odd dressing friend.
The Love Below is Dres 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 its obvious that good music, in all its forms, always does and he continues to create it.
While Andre 3000 is off experimenting, Big Bois 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. Its not just crunk, its 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 Bushs 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 doesnt-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 Bigs 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.