Two bass lines that beat as one

Outkast’s experiment with sort-of solo projects is greater than the sum of its parts.

Keri Carlson

By now, Outkast fans realize the new Outkast album is not exactly an Outkast album. Rather, the duo splits into two separate solo albums – Big Boi’s “Speakerboxxx” and Andre 3000’s “The Love Below.” But as Big Boi declares on his song “Flip Flop Rock,” “Ain’t no ‘uno’ we’re a duo, deuce, dos, two, a pair.”

The two albums swing to opposite sides of the Outkast continuum – Andre 3000 dives head-first into a 3-foot pool of freaked-out Parliament jazz-funk and Big Boi gives you something to shake-what-your-mamma-gave-you in the clubs of the Dirty South. Though each artist bends the music in a different direction, the end result still has that Outkast feel.

“Speakerboxxx” ignites with old school-styled techno synths and breakbeats as rapid as a machine gun on “Ghetto Musick.” And just when it seems your head will burst, Big Boi breaks it down to a slow jam, crooning “Feeling good, feeling great. Feeling great, feeling good, how are you?” “Unhappy” has a laid-back groove with a devilishly catchy hook of “Might as well have fun ’cause your happiness is done and your goose is cooked.” This leads straight into the sinister “Bowtie,” a Cadillac ride through a New Orleans street-band party.

Big Boi, expected to have the lesser of the two albums, or at least the safest, greatly surpasses these expectations. “Speakerboxxx” is gutsy. Down and dirty funk backed with hefty beats and Big Boi’s ramblings of a family man who still goes to strip clubs will probably make this album the favorite for most. While Big Boi takes many risks, it is still the more conventional of the two records.

On “The Love Below,” Andre 3000 hardly even raps, which might alienate Outkast fans expecting traditional hip-hop. It’s hard to even consider Andre’s album as hip-hop, and even harder to try and peg the right label for it. The intro to “Love Below” sounds like Andre impersonating Frank Sinatra. “Love Hater” follows with jazzy-lounge with a ghetto twist as Andre sings in Nat King Cole fashion, “Everybody needs to quit actin’ hard and shit / Before you get your ass whooped.” But Andre throws in Prince-like funk on “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and just before the gorgeous duet with Norah Jones on “Take Off Your Cool,” Andre again throws you for a loop. Chopped-up techno beats tossed into a blender spin underneath the jazz classic “My Favorite Things.” Andre has twisted hip-hop, not to mention every other genre, into a beautiful mess that can only be labeled “music.”

Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya!” is the best single to hit MTV and the commercial market in a very long time. The bass line bounces like the Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” with a soulful chorus and classic lines such as “Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor ahhh!” “Hey Ya” alone would be worth the entire album.

Of course there are some big flaws with both “Speakerboxxx” and “The Love Below.” For one, Outkast insist on adding annoying interludes that only serve to disrupt the flow. Also, both albums could have cut some incomplete songs and made the albums shorter. But those flaws can very easily be overlooked when the songs that hit their mark hit a bullseye.