The Joup Friday Album: Outkast – The Love Below

Outkast - The Love Below

Outkast – The Love Below

I honestly don’t even know how to start to talk about this album…or half an album, since I haven’t been able to bring myself to give Big Boi’s disc a fair shake; because I know that whatever it’s like, it can’t possibly occupy the same blinged-out Madonna Inn of amour that André Benjamin dreamed into being here. Having said that, I recently discovered that one of Big Boi’s favourite artists is Kate Bush, so I should really get round to that.

On what has looked for over a decade to be Outkast’s swan song, Big Boi and André Benjamin took to separate corners and discs to present a double album of how each idealised the outfit. The result was the far better critically received ‘Speakerboxxx’, with André’s ‘The Love Below’ a sidenote or curiosity boasting the enormous singles ‘Roses‘ and of course the irrepressible ‘Hey Ya!‘.

Benjamin conjured an unashamed, hairy palmed concept album about the expanse of male desire that both embraces and elbows the predictable ‘front’ about ‘booty’ and reaches a pretty sober conclusion once the reality of the artist’s desire is truly laid bare. On the regular occasions ‘The Love Below’ throbs into tumescence, it’s with a cartoon absurdity drifting into ironic self-deprecation, or else highlighting the potentially destructive nature of desire.

On the surface, the album seems fairly two dimensional, but lengthy co-habitation reveals astute meditations on objectification and conquest (‘Spread’),  immature lasciviousness dressed up as romanticism (‘Prototype’), jealousy and possessiveness (‘She Lives in My Lap’), the concept and pursuit of the unattainable (‘Behold, A Lady’), the fantasy of an older woman (‘Pink & Blue’), the reality of women left with the consequences of physical relationships without the male’s maturity to take responsibility for the outcome (‘She’s Alive’), opening of deep emotional connections (‘Take Off Your Cool’), masturbation (‘Vibrate’), and culminates in a jarring spew of an admission about Benjamin’s own missteps in romance (A Life in the Day of Benjamin André (unfinished)), detailing his life up to and beyond fathering of a son with ex Erykah Badu, and fulfils the prophecy of it’s ‘unfinished’ nature as detailed in the title’s parenthesised epilogue, with a seeming non-sequitor about a lengthy project to obtain a VW Rabbit, only to get close, then start to obsess over a Cadillac, acting as metaphor that puts the whole album in perspective.

So ripe for reappraisal but I see no sign of it.

Real guys, go for real Down-To-Mars girls.

You’re up again, Sonny.

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: Outkast – The Love Below
  1. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    GREAT write-up and equally wonderful choice. Despite its occasional devolutions into potty-mouth adolescence (the ridiculous refrain ‘Crazy bitch, stupid bitch’ that almost always encourages me to skip that track – something I’d never thought about being meta-level critiquing), this is one of the only albums by a hip hop artist (note: I took very calculated precautions not to refer to the album itself as hip hop, because it’s not) from the last twenty years that I actually love. Despite that, until reading Your assessment, I’d not thought about it having the level of self awareness you posit. Reassessment begun!

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