Review #290: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, OutKast

Karla Clifton
6 min readJun 18, 2022

#290: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, OutKast

One. Two. Three. FINALLY! My baby don’t mess around because she loves me so/And this I know for sho!

Oh, I’ve so been waiting for this moment, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because this is a double album. OutKast recorded 170 songs for the record but only ended up including 40, which is still a freaking lot. (Not 100, but a freaking lot.)

As you may have guessed from the cover art, this record is divided in half: Speakerboxxx by Big Boi, and The Love Below by Andre 3000. OutKast had never so starkly cut themselves in two. Let’s take a look at them individually, like God intended.


Big Boi’s half of the record is shorter with a higher BPM. He’s a little bit dirtier than Andre — less Prince, more 50 Cent. It doesn’t hurt that he comes out of the gate at about a thousand miles per hour, from the gunshot beat of “Intro” to the GTA-esque “Ghetto Musick.”

Basically, if you’re here for swagger-filled 2000s rap, Big Boi’s got you covered. You can hear Dr. Dre’s influence on songs like “Unhappy,” and “Flip Flop Rock” even features a very out-of-breath Jay Z. “Bust” is that special mix of 2000s hip-hop and nu-metal that calls Linkin Park to mind, and so is “Last Call,” which features Lil Jon using his gravelly vocals to scream F*** y’all! Like I said, it’s a GTA sound designer’s wet dream.

That said, I was surprised by the sophisticated jazz-funk beats he occasionally uses, like on the delightful “Bowtie” and the Latin-inspired “The Way You Move.” He could be sexy, too, like on “Reset,” although that’s maybe more due to Khujo and Cee-Lo than our Boi.

But the thing that surprised me most was his sense of humor. I always think of Big Boi as OutKast’s badass half, with Andre 3000 functioning as the softer side and comic relief. But man, Big Boi is funny! His skits are never too long and have a clear punchline, like the threatening phone call “E-Mac” and the cautionary “D-Boi.” “Bowtie (Postlude)” has Big Boi take a big gulp of helium and brag about how great he is. “The Rooster” is hilarious, too: it’s about the dull, frustrating life of a parent, who keeps throwing his neck and back out.

Big Boi doesn’t spend the whole record cracking/hyping himself up — he sings about “War” and “Church” and “Knowing,” which is one of the few songs with 3000 on it, sounding joyful and terrifying.

Speakerboxxx isn’t as long as The Love Below, and there’s little excess. Okay, there were a lot of interludes, including one called “Interlude,” and maybe they weren’t strictly necessary. But I just couldn’t stop myself from having a good time.

Most Fun Song On Speakerboxxx: “Bamboo,” which uses the badass bouncy beat from “Tomb of the Boom” and gives it to Big Boi’s son. It’s goddamn adorable. In the whole world…Motherf***er!

The Love Below

Big Boi gives Dirty South rap. Andre 3000 has something very different to offer.

Some important context about the 3000: After Stankonia (#64) was released, Andre 3000 faced something of an identity crisis and decided to try acting, a gamble which basically didn’t go well. When he returned to his partner, his musical goals were very different. Andre 3000 wanted to do something radical.

3000 is channeling Frank Sinatra on “The Love Below (Intro),” so much so that I assumed that it wasn’t him. But it was! Mr. “I’ll Call B4 I Cum” sings like Old Blue Eyes, even on the electric guitarified “Love Hater.”

Most of these songs are croontastic, cynical love songs, ranging from the silly (“Happy Valentine’s Day” and “Dracula’s Wedding”) to the flattering (“Behold a Lady”) to the sinister (“She Lives in My Lap,” featuring an absolutely unhinged Rosario Dawson).

Then there are the songs that prove that Andre 3000 kind of wants to be Prince. “Spread” is so lewd it made me uncomfortable. (But granted, that isn’t too hard.) “Where Are My Panties” is so dirty that it’s cheesy. The only dirty explicit song that made my skin crawl was “Pink & Blue,” which opens up with a sample from “Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number” by Aaliyah & Mr Horrible himself, R. Kelly. If there’s one thing I hate about music, it’s the fact that R. Kelly makes it. The song doesn’t paint as gross a picture of an age gap relationship as it could, but R. Kelly’s name is like anthrax: kills everyone in the vicinity. No, I preferred the sweet love songs, like “Prototype” and “Take Off Your Cool,” which features Norah Jones and is completely unexpected and warm and natural.

“Roses” is the only song to feature Big Boi and is one of the precious few proper rap songs on The Love Below, and it’s got my second-favorite chorus: I know you like to think your sh*t don’t stank/But lean a little closer and roses really smell like woo woo woo. I don’t love the Crazy bitch outro, but Andre 3000 gets a pass because he briefly speculated that “God” might be a girl. (Listen, it’s 2003, give the man a little credit.)

Speaking of Big Boi, his bread and butter seems to be hardass gangster rap; I don’t think Andre 3000 has a hardass gangster bone in his body. While Big Boi raps about war, Andre raps about “Love in War.” Penultimate track “Vibrate” does just that, as Andre instructs you to Motherf*** the wagon/Come join the band. Normally I don’t like when rappers get all preachy at the end of their albums, but I kind of liked Andre’s weirdo hippie observations. Mother Earth is dying and we continue to f*** her to death… AMEN.

There’s just so much to sink your teeth into with this album, I killed two pens taking notes. Like the Fiddler on the Roof reference in “Good Day, Good Sir,” and the freaking improvisational jazz cover of “My Favorite Things” by Rodgers & Hammerstein. And did you know that the skit preceding it, “The Letter,” wasn’t originally on the record? In fact they had to cut out bits of the last song, “A Life in the Day of Benjamin Andre (Incomplete),” making it truly incomplete.

Which brings me to the meatiest song on the album, the song heard round the world, the reason that life on Earth was created in the first place. “Hey Ya!” Such a short phrase — you’d never guess that the most profound joy you’ll ever feel stems from it. Has there ever been a national event that unified us more than the release of “Hey Ya!”? Don’t answer that.

Okay, so first of all, if you want this as your wedding song, don’t. Because even though it’s the most fun song to ever exist, it is actually NOT a happy song. It’s about a bad relationship between two unhappy people, and concludes that human beings are bad at being faithful to each other. As Dre says, You know we’re not happy here, Andre sadly/ecstatically shouts, Y’all don’t wanna hear me you/You just wanna dance.

Despite the fact that this song is impossible not to dance to, it is actually NOT a happy song. It’s about the fact that human beings are piss-poor at being faithful to each other, but they can’t seem to stop having messy relationships anyway. This is a popular wedding song, and it’s all about how all relationships are bound for failure!

It’s also got a delightful music video, featuring Andre 3000 playing every instrument in a fictional band of Andres, because Andre 3000 plays every instrument on the song, because he is a musical genius who deserves to be President of the United States.

Finally, not only did this song make Polaroid cameras popular again, it gave everyone bad directions on how to use them. You are not, in fact, supposed to shake a Polaroid picture. Polaroid had to release a statement.

“Hey Ya!” promises nothing but a delightful good time, but delivers so much more than that. That’s how I felt about Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. I wanted pure fun, and instead I got something wild and different.

And with that, Alright alright alright alright alright…

Least Favorite Song: “She’s Alive,” because it has the horrible combination of falsetto and baby wails.

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