Speakerboxx/The Love Below
Peanut butter and jelly. Bert and Ernie. Ham and burger.
Winning combinations all. But separately, you’re always going to think something’s missing. And that’s what kept popping up into my head when listening to Outkast’s latest, Speakerboxx/The Love Below.
Big Boi and Andre 3000 are two of the greatest rappers of all time — no one has ever written rhymes or flowed like these two. But as the years and albums have gone by (you could see this coming), they each wanted to do their own thing, which, in turn, led to this.
With Big Boi’s solo album, Speakerboxx, he pretty much follows the same Outkast formula, but layers on even more “stank” (the purest form of funk, according to Atlanta’s finest) than one would think possible. “Ghettomusik” kicks off the ride you’re about to take, and songs like “Bowtie” and “The Rooster” — on which Big Boi talks about the relationship between him and his babies’ momma, and how his music career affects it (amazing I could even figure that out, because I’m usually up dancing when this comes on) — provide incredible stops along the way. Big even weighs in on the state of the world, with “War” and “Church.”
However, he does slip up on such joints as “Bust,” “Tomb of the Boom” and “Flip-Flop Rock,” featuring guest appearances by stars like Killer Mike, Ludacris and Jay-Z. These are a step back since there’s nothing at all original about them. A lot of songs with guest rappers lack a certain rapport — a sense of anticipating where the other is going with his flow that comes from rhyming with someone for more than 10 years. These songs also got me thinking about the one other person that should be rapping with Big Boi as opposed to just singing hooks on a couple of songs.
Which brings me to Andre 3000’s The Love Below. My first thought about Andre doing an album on which he sings 90 percent of the time was “What the…?” He managed to surprise me some, though. He is a brilliant lyricist, which can get overshadowed because he’s one of the most flamboyant personalities in music today. He’s also a very good musician, playing piano and guitar throughout the album.
As the title suggests, love is the common theme of the record. There is a strong sense of longing layered below the groove and lounge music (!), found on tracks like “Prototype” and “Love Hater.” On “God,” Andre prays to the Almighty (a woman) looking for a lady who’s “sweet” and doesn’t even have to have a big butt, “just nicely proportioned.” And, he does take time to get his stank on with “Happy Valentine’s Day” and “Hey Ya!”
But one thing keeps this from being the next Parliament or Prince album: his singing voice! If this is the path Andre’s going to take, he has to get better. It becomes a distraction and almost lends a comedic feel to the album.
He could definitely use Big Boi to keep him grounded some, aside from getting him to throw down one verse in the middle of a song.
So while both these albums have high highs and some low lows, put together it could have been the greatest Outkast album of all. Big Boi needs Andre’s innovation and daring, and Andre needs Big Boi’s ability to stay grounded. My suggestion? Get the discs and make your own Outkast CD. You can even call it What Might Have Been, because, personally, I don’t think there will be another Outkast album. And the “ATLiens” will never get to take their place among the peanut butter and jellies of the world.