outkast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (Arista/BMG) Rating: Nnnn Rating: NNNN
The twin brains behind Outkast, rather than try to reconcile their increasingly opposing views of what kind of music to make, have made entirely separate records as different as sonically possible. Big Boi's Speakerboxxx is the more straightforward of the two, pushing Outkast's trademark ghetto funk to absurd new heights by pairing it with gospel, rock, cackling roosters and psychedelic soul. In many ways, it's Stankonia II. On the other hand, André 3000's The Love Below is as far out as you'd expect from an MC who's given up hiphop for clarinet lessons. With little rhyming and more acoustic guitars than Range Rover-rattling beats, André runs his pop smarts through a heavy Prince filter, ending up with the Pixies-inspired pop song Hey Ya, a drum 'n' bass version of John Coltrane's My Favourite Things and a strummed ballad with Norah Jones. In total, the sheer breadth of material here is staggering. Few others, hiphop or otherwise, seem even half as inspired as these guys.