September 23, 2003.
I remember running into the house scrambling towards my 3-Disc CD player, fumbling around trying to pry the plastic seal off the album I had just purchased at Best Buy. My Dad had taken me after school because I had told him for days how bad I wanted the new OutKast album. My parents didn’t grow up in the rap era and were full blown adults when the genre took form (Pops was almost 30), so naturally, they weren’t really checking for a new OutKast release. Sure, they both loved “Hey Ya” after hearing it on the local old school R&B station and my Dad had those Hidden Beach jazz albums that had a “The Way You Move” rendition on it, but aside from that they weren’t really aware of who or what an OutKast was.
I finally get the case open and pop both discs in the CD changer and let the first track play.
OutKast has always been one of my favorite musical acts, but this double album was the first time I was able to buy an album on my own. It was worth it every step of the way.
A lot of people were confused about the approach Andre and Big Boi took with this project. It was clearly two solo albums packaged as one project under the OutKast moniker. Every song on Speakerboxxx belonged to Big Boi with two Andre appearances (GhettoMuzick, Knowing) and every song on The Love Below belonged to Andre with one Big Boi appearance (Roses). The two sides allowed both members to really showcase their style while still incorporating what made OutKast, OutKast: a fusion of punk, soul, jazz and hip-hop that combined to a unique melody and feel that no other artist could match.
As a teenager, The Love Below wasn’t really my favorite side. Young me was wondering why Andre wasn’t rapping like he had been before and why his entire side of the project featured him singing. I kinda liked it, but I just kinda wondered. As I grew older, his side became more of my favorite, but Speakerboxxx’s hard funk edge always had me coming back to it.
I’ll always love OutKast and their willingness to experiment and grow. They never got stuck in the same formula and always kept expanding. Their legacy will go down as the most important group when it comes to the rise of the South in rap music altogether. While we’ve only gotten one more OutKast project since (Idlewild) and might never get another full project from them, it’s nice to go back and relive the classics.
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below turned 15 this week, let’s continue to celebrate its legacy.
What were your favorite tracks?