If it looked like an R&B album and sounded like an R&B album, it probably was an R&B album in the good ol’days. Things changed when Hip Hop tore up the scene. Hip Hop has definitely had a positive impact on R&B and R&B with out a doubt has had a positive impact on Hip Hop. Rappers have throughout the years infused R&B into their music to give their music a hypnotic vibe. You had Mary J. Blige team up with Method Man and Nas linked up with Lauryn Hill. They made magic together. You even had J Rule and 50 Cent actually sing their raps.
However, I dare to say Andre 3000’s ‘The Love Below’ album was a R&B album crafted by a rapper. The project was his fifth studio album, which was a part of a double album that included Big Boi’s ‘Speakerboxxx,’ released September 23, 2003. Speakerboxxx in many ways stayed true to it’s dirty south roots, while ‘The Love Below’ explored a delicious blend of soul, pop, funk, and jazz. The album was supported with the hit singles “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move,” which both reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The album won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, making it the second hip hop album to win the award. NME ranked Speakerboxxx/The Love Below number 44 on its list of the top 100 greatest albums of the decade, while Newsweek ranked the album #1 on its list of the ten best albums of the decade. But who cares about those snobs that sit in their leather chairs behind a stuffy desk and talk numbers all day long. Yes, you might argue or even call me crazy, but the only thing that is crazy (in a good way) is this album, which must have been sent from God and delivered through the honorable Andre 3000. Here are four reasons I think this album should be consider not just an R&B album but one of the best of our generation.
1. Vibe & Mood – Andre 3000 sets the mood initially with the title “The Love Below.” The album’s artwork also gives us an R&B feel with a Valentine’s Day feel amongst pink guns and red roses. It is a flirtatious romantic ode to love. His interludes such as “Where Are My panties” expresses with the insecurities of love. it also touches on the conflict between love and lust and finding the balance between the two. Songs like “Spread” and “Prototype” give you that R&B vibe and sets a mood that is familiar to a smooth slow jam.
2. Creativity – Creativity is oozing out of this album. The videos, concepts, artwork, lyrics and presentation come from such a unique place. It was fresh, but familiar because it took its influence from R&B. Its almost like putting Nas and R. Kelly in a blender creating a super artist. I guess as a creator, Andre 3000 out did himself on this one. He had come a long way from spitting raw rhymes on “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” to witty romantic melodies on “The Love Below”. “She Lives In My Lap” and “Pink & Blue” are songs which dig deep into what is music and gives us that pure feeling.
3. Lyrical Content & Message – It’s all about the message of Love.
4. Innovative – Today when something is innovative, original and creative, it ceases to be R&B. Many may argue against me for considering ‘The Love Below’ an R&B album. However, it is the content as well as the influences that make it hold true to the genre, which Andre 3000 and Big Boi grew up to as well as their family and the country. Innovators such as Michael Jackson, James brown, and Ray Charles used R&B as a common denominator. James Brown funkedified R&B and molded it into a state that was unique. Ray Charles used the framework of Gospel to get his R&B out to his fans and Michael Jackson used his R&B framework to cross over making it POPular. Andre did just that in ‘The Love Below;’ he used the influences of R&B with his Hip Hop expertise and created a work which will forever bridge the gap between R&B and Hip Hop. This could be considered the most innovative album of our generation.
When you get a chance, listen to “The Love Below,” focus on “Love Hater,” “Spread,” “Protoype” and “She Lives In My Lap” and let me know if you agree.