By now everyone should know that Outkast’s double LP, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, could have easily been released as two separate albums, as the two members seemingly have two separate musical agendas on the project — separate from each other, and separate from the rest of the music industry.
Andre 3000, who wants to blow up in Hollywood, pulls from his jazz, funk and, most prominently, R&B influences to tell a bevy of love stories, while Big Boi sticks to the Kast’s brand of eclectic hip-hop space tripping. The almost-ten-year vets continue to throw rap’s rule book to the wayside and experiment with the abnormal.
The Love Below, Dre’s half, is a concept album about relationships. The more eccentric Kast member croons his way through most of his 20 tracks which range from overtly broaching the topic of sex (“Spread”) to being scared of commitment (“Dracula’s Wedding”).
“Where’s My Panties?” is an interlude in which you hear the thoughts of Dre and his lover the morning after a one-night stand. The woman is worried that Dre thinks she’s a “ho” because she got drunk on her birthday and slept with him. In reality, Dre harbors no negative feelings about her promiscuity.
“I don’t give a sh– about giving it up on the first night. That just let me know she knows what she wants out of life,” he thinks to himself. “Oooh, I just want to lay in her hair,” he contemplates, before he starts convincing himself not to fall in love with her.
It doesn’t work. The skit segues into the song “Prototype,” which finds Dre singing high-pitched praises of his lady in the form of a slow ballad. “I hope that you’re the one,” he sings. “If not, you are the prototype/ We’ll tiptoe to the sun/ And do thangs I know you like/ I think I’m in lo-o-o-ve again.”
Actress Rosario Dawson is featured on “She Lives in My Lap,” another relationship song. “She lives in my lap, forever my fiancée,” Dre sings over guitars, seemingly trying to come to grips with wanting to retire his player jersey. “She lives in my lap, don’t leave, don’t stay/ She lives in my lap, I’ll get the courage one day.” Dawson later helps Dre sing, “You’ve got me open wide, I love you/ Please come inside, baby/ It’s yours, I’m yours, for sure/ Play, baby, play.”
There is no playing on “Roses.” Dre sounds a little like Bootsy Collins and Rick James, striking out a an ex-love named Caroline who is “mighty fine” on the outside but so ugly on the inside that he claims she’s “the reason for the word bitch.”
Carrie has him so up in arms, Dre even jokes that he hopes she crashes into a ditch while fixing her makeup in a speeding car en route to a club. “I know you’d like to think your sh– don’t stank/ But lean a little bit closer/ See that roses really smell like boo-boo-boo/ Yeah, roses really smell like boo-boo-boo.”
Big Boi makes his only appearance on The Love Below with raps about not spending his money on gold diggers. “I wanna see ya support bra, not support ya!” he says.
Dre is one of the producers on Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx, and he makes his vibe felt almost as soon as his partner’s album starts with “Ghetto Musick.” The intense, fluently moving track sounds like the lovechild of Miami bass, bounce and electronic. Big Boi pitches brisk b-boy rhymes to keep pace.
“You ought to be detained by the hip-hop sheriff/ Locked up, no possibility of getting out/ Because the sh– you make is killing me and my ears and my peers/ I hear the end is near, no fear we disappear.”
Big Boi’s family has dispersed on “Rooster.” Daddy Fat Sacks drops his pimping MO from the earlier track “Bowtie” — which features Sleepy Brown and Jazzy Pha singing the chorus “Crocodile on my feet/ Bowtie round my neck/ That’s why they call me the gangsta mack/ In the Cadillac!” — and complains about being the black sheep of the family.
“OK, I start out all alone, ’cause my baby mama left me, now there’s nobody at home,” he raps. “Beginning to feel like Ms. Jackson done got cloned!” He continues lamenting about his missed bliss: “KO, knocked out by technicality/ The love has kissed the canvas, now the whole family is mad at me/ My daughter don’t want me at her PTA meetings, and then my son he can’t talk/ When I change him he’s peeing/ I think he’s pissed!”
Album guest star Ludacris has a cantankerous attitude as well on “Tomb of the Boom,” which also features the Goodie Mob’s Big Gipp and newcomers Koncrete. “Ludacris, yeah, I keep a glock in case you like to leak a lot,” the braided MC warns. “Meanwhile, cranking the volume knob up on my Speakerboxxx/ ‘Get the f— on the ground!’/ Is just a phrase you might hear strolling through the A-Town.”
Other guests on Speakerboxxx include Jay-Z and Killer Mike (who team up on “Flip Flop”), Khujo from the Goodie Mob and the group’s former member, Cee-Lo (“Reset”), and Lil Jon and Slimm Calhoun (“Last Call”). For The Love Below, Dre stuck with the ladies. He’s joined by Kelis on the aforementioned “Dracula’s Wedding” and by Norah Jones on “Take Off Your Cool.”
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below comes out September 23