With this double-disc magnum opus, Outkast prove that as a group they exceed the sum of their parts. Splitting production responsibilities and artistic visions down the middle, Big Boi and Andre 3000 provide one big, genre-bending, futuristic gangsta's paradise but come up short on the cohesive masterpiece fans may have expected after Aquemini
and the Grammy-winning Stankonia
. Big Boi's Speakerboxxx
is a hop, skip, and a jump from the latter's funky synth workouts, machine-gun drum patterns, ball-breaking bass, and rat-a-ta-tat rhyming. Closest to the OutKast of yore, Big Boi's 20-track disc doesn't have the infectious hooks of past releases. Still, tracks such as "Bowtie" with its big-band horns, the velvety croon of "The Way You Move," and the hyper-kinetic bass thumps of "Ghettomusick" show his knack for undeniably progressive hip-hop. On the flip side, Andre 3000's The Love Below
largely owes its breezy falsetto vocals, guitar riffs, new wave funk, and love/sex/lust obsessions to Prince and Sly Stone. Dre only occasionally raps: Whether it be over the slow-burn funk of "Prototype," the Beatles-esque love ditty "Hey Ya!", the Middle Easternaccented melody of "She Lives in My Lap," or the syncopated electro-pings of "Pink and Blue," Dre's not afraid to wail. Things go awry with a self-indulgent drum 'n' bass reworking of "My Favorite Things." Yet, when he returns to his rhyming roots on the finale, "A Life in the Day of Andre Benjamin," it's apparent he still can spit with the best MCs. Dre and OutKast's goals are higher than that, though. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
seems designed to unlock as many musical doors as possible in a creative tour de force. Mission accomplished. For their next trick, let's see Dre and Big Boi put it all back together.