Have you ever simultaneously thought - they can't do that and they're the only ones who can do that? Maybe not. But, I have. Seriously, who ever heard of a duo releasing two solo albums as one double cd? Then again, if there was anyone to do it, it would have certainly been Andre 3000 and Big Boi.
And they did it in a major way!
2003 - SpeakerBoxxx / The Love Below
There was a time when among my friends where there was a clear line of demarcation. Which one are you? Speakerboxxx or The Love Below.
I am The Love Below.
Speakerboxxx is fantastic! It comes with a whole gang of thump for the trunk (and a steady reminder of the thumplessness of sound system in the Jeep Cherokee I drove at the time). Yet, as a longtime fan, it didn't break any new territory for me. Wait. Hold up. The Way You Move video = Whoa. The song is classic, perhaps the best on the cd. It can easily be played at parties for a range of age groups. But the video? Remember that line in Coming To America when Arsenio was a preacher and said, "there is a God somewhere." When I saw The Way You Move video, I was saying the same thing. That sister is so fine, beads of sweat formed across my brow. I started looking over my shoulders because I didn't want my wife to see my indulgence. Whew, that sister was certainly a sight for sore eyes. I was thinking, she might be the one, or in fact The Prototype.
Pound for pound, I actually liked The Way You Move better than Hey Ya!. Andre 3000 definitely did his thing and Hey Ya! was such a departure from the norm, it piqued my curiosity to listen to his half of the album, closer. As someone who counts Funky Ride from southernplayalistic... as one of his favorite OutKast songs (although it's really a Sleepy Brown song), then it's easy to see how I fell into the groove with The Love Below.
She Lives In My Lap has evolved into a type of secret society password. By that I mean, when having a conversation with someone and the conversation veers toward hip hop, it's only a matter of time before I bring up OutKast. As the OutKast conversation evolves, the Speakerboxx / The Love Below question arises. When the potential new friend name drops She Lives In My Lap, it is as if there is an epiphanic enlightenment that that person is on a whole 'nother level of cool. It's like having a conversation about watches and then someone takes it to the Breitling or Tag Heuer level. At that point, you know that individual KNOWS watches. That is the enlightened awareness that occurs for me when someone starts talking about She Lives in My Lap.
Yet, in retrospect, while I purchased the cds and celebrated OutKast's unprecedented success; honestly, The Roots' Phrenology and Talib Kweli's Quality were the cds satiating my hip hop jones at that time. I was a new father, an assistant principal, and beginning doctoral student. Somehow in all those life happenings, it seems my capacity to absorb new music was limited (the most remarkable exception was Fertile Ground - when I first heard their Seasons Change cd, it changed my life). OutKast weren't the only casualties of my then narrowing music consumption, Incognito was another group that a few years prior, I listened to over and over but by 2003 - 2004, something changed.
While my consumption diminished, my admiration and respect for OutKast never waned, in fact it intensified. Most likely, I was later than most fans in finally lining all the physical cds in order and admiring the art on the cd itself. I was listening to the music less, but spending more time absorbing the linear notes. This intensified investment in the art encapsulates my profound admiration for Andre 3000's personal confidence to chart his own path. As a person, it is quite a challenge for me to praise conformity. Brother 3000 is certainly a non-conformist. To borrow the popular sportswriter BIll Simmons' analogy, Andre 3000's face belongs on the Mount Rushmore of non-conformists.
A precious nugget among this treasure chest of musical jewels is Andre 3000's remake of My Favorite Things. Some would recognize the song from The Sound of Music (a movie I've been swearing I'm going to watch tomorrow for about 15 years). Many will recognize it as one of John Coltrane's most popular songs. Jazz connoisseurs will celebrate its' melodic beauty while reminding you that the song captures an early Coltrane, before enlightenment and the spiritual transcendence that would be manifested by A Love Supreme. Considering that Andre 3000 would invoke a pre-transcendent Coltrane is indeed something to ponder. Something that assures us that he (and Big Boi) have the capacity to produce more magnificent art.
Truly, they wouldn't be OutKast if they weren't going to grow forward.