Twelve years ago, one of the most dynamic groups to ever come out of the South, Outkast released their groundbreaking dynamic double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The blending of influences of hip-hop, pop, funk, jazz, electro, psychadellic and a host of other sounds made the album a commercial success selling over 11 million units (5.5 each since it was technically 2 individual projects sold as a single project).
Initially, the projects were intended to be solo projects, but after speaking, they decided to release it as a double album. Speakerboxxx was Big Boi’s project and The Love Below was Andre’s. The recording of The Love Below started at Andre’s home in L.A. after he halted his first relatively unsuccessful attempt at acting after the release of Stankonia. He was experimenting with new recording equipment and was inspired to try something different sonically from his previous work. Speakerboxx was apparently already underway when Andre was recording his songs. When Andre talked to Big Boi, he informed him he had already recorded a few songs. When they decided to make it a double album, they initially decided to make it a soundtrack album, but upon attempting to make the film they reconsidered and just added background noise to the songs to make it more film-like.
Speakerboxxx’s concept is socially aware Southern Hip-Hop. Incorporating ideas of religion and politics over bass-heavy funky beats, Big Boi’s idea was just to keep it true to his southern style. The Love Below’s concept was love. It’s suggested that Andre’s split with Erykah Badu inspired a lot of the lyrical content of the album. It’s an analysis on the deep-seated emotions one feels when in love or when falling in love. The unpredictable nature of love correlates with the funky, psychedelic, warped sounds found in The Love Below.
The album received wide acclaim from critics. The juxtaposition of Big Boi’s Southern Hip-hop with Andre’s experimental sounds was seen as a welcome change from the typical landscape of hip-hop. Also, they both had features on each other’s albums, so the Outkast sound was in tact as well. It became their first number one album on Billboard. It also became the second rap album to win the Grammy for Album of The Year. They also won 2 other Grammys for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for “Hey Ya!” and Best Rap Album. For me personally, this album changed my view of what hip-hop can and should be. It opened up the influence that hip-hop can incorporate. For this, my ears have forever been grateful.