Picks and Pans Review: Speakerboxxx/the Love Below

UPDATED 10/06/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/06/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

OutKast
HIP-HOP
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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With 39 tracks totaling more than 135 minutes, OutKast's new double disc is hands down the year's most ambitious release. Remarkably, though the sprawling set has some skip-worthy moments, much of it is nothing short of outstanding. For the first time the hip-hop duo worked separately on the two CDs, with Big Boi helming Speakerboxxx and Andre 3000 handling The Love Below. Big Boi's disc consists of the Southern-fried rap soaked in psychedelic soul that fans have come to expect from OutKast. He brings a decidedly offbeat sense of humor to his rhymes ("You a Chuck E. Cheese bouncer chumpin' off the boss," on "Bust") while also displaying a social consciousness on songs such as "War." But it is Andre 3000's CD that is the real revelation. Largely foregoing" rapping for singing, Dre makes a daring disc that harks back to the early days of Prince both with its eclectic funk and its dirty mind. From the "Delirious"-like bounce of "Hey Ya" to the quirky beauty of "Take Off Your Cool," his acoustic, blues-hued duet with Norah Jones, this is the best Prince album that Prince never made.

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