Sunday, September 21, 2003

I'd agree with Marcello that, based on what I've heard thus far, the Big Boi disc of OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below sounds rather, ahem, undercooked in comparison with the Sign "O" the Times future-funk freakiness of André 3000's disc. I'd also agree with the good Mr. Carlin that regarding Big Boi's sole collabo with his partner in crime, "Ghettomusick," "its electroclash/d&b collision/collusion is superb" (I'd also add mention of its clear affinity for southern bounce, perfectly fitting here but so disappointing elsewhere - what, I ask you, is the entirely dull and horridly untalented Lil' Jon doing on an OutKast album?!). Interesting to note that "Ghettomusick" is apparently the first single over in the U.K. - more proof to me that the Brits seem to be able to more willingly handle the outré in their pop than do us Yanks, as it appears "Hey Ya" is the first American single, which makes sense, since (unfortunately) it's a fairly straightforward, fairly pedestrian guitar-bass-drums track, largely absent of the usual funk I, at least, look to OutKast records for (amongst many other things). "Ghettomusick" also has to be the first major-label hip-hop track to reference Pedro Almodovar (if I'm wrong, please correct me), and has a wondrous screeching-brakes halt - twice - mid-song, pausing for a brief but languorous interlude (the U.S. doesn't like its mainstream hip-hop so, well, proto-avant garde). For my money, the best track I've yet heard off Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is still undoubtedly the brilliantly "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker"-influenced "She Lives In My Lap" (of course it's André 3000's) featuring Rosario friggin' Dawson (talking, not singing - reminds me of her debut in Kids, unexpectedly) - and don't overlook its sample from "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"! Oh, and until I saw lyrics printed, I kept thinking André 3000 was singing "forever my Beyoncé"; the actual line is "forever my fiancé." And now I've clearly exceeded my limit for the number of "é"s to appear in a single paragraph.

In lieu of a new D'Angelo record to nicely dovetail with OutKast's, we've thankfully got a new release from the freakiest R&B bitch not named Kelis (her new single "Milkshake" is, frankly, a disappointment coming on the heels of so many splendid collaborations with everyone from P. Diddy & Deep Dish to Richard X and of course, her muses [or is she theirs?] the Neptunes - it's fine, but nothing as special as I was expecting - but I'm still holding out hope for the long-delayed longplayer now titled Tasty, due out next month), Erykah Badu's Worldwide Underground. EP, LP, I don't care; it's 10 tracks if you include the intro and outro, 8 if you don't, most all of them superb, reaching goals Badu set out clearly (but didn't always achieve) on Mama's Gun. The first single, "Danger (Block on Lock)," is like a high-crime sequel to "Otherside of the Game" ("got to flush the yayo"), while on "The Grind" she takes a backseat to Dead Prez, making herself the intelligent Ashanti to their Ja Rule. It doesn't succeed entirely for me, only because I've never fallen in love with Dead Prez; I respect them much more than I enjoy them. "Love of My Life Worldwide" revamps her Brown Sugar cut (originally with paramour Common) with Queen Latifah, Angie Stone, and Bahamadia to fabulous effect and casts it in ever more old-school fashion, interpolating Dr. Dre's "Keep Their Heads Ringin'," which of course itself interpolated P-Funk - while Latifah self-samples "Latifah's Had It Up 2 Here" on her verse (this ain't a remix, it's a remake, y'all, and nothin' but a ladies-first party - and it's utterly superb while it brings up such questions as: Why isn't Stone a superstar on the level of Mary J.? And where the hell has Bahamadia been, and why doesn't she have a major-label deal?). Collabos with jazzbo Roy Hargrove and Zap Mama are perfectly textured, old-soul tracks. The highlight's gotta be "Back in the Day (Puff)," a lazily sumptuous soul confection which could've been an Isleys single in '75, all vibe and vibes. Worldwide Underground is the follow-up we wanted to Baduizm (not that there was anything wrong with Mama's Gun, or her nearly perfect Live record, which gave the world "Tyrone" - but this just fits, puzzle-like, the way Gun, at least, didn't quite). One of 2003's finest R&B releases, and a more than welcome return from Ms. Badu.

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