"The Love Below" is Outkast's, or Andree 3000's, second half of the duo's critically acclaimed 2003 double album. The first half "Speakerboxx" saw Big Boi hold is own on a collection of solid tracks, but this record really pushes the mark as a conceptual record which truly challenged the Hip Hop sound with soaring highs and crashing lows. Andree brings us in with a classical score fit for backing in romantic golden era cinema before throwing us into a Jazz band groove with trumpets, pianos and guitars on "Love Hater". Its a change of gears that flows effortlessly as a gentle, serene acoustic guitar strums a dreamy tune with Andree bringing in the records conceptual nature, and the goddess of loves blessings upon him. Its a memorable group of tracks to bring the record in, but this is just where it gets started.
As the album comes into its own as the instrumentals find a sublime chemistry, stretching boundaries as subtle rhythmic presences let Funk, Rock and Soul fly free of any expectations. "Spread" and "Prototype" only held to Hip Hop through muted, subdued bass and kick grooves that let live instruments play out enigmatic songs like a normal band would. The album peaks with the cracking "Hey Ya!" & "Roses", both songs laying fetching memorable lyrics over the live band setup which reaches its peak at this point. So far we have been helped to a stunning level of genius as Andree stretches the versatility of this music effortlessly, with much help from is soft and ranged vocals which peak the songs with beautiful, catchy hooks in between his energetic raps.
Unfortunately thats where the magic ends. In an almost bizarre turn around the skit "Good Day, Good Sir" brings in a second half which casts the live band aside in favor of electronic synth leads and toned down percussions that lacks all the charm of the records first half. The romantic themes of the album feel further abstracted and become more convoluted in a now nauseating rumble of musings that lack a point. The record feels done at "My Favorite Things", a Rave and Drum and Bass remix of Coltrane's classic that dispels the magic from the original with rigid drum loops that rub up against it in an uncomfortable nature. Then the album just trails off with three uninteresting tracks.
I'm not sure what to make of this record. I want to know what Andree's thoughts were on the record as a whole, as from where I'm listening from the first half is genius and the second a real stinker. Theres no doubt though that the expansive ideas that have shaped Outkast's boundary pushing direction come from Andree and on "The Love Below" we hear his ideas at there best and worst. The live band brings limitless possibilities when couple with minimalist groove oriented percussion. The synthesizer work leaves much to be desired, however executed perfectly on Speakerboxxx's "Ghetto Musick". I'll return to this one time and time again, but just for the first ten tracks.
Favorite Tracks: Spread, Prototype, Hey Ya!, Rosses