Check out your Valentine’s Day message from Outkast here.
Outkast will win big at the Grammys tomorrow night – here’s why:
Outkast’s double-CD extravaganza, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below their fifth album, the two members of Outkast (winners of three previous rap Grammys) have taken the audacious gamble of recording two completely separate discs — Antwan “Big Boi” Patton’s Speakerboxx, and Andre “Dre 3000” Benjamin’s The Love Below — and releasing them together in a single set.
What could have easily felt like disjointed, double self-indulgence, instead feels like two sides of a very large platinum coin – different but of a piece, and a remarkably effective piece it is.
Big Boi’s Speakerboxx fits more comfortably within the hip-hop sphere, and continues Outkast’s southern-fried exploration of rap, smooth soul, gritty funk and electronica. “Ghetto Musick” opens the side with a sparkling amalgam of frenetic ’80s electro funk, and slow, gentle interludes setting the tone for the inspired schizophrenia to come.
“Bowtie” swings rakishly on New Orleans syncopated horns and Clintonian (George, that is) group funk vocals, then gives way to a spare, emblematic electronic snare and DEEP bass-drum groove, such has been rattling the neighborhoods where the cars go BOOM, and BOOM again, for many a moon. You don’t so much hear as FEEL them. You know that intro is leading somewhere special, and special it most assuredly is, as Boi commences to speedy, tricky-tongued rapping down a narrow, echoing alleyway that suddenly opens to this broad, beautiful boulevard expanse of a chorus:
“I like the way you move (dah dum-dum)
I like the way you move (dah dum-dum)
I like the way you move (dah dum-dum)
I like the way
I like the way”
Like the smoothest Earth, Wind & Fire reverie dropped in the middle of a craggy concrete jungle, “The Way You Move” is an irresistible classic. And though nothing else connects with quite the immersing totality of “The Way You Move,” there is much satisfying, surprising, inventive goodness the rest of the way.
“War” lays it out straight that the squabbles and internecine warfare within the rap world look even more petty and foolishly insular than they did before, in light of a massive tragedy like 9/11. “Knowing” invokes the righteous ghost of Curtis Mayfield, and “Reset” floats on a jazzy, ambient P.M. Dawn-like groove.
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.