After Antwan ''Big Boi'' Patton created an album of rap-heavy funk and Andre ''Andre 3000'' Benjamin recorded a disc of sexy, Prince-style ballads, the two collaborators -- otherwise known as OutKast -- put together an instant hit. ''Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,'' which is more like two solo albums than a double album, is not only riding high on the charts week after week but even getting love from critics. (Entertainment Weekly gave it a straight A.) In an exclusive interview, Big Boi and Andre explain how they're breaking the barriers between hip-hop and other genres -- and what they'll do to conquer Hollywood.
Do you think it's limiting to call ''Speakerboxxx'' a hip-hop album?
BIG BOI Oh, yeah. If you say it's a hip-hop album, you have to say it's a funk album, it's blues, it's jazz, it's folk -- you know what I'm saying? It's some of everything, wrapped up in one. I like to call it a musical nuclear bomb.
DRE Titles and categories mess a lot of things up, man. Once you put titles on stuff, it kind of locks it in. Even with relationships -- it never fails. You can be cool with a girl, and y'all having the best times, and then as soon as that day when it's like ''That's my girlfriend'' and ''That's my boyfriend, we're going steady,'' s--- all of a sudden gets changed. Because you've got this title to live up to! And that's when it f---s up.
Since the album is all over the place in terms of styles, is there is an overall personality?
BIG BOI The way I can put it with the two records is, if it was a mother having a baby, when the doctor got my album, he was like, ''It's a boy,'' and when the doctor got Dre's album, he was like, ''It's a girl.'' They go together, you know what I'm saying? One is really upbeat and rhyme-orientated, and the other is still upbeat but it's more love-oriented, there's more melodic things going, more singing. But the whole thing is funky-like. As long as the listener is getting all that good candy in his ear...
Is there anything worthwhile going on in hip-hop right now, or are you down on all of it?
DRE It's so formulated. There's gonna be a change; it's gonna be back to real feeling. Like jazz was. It sounds hard, but it may get back to instrumentals, after a while. Because the sincere ain't coming from what people are talking about.
BIG BOI There's a couple of nice things going on in hip-hop.... I mean, in music in general. I don't like to talk in just one genre. I feel like OutKast makes music for the world. Hip-hop was the door that we came in, but we used hip-hop and branched out into just freeform music, man.
Do you see much hope for the music industry?
DRE I think [we need to learn from] the movie industry. Because back when I was real, real, real young and crawling around looking at my dad's albums, you looked at album covers and they was like, ''Damn! Look at that picture of Earth Wind & Fire.'' It's like ''Aw, man! That's amazing. They must be magic or something.'' And there was a whole theme or story in the packaging. Now, what if every artist did a short film for their album? You might not be the greatest actors in the world, but if there was some kind of visual to go with it -- so it's not just a single or a song -- you're intrigued by it; plus, you feel like you're getting more.
At one point we heard you were doing something like that, a movie project, to release in conjunction with the new album.
DRE Yeah, and if we would've had the movie already shot, the timing would be perfect. But we'll be shooting it as an original HBO film, and they're using the songs from the album and making it into this OutKast movie. It's gonna be like a musical.
BIG BOI It's supposed to be released around February or March. I think we might shoot it some time in November. It's set in the '40s.... But it's gonna be kind of based upon real life situations with me and Dre, and we'll be starring in the movie, as well as Don Cheadle and Rosario Dawson.
Do you ever find yourself wanting to take even bigger risks than you do, but then reigning yourself in?
DRE I had a song called ''Long Way to Go'' and it was about an interracial relationship. And I didn't put it on this album coming out right now because I didn't feel that my fans were ready to hear me say that.
Maybe the time will never be as right as you want it to be.
DRE Nah, nah, [depending on] the way you present it to people, it can be different. See, now I want to give it to Gwen Stefani for her [solo] album. It'll be looked at differently now. Same song, different package.