FLASHBACK: OutKast: “Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below” Big Boi Vs Andre 3000

Written By: Brandon Basile 

Instagram: @RestlessSoul13 Twitter: @RestlessSol13 Blog: brandonbasile.wordpress.com

Andre 3K is Overrated

Outkast!! 

Cell therapy to cell division

We just split it down the middle

so you could see both divisions

Been spitting damn near 10 years

Why the fuck would we be quitting?

Relationships of all kind always have a way of falling together and then falling apart. We tend to say falling because successful connections happen, a large part by chance, kinetic energy, and the jedi force more so than by sheer will (or else we would all marry our high school sweetheart am I right or am I right?).   In 2003 the hip-hop super group OutKast released their 5th studio album production, the unexpected double album Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below.  The award winning release garnered 3 grammys and numerous singles which pushed the boundaries of what could be called hip-hop.  We all enjoyed the jams like Big Boi and Sleepy Brown’s “The Way You Move” and Andre’s feel good pop-rock crossover “Hey Ya”, but the group never properly followed up the double album for more collaborative work between the two artists leaving us, even now 10+ years later, with a big question mark of “what could’ve been?”

On the Jay-Z and Killer Mike assisted “Flip Flop Rock”, Big Boi raps dope bars with complex fluidity spitting:

          But the knowledge is the power, the cowards get devoured

Any hour, any cipher, any way to any height

Because I might just SNAP on a FUCK-ass nigga

Might clap a cap at a sucka-ass nigga

In the meantime, Daddy Fatsacks gon’ chill out

He might just, pull out his pistol

and let that thang whistle at your windshield or your residence

Superman to Clark Kent, you better be way harder

than the park bench to start this.

“Flip Flop Rock” was more than memorable as Big Boi, Killer Mike, and Jay-Z rapped aggressively with looped sample of Jay-Z for the hook dropping “Young Hov in the place to be / Big Boi in the place to be / Andre 3000 / Shout out to public housing / I brought the whole hood with me”.  Jay-Z shouted Andre 3000 on the track, but Andre’s presence was still missing from rap at the time. Even “Flip Flop Rock” felt like a collaboration that was necessary between OutKast and Jay-Z who were some of rap’s most popular voices at the time.  Prior to Speakerboxxx Big Boi and Killer Mike rapped alongside Twista and Jay-Z on “Poppin’ Tags”, a flossy rap track about shopping and the like, from Jay-Z’s Blueprint 2 LP.  “Poppin’ Tags” fell in line with the vibes from OutKast’s own “So Fresh, So Clean”, but Andre 3k was absent from this collaboration as well.

With the musical monstrosities like the deep album cuts “Bust” and “War”, Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx was just as musically complex and challenging as Andre’s The Love Below. The production of the Speakerboxxx portion flaunts syncopation amidst funk and soul styling that we grew to love from the group’s classic hits like “Rosa Parks”, “So Fresh, So Clean”, and “Ms. Jackson”.  Big Boi was essentially continuing with good things from their previous albums with more polish and no lacking in lyrical quality and depth.  By comparison Speakerboxx was just as well produced as The Love Below, but Big Boi stuck to their usual hip-hop principles whereas Andre 3000 delved more in jazz specific grooves and eclectic tones.  Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx built on OutKast’s usual song structures whereas Andre 3000 was definitely more experimental featuring less than 5 rapped verses on the whole album. With Andre’s sparseness of verses it was apparent that he was moving in directions away from their previous Hip-Hop styling, but no one ever said that this was a bad thing.  Andre 3000’s production on Big Boi’s Speakerboxx on songs like “Ghetto Musick” and “Church” were stellar examples of him greatly expanding the hip-hop genre so with that kind of musical success we still wonder why they couldn’t continue to blend their styles together?

I loved The Love Below a great deal more than Speakerboxxx when I first heard the album. The Love Below fed the eccentric tastes of us weirdo black kids giving us a new angle for us to engage with hip-hop culture that didn’t sound like the rest of the usual dirty south crunk and snap dance songs.  Speakerboxx/The Love Below was received as avant garde and innovative at the time, but the group never reconvened for another album together.  Their soundtrack album for their movie of the same title, Idlewild, was released in 2006 and featured some more collaborative work between the two, but it was said that most of that album was created during the creation of Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below and it was ultimately the last work produced with the OutKast name on it. It was the ending of an era really, but us fans still wonder why. Since then, Big Boi has gone on to release three solo albums as well as and introducing more artists to hip-hop/R&B fame like Run The Jewels lyricist Killer Mike and funky pop songstress Janelle Monae both of which have been necessary artists and voices in hip-hop and black culture as well as being innovative in their own rights.  Big Boi even released a collaborative EP with the indie-pop duo Phantogram under a group pseudonym Big Grams which was used as the name of the album.  So Big Boi went on to continue making moves and Andre 3000 continued to drop feature verses every now and then, but has still yet to release a project of work since The Love Below.

Even today Andre 3000 still lives in conversations about the greatest rapper of all time.  Though Big Boi has continued to create well crafted music on solo efforts, that have still been eclectic in sonic nature, he doesn’t get praised for his lyrical prowess enough.  Andre was naturally more inclined to difference and eccentricity which we loved from him on The Love Below, but is also apparent on the duo’s group works.  Big Boi was the hustler rapper mentality that was going to get it done whereas Andre was the one that would push boundaries more. But even this is problematic as Big Boi continued in his eccentricity leaving us to wonder well where is Andre? It seems that Big Boi has more work ethic than Andre, but who is to speak of an artist’s motivation?  Regardless, it still seems as if Big Boi wanted it more.  Big Boi is consistently dedicated to the art and the culture whereas Andre is falling more into the has-been criteria, not because of putting out bad work, but just because he hasn’t put out work at all. His Class of 3000 television show and soundtrack featured great works of jazz and his comical southern flavor, but was short lived due to a lawsuit. It seems that Big Boi is more of the artistic role model between the two so why would anyone want to be in 3000’s class anyways?