Outkast Speakerboxxx / The Love Below

[La Face; 2003]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: southern rap, funk
Others: Missy Elliot, Dr. Dre

Upon first hearing that Outkast’s new album was going to be two discs long, with Big Boi and Andre each doing their own solo disc, I thought “How stupid.” But, on second thought, I remembered the Beatles’ White Album, and how it birthed some of their best songs and perhaps the greatest rock album of all time. And if rap has a genius outfit equipped to create hip-hop’s White Album, it's these two Hotlantans. They even have a John/Paul duality. But, then again, the Beatles worked as a band on the White Album

And this is no White Album. Perhaps most surprisingly is the disc of the more heralded member, Andre 3000, is easily the weaker. You know him, the one wearing psych-funk duds and furry hats. The creative one. But, the fact is, on his disc, he forgets what got him to the top. Passionate, funky music… and rapping. So, while Dre misses Big Boi on his disc, the opposite isn’t so true. Big Boi bounces along happily, mostly sticking to the formula of their past albums, but still finding some new sounds and staying ahead of the Rap Pack. The beat he crafted on “War” is like nothing I’ve heard before, uncannily marrying the looming feel of underground rap with funkiness. And “The Rooster” must make James Brown absolutely beam, with blaring brass and a twanged guitar lurking behind. But this isn’t to say that Andre failed, just overshadowed. “Hey Ya,” his single, along with Big Boi’s “The Way You Move,” are the two most danceable songs I’ve heard in a long time. “Behold a Lady” is stellar, as some kind of future funk with bodacious stomp.

Unfortunately, there are a couple generous handfuls of throwaway songs and, yes, skits. This album just doesn’t keep you mesmerized from start to finish like Stankonia did; you have to search for the best tracks. But, if this had been cut down to one disc of the best material, if Andre’s songs had Big Boi’s rapping, if Big Boi’s songs had Andre’s off the wall sounds, if all that had happened, it could very well have been that elusive defining rap album. But, as it stands, you have Big Boi’s 4.5 star Speakerboxxx, and Dre’s 3 star The Love Below. With word that these prodigies may well be going their own separate ways, it's possible they’ll never realize the perfect rap album I can hear hiding in this one.

1. Intro
2. Ghetto Musick
3. Unhappy
4. Bowtie
5. The Way You Move
6. The Rooster
7. Bust (with Killer Mike)
8. War
9. Church
10. Bamboo (Interlude)
11. Tomb of the Boom (with Ludacris)
12. E-Mac (Interlude)
13. Knowing
14. Flip Flop Rock (with Killer Mike)
15. Interlude
16. Reset
17. D-Boi (Interlude)
18. Last Call (with Slimm Calhoun)
19. Bowtie (Postlude)
The Love Below:

1. The Love Below (Intro)
2. Love Hater
3. God (Interlude)
4. Happy Valentine's Day
5. Spread
6. Where Are My Panties?
7. Prototype
8. She Lives in My Lap
9. Hey Ya!
10. Roses
11. Good Day, Good Sir
12. Behold a Lady
13. Pink & Blue
14. Love in War
15. She's Alive
16. Dracula's Wedding
17. My Favorite Things
18. Take Off Your Cool
19. Vibrate
20. A Day in the Life of Benjamin Andre