OutKast - Speakerboxxx / The Love Below - Review
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critics' view

With the flavour of mainstream hip-hop currently epitomised by 50 Cent's bread-and-butter gangsta rhymes, there are few artists, aside from the tireless Neptunes, able to satisfy more exotic palates. The freewheeling fifth album from Atlanta, Georgia duo OutKast, however, constitutes a full-blown banquet, with not a minute of its two-and-a-half-hour running time wasted.

The Love Below began as a solo album for Andre "3000" Benjamin until Antwan "Big Boi" Patton decided to match it. His Speakerboxxx picks up where OutKast's last album, Stankonia, left off. Opening track Ghetto Musick sets the eclectic tone, flipping between hooligan, rave-style electronics and deep-pile soul, while Patton's lyrical agenda takes in single parents (The Rooster), Iraq (War) and comfortable footwear (Flip Flop Rock).

The Love Below, meanwhile, barely qualifies as rap at all. Hopping boundaries like Prince in his prime, Benjamin alights upon absurd innuendo ("Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbour!"), Norah Jones, a drum'n'bass version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's My Favourite Things and a song called Dracula's Wedding, which really is about Nosferatu's nuptials.

Both albums are sublime. Taken together they're hip-hop's Sign o' the Times or The White Album: a career-defining masterpiece of breathtaking ambition.

Dorian Lynskey
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