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While Big Boi and Andre share the desire to approach things from a unique perspective, in all other ways they're different. Big Boi is the homeboy of the crew, the populist who most adheres to the traditional styles of hip-hop, like throwback jerseys, 20-inch rims on his SUV and girls with the badunkadunk. Andre is the loner, the one who rhymes about inner emotions and outer space, the one who can throw on a purple fur coat and make it look masculine in the tradition of George Clinton and Prince.

That yin-and-yang fit has made Outkast's previous four albums, from their 1994 debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, to 2000's break-out hit, Stankonia, stand out from the typical sounds of hip-hop. And through it all they've managed to connect with people — Stankonia, as avant-garde a hip-hop album as you'll ever hear, has sold 4 million copies in the U.S.

The success of Stankonia allowed the duo to step back and do things a little differently for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Big Boi explored his roots, his communal, Southern-funk side. The song "Tomb of the Boom" is the epitome of this, a hardcore-beat roundtable that features Ludacris, Big Gipp of the Goodie Mob and a new group discovered by Big Boi called Konkrete. "I wanted to do something like 'The Symphony' with Marley Marl," Big Boi explained. "Just MCs from the South, straight street MCs ready to bust on a hard-ass ghetto beat."

On his side, Andre played with the kaleidoscope of the black musical diaspora, touching on jazz, doo-wop, soul and blues, often in the same song. He wrapped the tracks around a fictional story he created in his head, set in Paris, about a man afflicted with lust who finally falls in love. Musically, what stands out is his withdrawal from any actual rapping; instead, Andre sings most of his lines in a down-home falsetto.

  "It wasn't a conscious [decision] not to rap no more..."
"It wasn't a conscious thing where I said, I don't want to rap no more," Andre said. "Even on early Outkast albums I've always felt [sung] melodies. I guess the melodies just took over more and more, and then next thing [I know] I was writing full songs. I was real excited about that, it was a challenge to me to step into that arena and see if I could shake my tail. I was pretty stuck on [that story]. But I didn't want to hear a bunch of love raps. To say what I wanted to say, it'd come out better in song."

Once again, Outkast's experimentation seems to be working — both for themselves and for the fans. In conceiving the album, the two came up with a story line for a new movie, which will be produced for HBO and based on the songs from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It's a rap fairy tale that finds Andre searching for love and Big Boi living out a gangsta-pimp fantasy — much like the themes on their own albums. The soundtrack to the film, which begins shooting early next year for a fall release, will mix some of the songs that missed the cut for these discs, as well as new cuts Andre and Big Boi are working on together. "I want to put my creative energy into different things now," Andre divulged. "Restaurants, things like that. I want to see fly stuff everywhere."

The first week Speakerboxxx/The Love Below showed up in stores, it sold 509,000 copies, topping the Billboard albums chart and besting a list of high-profile debuts that week from Dave Matthews, Limp Bizkit, R. Kelly and Eminem protégé Obie Trice. It proved Outkast's place in the pantheon of pop was not an anomaly that began and ended with Stankonia.

"It's always amazing to me," Andre said, smiling. "You never know what people are going to like. I've seen the best of them, boys I've loved, go by the wayside. I don't know if it's them or the audience. Maybe it's the times. One thing I do know, nobody will stay on top forever. Once you get that in your mind, it won't be such a crash. You just gotta keep on keepin' on, keep doing what you want to do."


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 "Hey Ya!"
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
(Arista)



 "The Way You Move"
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
(Arista)



 "The Whole World"
Big Boi and Dre Present...Outkast
(Arista)



 "So Fresh, So Clean" (live)
Stankonia
(Arista)



 "B.O.B."
Stankonia
(Arista)



 "Ms. Jackson"
Stankonia
(Arista)



 "Rosa Parks"
Aquemini
(Arista)



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