Boi, oh Boi: ‘Big’ compliments duo

Listening to Big Boi’s latest tracks might subject you to questioning, “Is it ‘Innervisions?’ Is it ‘I Can’t Stop?’ Is it Paul Oakenfold?” Or, “Is it simply one of the finest hip-hop records made in the past decade?”

Well if you stopped yourself at the aforementioned inquiry, you are correct. No, Big Boi didn’t enlist Stevie Wonder, Al Green or techno-icon Oakenfold. But listening to his new, critically-acclaimed masterwork, “The Speakerboxxx,” you will notice the obvious references to these three highly-touted musical minds.

Big Boi, the left side of Outkast that helped bring us records like “Atliens” and “Stankonia,” has produced yet another insightful, intensive and simply insane 56 minutes of music.

Throughout “The Speakerboxxx,” you become a student immersed in Professor Boi’s hip-hop lecture on the music of the past 30 years. While he entertains (as any good teacher should do), he intently educates the listeners; he relieves them from their cavernous musical-mindedness, allowing them to expand and enjoy the fact that music and its genres should by no means be cut-and-dry.

While he allows some tracks to sound like airy renditions of Stevie Wonder songs and others like a track off the new Chemical Brothers record, Big Boi breaks the tension by dropping Al Green-esque choruses and breakdowns throughout this entire record. Hip-hop dances alongside break beats, and they intertwine in the speedy side of house and industrial music as Big Boi takes his journey through so many diverse styles of music.

Working as a perfect compliment to Andre 3000’s “The Love Below,” Big Boi’s half of the new Outkast split has all the elements Andre seems to lack. While Andre toils in guitars, falsettos and lithe choruses, Big Boi appears much more concerned with his roots in mid-to-late ’80s hip-hop and late ’70s R&B.

And while “The Speakerboxxx” shares some of hip hop’s concerns, Big Boi is as far away from the industrialized, cash factory, musical warehouses as modern popular music has become. Outkast has rewritten the formulas that have been read so many times before, the ones that have awarded money, accolade and power using “Speakerboxxx” as its paintbrush and “The Love Below” as its canvas.

Through one Grammy nomination after another, Outkast has realized their formula. And that formula begs Outkast to continue playing what is in their heads rather than play what we, as a consumer nation, want to hear. On “The Speakerboxxx,” Big Boi has heeded the formula’s call and has made a hip-hop record of unabashed soul and unparalleled vision.