Detail of Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album cover.

Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

OutkastSpeakerboxxx/The Love Below (La Face/Arista)

Maybe the thought of Outkast breaking up isn’t such a sad notion after all…as long as they keep packaging their solo albums together.

By going their own ways and recording two solo albums under the Outkast name, Andre 3000 and Big Boi have again done what no one thought they could do—shatter the boundaries of hip-hop. No—forget about hip-hop, Outkast have conquered popular music as we know it, standing on the sublime plateau of genius next to Radiohead, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, and every other genre-revolutionizing artist in recent history. On previous efforts, Andre 3000’s eccentric personality and Big Boi’s knack for party-bumpin’ beats balanced each other out, resulting in a slightly-deranged but incredibly fun catalogue, each album a giant leap over the last. Here, each party takes things as far as they want, each disc the polar opposite of the other.

The Love Below, Andre 3000’s album, almost entirely eschews hip-hop in favor of an exotic blend of styles—soul, jazz, breakbeat, funk—coming away with a warped impression of Prince or George Clinton at times. Andre’s work is certainly the more eclectic of the two; ranging from the strip-club bounce of “Spread” to the collaboration with Norah Jones, “Take Off Your Cool,” a beautiful jazz-folk number that features each of their distinctive voices melting into one. Its subject matter is narrow—relationships, love, one-night stands—and the lyrics sometimes jump off the cliff into absurdity, but consider this: Andre 3000 can get away with it because he is hip-hop’s answer to Frank Zappa.

Now, I’m not by any means saying that Speakerboxxx, Big Boi’s disc, is a walk through normalcy. It’s just that Big Boi stays on a similar line as Outkast’s old material. The beats here are explosive, he’s a very able lyricist and the collaborations are just right. The songs keep such a raucous energy despite the odd nature of the music and its unique timbres, rhythms, and time signatures.

On Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, both Andre and Big Boi find the greatest success with their respective first singles. “Hey Ya” is saturated with pure pop energy, an overwhelming track that attacks your ears in much the same way “B.O.B.” did on Stankonia. “Ghettomusick” has the tightest beat on either album, which eventually breaks into an old jazz sample and re-emerges on the other side.

The journey through each album is an exciting one—hilarious at times, captivating at others, and almost entirely frustrating in its spirit. Outkast have managed to raise the bar yet again. In the coming years, the only foreseeable threat to Andre and Big Boi are Andre and Big Boi themselves. Should they decide to go their separate ways for good, they’ll have already given us more then what we could ask for—including the comfort that even without each other, Outkast have the game beat.

17 thoughts on “Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”

  1. “standing on the sublime plateau of genius next to Radiohead, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash”

    I’ll agree with Outkast being flattered by comparisons to those revolutionaries, but seeing Radiohead in that list makes me shake my head in wonderment. Radiohead is–at best–an overrated band that time will, in time, forget.

  2. good review, gets it right where others don’t, and Radiohead doesn’t belong on any list with the word “genius” in it. They can blow me.

  3. Andre 3000 is a genius. His album is way better than Big Boi’s I think.

    I can only think of one other guy active in popular music I would describe as a genius, and that is David Byrne.

    Radiohead? – Overrated, overrated, overrated, (overated!). Self-pitying, self-indulgent, and dull beyond belief. A bit like Coldplay in other words.

  4. Outkast: a safe bet for white boys’ praise since “Aquemini.”

    All of this Radiohead backlash is predictable and dumb.

  5. Why do you people disrespect my band? We work hard at putting out new and inovative music, just as your beloved DRE 3000 does. Just because I may not be able to shake me little bum like him does not mean I don’t have soul, brother.

  6. If you read what he said hes saying they changed or “revolutionized” there genre. Despite your opinion of the band, you can’t deny that.

    But I like radiohead too. Sorry.

  7. loved the review … i don’t know why i was trying to resist Outkast, but now i think i am going to run out (tomorrow) and get this CD(s)… is it just me or does anyone else feel flashes of fishbone when listening to them..

  8. Why is everyone splooging over this album? Its good but inconsistent.(not to mention extremely self-indulgent, on Dre’s side.) Comparing them to Radiohead, and the beatles is a lil premature don’t ya think?

  9. Paranoid Android is mos def a hot song! but anyways yeah i just got the cd today and iam listening to andres cd all blits and its off da heezy!@

  10. yeah radiohead consists of only humans…

    but you cannot deny that they did push the boundaries on several albums.

    and whether you’re a musical elitist or just laid back and like what sounds good, radiohead has been accomodating.

    the backlash is unwarranted and the comparison to coldplay is way off, as radiohead started first. the elitists hate radiohead b/c the critics like radiohead.

    so heads up elitists: there’s more to music than dissonant, glass-like hell…

  11. Radiohead are a phenomenal group who have pushed at the boundaries of popular music. OK Computer consistently tops “Best Ever” albums polls and rightfully so. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate this simply doesn’t have the mental capacity to do so. Radiohead are certainly not commercially acceptable, but broaden your horizons and give this band a chance – they are truly one of the best and most innovative bands ever, as Outkast have said themselves many times.

  12. I got the CDs today……hmmm “Spread”, “Hey Ya”, and “Prototype” are the best tracks on Andre’s CD, but I do think he needs to learn some boundries when expressing his creative urges. On television he comes off as this funky soul brotha, but I think sometimes he tries to surpass his extravegance, leading him to a scores that are incomplete in sound and beats. I love him for being creative, but it seems that all of his production time was used to create “Hey Ya” , and not enough focus placed on the other tracks…..oh yeah and whats up with the interludes?? Those need to go. I havent gotten all the way through “Speakerboxx” yet, but it definitely sounds hot from the tracks I already heard… seems that Big Boi’s album sounds more like their past work…..I’m wondering if maybe he is the one who truly controls the direction that Outkast is traveling to….I think Big Boi places more focus on having complete rhymes and thoughts laced with crunk beats while Dre writes to express himself, and not to make the trunks rattle and the ladies shake. I think “Speakerboxx” is more of what people expect out of Outkast, and with tracks like “Flip Flop Rock”,and others, why wouldnt they? Whatever their path, I’m sure they will continue to be one of the most influential groups in hip-hop. They have always broken barriers, but for now I think some are not ready to be broken.

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