But even the striking variety of Speakerboxx doesn't prepare you for the stunning, cosmic tour de force through the musical universe that is Dre 3000's bizarre, assured, intimately personal and just plain eccentric The Love Below, whose closest antecedents are the introspective epiphanies of Sly Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On and Prince's Sign 'O' the Times.
Opening with the orchestral crooning of the title track, Dre lets us know he is on a mission to find the most celestial of love - or at least the mightiest of booty. The crooning gives way to the building noise-and-feedback intro of "Love Hater," which in turn yields to the light, up-tempo, jazzy stylings of the body of the song, whose mocking but serious message is clear: give up the hate and bring on the love.
Over his own lovely guitar arpeggios, Dre then speaks to God — literally — in a prayer both touching and hilarious, requesting True Love. (I won't reveal the Big Secret Dre discovers at the end of the song.) A wicked, retro funk beat and jamming guitar figure slam home the message that Cupid is the new king of the holiday icons, replacing Santa Claus, in "Happy Valentine's Day." "Spread" is overtly Prince-like in its off-kilter drum machine beat, vocal melody rising to an expansive falsetto apex, quirky arrangement, and cheerful eroticism: Dre may indeed have found the Right One.
We are treated to a morning-after dialogue, then the gentle Sly-like soul of "Prototype" and the pinched, spooky electro-soul of "She Lives In My Lap," all of which sets the stage for the song of the year, the charging, sui generis rabble rousing of "Hey Ya!," where the spirit overtakes the body, feeling overcomes reason, and all that is left to do is move to the flapping groove. Amazing. With the high point coming in the middle of the disc — almost exactly like Boi's — Dre then treats the listener to a charming extended denouement full of more startling sounds, surprising instrumental prowess and wonder.
Surely this is the Album of the Year, perhaps of the decade thus far, and an almost certain Grammy winner. "Hey Ya!" will also take Record of the Year in an Outkast sweep of the most prestigious categories.
Portions of this story originally appeared here.