OutKast Revisits ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’ – XXL Issue 151

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Big Boi

XXL: What was the goal going into the studio to record Speakerboxxx/The Love Below?
Big Boi: It was basically just giving two sides of the coin; my perspective and Dre’s perspective. Our main goal in making every album is to make the most jammin’ shit on the planet. We just wanted to go through grooves and sounds, one side me, one side him, and now it’s history, it’s in the history books.

Did you have songs going in, or were you writing in the studio?
I had some going in. Our whole thing is, we’re constantly recording, we stay recording. Even when I’m out on the road, like I’m recording right now. Just kicking about the music.

When you went in to the studio, how was it different than some of your other albums?
Just more control on my side—I had a complete vision of what an album could be that was entirely me, and the idea was just to keep it funky, keep it jamming, it’s always bass-heavy. And lyricism, it’s all about lyrics, taking pride in your pen and your pad.

What was your favorite song that came from those sessions?
One of my favorite songs on that album is “Unhappy,” and just working on that for a few days and just jamming it out, it reminded me of a Jim Henson’s Muppets- type of hook—you know, I wrote the hook—so it was really kinda fun. I can remember when I recorded the song, I drove to my mom’s house early in the morning, and I sat out there blasting it in the driveway, and me and her sat out there and talked, and she told me how much she loved the record. That’s one of the most beautiful moments I have of that particular song.

How did you go about choosing the features you had?
Pretty much it was a free-for-all. I had done a song called “Poppin’ Tags” with Jay Z, so he had an older verse, so I did “Flip Flop Rock” with him, and everything else was just whoever popped through the studio at the time. I had Jazze Pha come through, and he got funky with me on “Bowtie,” we had a good-ass time, man. Lyrically what were you going for? Just rhyming, you know what I’m saying? I’m a fan of rhyming—you don’t get everything on the first listen. I really take pride in my writing, like, a lot of things go over a lot of people’s heads, and I’m not really a fan of dumbing shit down, so I like to keep my shit complex. Maybe they might get it a year later, maybe some of them are just picking up some of the lyrics just now. The whole thing was Speakerboxxx, I wanted that bitch to knock from the intro to the end. But everything in between could be as melodic as I wanted it to be.

Did you expect the album to blow up as big as it did?
Well, you never know. But when it comes out, it happens. Worldwide figures are something like 14 million, and it went diamond—that shit is amazing.

What was your experience like at the Grammys when Speakerboxxx/The Love Below won Album Of The Year?
It was great; we flew about 30, 40 members of each of our families out, and we all shared a moment. The performance was crazy, to perform with Earth, Wind & Fire—one of my musical heroes—and the band, it felt like we were floating in the clouds, man.

Ten years later, how do you feel it holds up?
I mean, it’s good, man. We’re still out making the coldest music on the planet, whether it’s Dre making dope features or me making classic albums. Just for the fans to come out and have sold out concerts everywhere I go, it’s a blessing. It’s getting better and better, man. I feel like I’m just getting started.

How do you feel like it compares to the other stuff you guys have done?
Everything is in its own life—albums are like time capsules, so it just captures the essence of your life from the time that you start to the time that you finish, like a diary almost. Some of the moments you can remember what you were doing at the time.

What was life like while you were making those two albums?
Constantly in the studio, but I have kids, so I was balancing the studio life and just being a great father. I’m proud that I was able to do that and be able to be in my kids’ lives as much as I was, and still am, and raising two beautiful boys who are playing football, and my daughter just went off to Harvard University, so man, I feel like a champ.

What changed for you between the two albums—from Aquemini to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below?
Just living life, man. Life experiences, you go through different things, you learn different things, different things by traveling. Becoming a world traveler and just seeing the world all over the place and just seeing how people live is just really great.

  • Fredrick Weathersby

    Dont try to live up to the past, just move on … I need Spree Wilson on an OutKast collaboration