1. Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Simply put: this album is overflowing with ideas. Outkastâ€šÃ„Ã´s even share opus Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is a veritable damn-breaking flashflood of forward-thinking musical innovation. Most double albums fail to deliver, whereas Outkast clearly has been awaiting such an opportunity to show the true scope of their interests and talent. Big Boiâ€šÃ„Ã´s Speakerboxxx is an inspiring and invigorating journey around the world of just how good a rap album can be; while Andre 3000â€šÃ„Ã´s The Love Below is a loosely-formed story exploring the true nature of a man falling in love, set through the skilled backdrop of funk, soul, jazz and experimental electronica.
Big Boi steps up his rhymes for Speakerboxxx, pouring out his thoughts on all topics without ever sounding like song after song is filled with autobiographical diatribes. In “War” he angrily yet smoothly raps on politics: “I refuse to sit in the back seat and get handled / like I do nothing all day but sit around and watch the cartoon channel / I rap about the presidential election and the scandal that followed / and as we all watched the nation as it swallowed and chucked it up / basically America you got fucked / the media shucked and jived now we stuck / damn!” However in “Unhappy,” on the other end of the spectrum he reflects: “Only to start the New Year off in debt / Now you forget / Your happiness came and went like mom and dadâ€šÃ„Ã´s relationship.” All in all, Speakerboxxx is like a student of the game graduating and immediately becoming an esteemed professor. Big Boi takes you around all that makes hip-hop exciting and fun, from the patient R+B female ode “The Way You Move” to the sonic future cyber funk of “Ghetto Musick.” Even typically contrived multi-guest spot tracks here seem either poignant or downright fun and well-executed, such as Lilâ€šÃ„Ã´ Jon and the East Side Boyz crunk jam on “Last Call” and especially the smooth delivery of Jay Z. and Killah Mike on “Flip Flop Rock.” If that were not enough, just imagine that “Rooster” alone could stand as the centerpiece of some hip hop albums.
Andre 3000â€šÃ„Ã´s The Love Below is another story entirely. Recently on the music station Fuse, Andre has commented that it is a loose story about a typical “player” falling in love and becoming forced to face the related emotions men typically do not face or “the love below.” It should be noted there is little “rapping” on this album. Andre 3000 pulls from the farthest corners of his musical mind, channeling a jazz club crooner in the opener “The Love Below,” spastic breakbeats with minimal organ and bass accompaniment in “Spread,” and staccato awkward guitar chords offset by eery synthesizer and spoken word female samples in “She Lives in My Lap.” Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s a mere 3 songs. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s nothing shy of spellbinding by the time the album has come to its surprising elegant conclusion. On the surface it almost comes off sex obsessed, but ultimately reveals a tender underside giving the album and the aforementioned “player” a real sense of growth, development and sincerity. This record boasts a funked-out, acoustic guitar-driven, casio keyboard-laced masterpiece that would make even James Brown proud in “Hey Ya” slightly before the halfway point. When thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s just another chapter in its evolving story, you know youâ€šÃ„Ã´re going to get your moneyâ€šÃ„Ã´s worth. And just maybe thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s what todayâ€šÃ„Ã´s music fan is looking for, artists with passion and vision, confident and talented enough to exquisitely entertain and enlighten.