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Outkast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

...the most ambitious piece of pop you'll hear this year.

Matt Harvey 2003

This album is a 6 Music album of the day

This is Outkast's fifth outing, and the Atlanta duo has split down the middle to make a double album. Speakerboxxx belongs to the apparent player, Big Boi, and The Love Below is the product of the so called (filthy minded) poet, Dre. They help each other out here and there get the general idea.

Of the two Speakerboxxx is most clearly the offspring of 2000's masterpiece, Stankonia. The opening track "Ghetto Musick" jumps from hardcore rave to sauna soul without pausing for breath, a curiously addictive juxtaposition. The frantic pace continues from there on in as we jump from electro, to P-funk to swing, via mariachi, techno and whatever else takes Boi's fancy. It's hip hop, but not as we've known it.

There's humour, including the seeming ode to casual footwear, "Flip-Flop Rock", and the odd bit of sex; but on the whole it's social and political issues which come to the fore. The difficulties of being a single parent, the horror of war with Iraq and the dangers of organised religion are all here; gunshots and gangsters are notable by their absence.

Cutsie, kinky and complex - Dre's half of the deal is an altogether stranger brew. Sex and love are explored from numerous perspectives, varying from what Dracula did on his wedding night to, on the dubiously titled "Age Aint Nothing But A Number", sleeping with an older woman. There's even a conversation with God, who's a woman and seems to be helping Dre find a girlfriend!

The music is a wondrous concoction. Prince, gospel, drum and bass, Frank Sinatra (and Zappa!), they're all in there somewhere...there's even a bit of cocktail jazz in the form of the foot tapping "Love Hater". It's confusing, bemusing and exciting - all at the same time.

What more is there to say about these two magnificent albums? There's guests a plenty, including Jay-Z on Speakerboxxx and Kelis, Norah Jones and R Kelly on The Love Below. It's hilarious and thought provoking, goes on for hours (without ever getting boring) and is the most ambitious piece of pop you'll hear this year. I love it.

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