Hip Hop duo Outkast have truely gained my love and respect, their music has moved me and they are undoubtedly this years best discovery however they are no hidden treasure, much more like a stash of gems out in the wide open. Outkast are critically acclaimed and I've been aware of them, heard a lot of them back in the early naughties and only got around to listening through there records many years later. Doing my research I learned this record to be one half of a double album, "The Love Below" the other half. Its the duo's, and one of Hip Hops biggest selling records and the back story is intriguing. With Andree 3000 following a new direction the two agreed too record solo records and package them together, as opposed to going separate their separate ways. Its been a while since I covered the last record "Stankonia" and the hesitation came from the high expectations critics set for this double record extravaganza.
Having absorbed both records I would certainly tip my hat to "Speakerboxxx" as my favorite, however I feel the concept of the two working apart is everything thats not working on both records. The album starts with "Ghetto Musick" a brilliantly eccentric fusion of Rave synthesizers, Funk and soul that feels complete with Andree featuring alongside Big Boi, complimenting his fast paced flow with zany chorus vocals and a choice sample of Patti Labelle coming together to make a solid track. Unfortunately Andree's absence is felt from this point on. Big Boi holds his own with a terrific set of songs that have quality instrumentals and raps, but each track feels like its missing a dynamic to make it spark.
To be fair, I'm too used to hearing the two bounce of one another. Theres a lot forward thinking tracks here that bring inventive Soul, Rock and Funk sounds to the Hip Hop formula creating engaging instrumentals ripe with variety and a freshness relevant to the time. Its a natural progression that Big Boi is following on his own and it works. "Unhappy", "War" and "Knowing" hold the Outkast vibe together, reminiscent of earlier sounds and overall the record flows well, with an amusing appearance from his young son on "Bamboo" which makes me chuckle each time. Its a strong record with a new take on production that showcases an array of inventive instrumentals, but it doesn't quite have the charm of the two working together, which we will hear again on Idlewild.
Favorite Songs: Ghetto Musick, Bust, Knowing, Flip Flop Rock, Last Call