Magazine article The New Yorker

Two Sides of Soul

Magazine article The New Yorker

Two Sides of Soul

Article excerpt

The Atlanta duo Outkast has overdecorated hip-hop for a decade now: to the basic elements of hard beats and stacked rhymes, they have added all manner of brightly colored embellishments--R. & B. melody, dance-club technology, and outer-space mythology. The new Outkast double album, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" (Arista), is actually two single albums, each masterminded by one of the group's members. Big Boi, the more traditional of the pair, turns in a supremely confident, consistently enjoyable set of enlightened hip-hop, which ranges from the tempo-shifting (and head-spinning) "Ghetto Musick" to the greasy, funky "The Rooster." If Big Boi's music is anchored by the group's traditions, the CD by the flamboyant Andre 3000 is rudderless, although sometimes brilliantly so; a hip-hop record by association only, it relies heavily on acoustic guitar and warbled falsetto vocals. Andre's kaleidoscopic first single, "Hey Ya!," is sui generis, a daffy, joyful mix of macho posturing, sweet pop, and novelty dance music ("Shake it like a Polaroid picture!" may be a conceptual instruction, but it's no less ebullient for it). But the rest of the record ranges too far and too wide. The slick, lickerish "Spread," the loose-jointed, almost unhinged "Happy Valentine's Day," and the sultry Norah Jones duet "Take Off Your Cool" are outnumbered by lesser efforts that sound like parodies of old Prince songs. …

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