Speakerboxxx/the Love Below

Outkast

La Face/Arista, 2003

http://www.outkast.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/11/2004

There's a reason this bad boy was named Album of the Year at the Grammys.

Coming off the mind-blowing, expansive Stankonia, the duo that is Outkast decided to do a "separate but together" approach and release two solo albums as one package under the Outkast name. This freed up Andre and Big Boi to do pretty much whatever they wanted, which turns out to be an improvement on the vast array of musical styles and beats that made Stankonia and Aquemini so good.

Andre 3000's disc, The Love Below, is probably the most creative and fascinating disc of the year, careening from jazz to Prince-inspired ballads to straight hip-hop to pop to breakbeat, all with flair, drama and a wonderful sense of absurdity. Each song has its own personality and the tracks flow into one another in what seems to be a story of love found and lost and an exploration of oneself.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The simple beat and hand-clap behind Andre's spoken words in "Happy Valentine's Day" are when the disc really gets going (after a 1930s-style torch song and a semi-profane spoken prayer to God), while the weird staccato drums and smoky feel of "Spread," the beautiful Prince homage "Prototype" and the ready-to-sing "Hey Ya!" -- the new anthem of sports stadiums and dorm rooms everywhere -- are all early highlights. The funky, bitter "Roses" is a sour kiss-off to an ex (a crazy bitch named Caroline, apparently), "She's Alive" adds layers of reverb to an ode to a single mom and "Take Off Your Cool" showcases some great acoustic guitar and harmonies from Norah Jones. Even the backbeat instrumental version of "My Favorite Things" is entertaining; only the closing "A Day in the Life of Benjamin Andre" is forgettable, but after the jaw-dropping originality of what comes before, it's forgivable.

Meanwhile, over on Speakerboxxx, Big Boi works through a vast collection of great rap, from "GhettoMusick" to the 70s funk of "Bowtie" to the trippy "Reset" and the smooth, soaring "The Way You Move," which was also a #1 hit. Like Andre's side, this falters toward the end -- too much of a good thing -- but its best moments are frequent and rank Big Boi as one of the great rappers of the decade.

Whether the duo will come back together remains to be seen, but evidently a little space is what they needed at this point, and it is easily the best album of their career even if it lacks the unity of Stankonia. No matter your musical taste, you will be entertained by this album. Outkast can do anything.

Rating: B+

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© 2004 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of La Face/Arista, and is used for informational purposes only.