Today In Hip-Hop: OutKast Releases ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’
On this day, September 23, in hip-hop history...
2003: Almost three years removed from their fourth studio album, Stankonia, which hoisted Outkast and their popularity beyond international borders, the pair took to their fifth release,Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, to solidify their presence and legacy as the most innovative rap duo of all time.
As Outkast's identity evolved within each of their first four releases, the individual and creative complexions of both Big Boi and Andre also began to take shape in vastly different trajectories. The duo's first ever double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was the lone project of theirs to ever package the two MC's capabilities as independent entities. While there was no concernable disconnect between the two long time musical confidants, if there was ever a defining moment that marked the point in time in which their respective visions had taken on dissimilar avenues, the release of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was that moment.
Although the composition of the album was an unfamiliar estrangement for Outkast, with only three of the combined thirty-nine tracks featuring vocals from both of the ATLiens, the communal album somehow infused the isolated undertakings of both Big Boi and Three Stacks, and aligned to exceed all of their previous efforts in terms of mainstream success. While the two discs collectively generate a complete and fluent listen, they couldn't have been further from each other in regards to mood and atmosphere.
Big Boi's share of the joint effort, Speakerboxxx, which held nineteen tracks and was fifty-six minutes in duration, was exactly what you'd expect from a Daddy Fat Sax influenced assemblage. Displaying production from Big Boi himself, Andre, Mr. DJ, Cutmaster Swiff, and Carl Mo, paired with lyrical features from the likes of Jay-Z, Killer Mike, Ludacris, and Goodie Mob, the lead disc stayed true to the vintage, southern bounce hip-hop roots that Outkast was primarily constructed on. The biggest transformation throughout the entirety of Outkast's discography comes in the form of Andre's approach to his portion of this specific project. Suitably titled, The Love Below, which was a collection of twenty tracks, became Andre's daring departure from the recognizable hip-hop lyrical hypnotist, and instead sees him take on the components of a heartfelt narrator to an experimental and conceptual hour-long novel of love.
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below carried with it three singles that reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, with two of those (Hey Ya!, The Way You Move) peaking at the #1 spot. As a whole, the album found itself at the top of the Billboard 200 for seven weeks, went on to be the second ever hip-hop album to win Album Of The Year at the Grammy's, while also attaining two further Grammy's for Best Rap Album and Best Urban Performance, and was ultimately certified diamond by the RIAA after surpassing eleven million copies sold.
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below may have marked the dawn of the duos eventual hiatus from one another, but it's especially imperative to their legacy because while it exhibited the ample differences between Big Boi and Andre, it also demonstrated both in their most imaginative realm. An area neither would have arrived at if it weren't for the other's influence.—Michael Blair