“Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” by OutKast is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest albums of all time! It blended Rap, Rock, Pop, Funk and basically everything else. It is one of the most diverse albums ever recorded. It won Grammy for album of the year in 2004, making it the only Rap album to ever win that honor. It also went over 11 times Platinum! Not only that, but it has gone on to become one of the most important albums in Hip-Hop history and has inspired and shaped the more emotionally in-touch, experimental, singing Rappers of today, like Kanye West, Drake, Kid Cudi, etc. They simply would not be like they are today without OutKast’s career and “The Love Below” in particular.
“The Love Below” side of the double album is a concept album about Andre 3000’s fictional and not so fictional love life. In the following, you will read the over-arching story of “The Love Below” and how I interpreted it. The story is weaved throughout the album, through every song, track by track. Before I begin, I have to explain that the songs, “Millionaire” with Kelis and “Long Way To Go” with Gwen Stefani, while having appeared on both Kelis and Gwen Stefani’s albums, were initially intended for “The Love Below”, but the record company asked that Andre 3000 shorten the album, so they placed those two songs on Kelis’ and Gwen’s respective albums. After having purchased the “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” CD, importing it to iTunes and downloading Gwen and Kelis’ songs through iTunes, I burned my own version of “The Love Below” and put “Millionaire” after “Love Hater” and “Long Way To Go” after “Pink and Blue” as they work right in to the story of the album, in those places. Now with that said, on to the concept of “The Love Below”!
On the first two tracks of the album, “Intro” and “Love Hater”, Andre 3000 wakes up in the morning and feels dissatisfied with his life, lack of love and the world. “Millionaire” continues that line of thought about life and love and what it all means, but with the added complication his wealth and fame has brought him. He has all the riches, but he still feels empty and lonely. He needs LOVE! After that, he prays to God on the “God” interlude to send him a great woman.
He proceeds to go out for the night and becomes smitten with/falls in love on “Happy Valentine’s Day” (not meant to be taken as a literal Valentine’s day song). It’s about him finding the girl God had sent him. He brings her home and sleeps with her on “Spread”. You can even here him driving her back to his place and them getting out of the car and going through the front door and starting to get busy in the background, hence the title. He got her to “spread”. Then they wake up the next day on the “Where Are My Panties?” interlude.
He really likes this girl and starts to contemplate if she could be the one on “Prototype”. They start spending a lot of time together, fall in love and get engaged (“forever my fiancée”) on “She Lives In My Lap”. Even though they are in love, engaged and always together (in his lap) he can’t bring himself to fully commit through taking the big step (marriage). He ends up getting her pregnant on “Hey Ya!”. If you really listen to it, it’s really about dealing with a pregnancy out of wedlock and not wanting to make the same mistakes their parents made. He’s having a lot of trouble with the concept of settling down (“I don’t want to meet your daddy, I just want you in my Caddy” etc.). He doesn’t want it to be that serious, but now it looks as though they may have no other choice because she is pregnant. It would seem that this woman is representative of his real life baby-mama, Erykah Badu, who he had one child with by the name of Seven.
Then comes “Roses” where the relationship goes sour and he tells her (Caroline) off. This is followed by the “Good Day, Good Sir” interlude and “Behold A Lady” where he meets a new woman. On “Pink and Blue” you find out that this new woman is an older woman. Not only is she an older woman, but you discover she’s also a white woman on “Long Way to Go” They have a lot to tackle between the world’s perceptions of an interracial couple and a couple with such an age difference. They, like the last relationship he had in the album and any other relationship for that matter have its ups and downs on “Love in War”.
Caroline/Erykah from earlier in the album ends up having the previously mentioned baby on “She’s Alive”. He realizes he won’t be there for that baby, much like his Dad wasn’t there for him. The song tells the story of his mother persevering through her struggles as a single mother and his birth juxtapositioned with the birth of his daughter in the album. He goes on to marry the new older woman on “Dracula’s Wedding”, despite their tumultuous, monster/vampire-like relationship. Then comes “The Letter” interlude, where Caroline writes to him about how she still loves him and misses him and the song “My Favorite Things” is symbolic of the reemergence of feelings for her and him realizing that he really does love her and maybe he picked the wrong girl to marry. “Take Off Your Cool” is the amicable falling apart of his marriage with the older woman and both of them agreeing it’s for the best, because they can’t really be themselves together and they put on this facade (“Cool”) around each other and end up thinking it’s best to go their separate ways.
But on “Vibrate” you find out that in the end he doesn’t go back to the original girl either and ends up alone and taking care of himself hence all the allusions to masturbation (VIBRATEor). This song is also where the albm gets it’s title from when he sings “the love below starts talking to you” (another reference to masturbation). This is juxtapositioned with the idea of him finding himself and spiritually vibrating at a higher frequency now that he is alone again and able to get in-touch with his inner-self. Finally “A Life In The Day Of Benjamin Andre” is just something extra at the end (over the movie’s credits if you will) and sums his whole, actual life up to that point up.
The whole story is very reflective of his real life in many ways. It’s incredible how he built this over-arching story through all of the songs and was able to mirror his real life and experiment musically, in so many awesome and groundbreaking ways. “The Love Below” was originally composed to be the songbook for a film musical that never came to fruition, in it’s original form at least. However, OutKast’s film “Idlewild” which came out a few years later, utilized many of the songs and themes in a completely new story that also worked in Big Boi and many of his songs from the other side of the coin “Speakertboxxx” as well as some songs from their final album “Idlewild” (the companion album). “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”is absolutely one of my favorite albums of all time. I hope you enjoyed reading the story of “The Love Below” the way Andre 3000, hopefully intended it to be interpreted. Now go and listen to the whole album and see if you pick up on this story. Maybe you will pick up on some stuff, I never did, even thought I’ve listened to this album hundreds and hundreds of times. Please share your thoughts, findings or any other comments for that matter. Also check out Big Boi’s side of the double album “Speakerboxx” (not a concept album, but great nonetheless). And “Idlewild” which is in many ways a sequel to “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” is also worth a listen. It is an incredibly overlooked and underrated album and film. In closing, don’t ever forget “OutKast is everlasting”!