Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2 CD)

posted September 24, 2003 12:00:00 AM CDT | 17 comments

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Trying to argue that Outkast aren't the best partners-in-rhyme of all-time is a rather pointless task. Since 1994 'Kast has come with nothing but awe-inspiring music. While most platinum artists get their creative licenses revoked when they don't stick with the script, Outkast have been embraced for their mind-blowing innovation - both artistically and financially. Their evolution has never been discrete; don't expect that to change here.

The Aquarius and Gemini have always maintained unity by contrasting one another. So perhaps it is only appropriate that the latest project from Andre and Big Boi is on the solo tip. After all, what more could they possible accomplish together? While Speakerboxxx and The Love Below may be two distinct albums, on the whole it is still that Outkast shit. A listen to Big Boi's "Speakerboxxx" gives you that familiar sound, but something is missing from it. That void is filled when you pop in Andre 3000's disk. It quickly becomes apparent just what each of them brought to the table in their past creations.

Even though these albums play better as a set, they are still dope standing on their own - a feat only they could pull off. To no surprise, Big Boi's offering it on that playalistic pimp shit while keeping the ever present Outkast consciousness. Big Boi finds his best results on that so fresh so clean vibe, i.e. The Way You Move, Bowtie, and Knowing. Bust with Killer Mike is easily one of the best tracks, and Church isn't far behind. War is another excellent track and Big Boi's most poignant lyrical offering. Unlike his partner, Big Boi's set is heavy on guests. Most work (Tomb of The Boom with Ludacris, Big Gipp, Konkrete, Flip Flop Rock with Jay-Z, Killer Mike and Reset with Cee-Lo and Khujo), but Last Call with Slimm Calhoun, Mello, Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz is quite unwelcome. Aside from that, the awful Ghettomusick, and a few pointless interludes, the album is really nice and should get plenty of spins in your speaker box.

Anyone who has witnessed Andre's evolution over the years should have a pretty good idea that The Love Below is not your traditional hip-hop offering. In fact, most probably wouldn't call it hip-hop at all. Aside from one song (the autobiographical A Day In The Life of Benjamin Andre) and a couple other verses, Dre gives up his incredible rhyming ability in favor of singing. Even though he is one of the best to ever grip a mic and I can't help but want to hear him spit, I can't keep from loving this album. As indicated by the insanely infectious single Hey Ya, Dre is gonna make dope music no matter what genre it may be. Treading the lines somewhere between funk, 70's r&b, jazz, and neo-soul, it seems that his creativity knows no bounds. From the outset of Love Hater through the soulful Prototype and the funkdafied Behold A Lady, you'll find yourself singing along. The standouts are endless, Happy Valentine's Day, She Lives In My Lap, Pink & Blue, I could name off the whole album. That said this is one of the best pieces of music I've heard this year. It is certainly not for everyone and I'm sure plenty of cats will hate on it. It is only getting love here though.

Somehow, Andre and Big Boi have done it once again, albeit in different fashion. I would still take them together in a heart beat and given Dre's professed lack of interest in hip-hop, you have to wonder if this is the only way we will get them from now on. Nevertheless, Outkast has once again broken new ground (double solo albums) and their continued experimentation has found another winning formula. Some will prefer Big Boi's disk, some will prefer Dre's (like myself), but either way, 'Kast has got something for everyone. You better git up, git out and git this.

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