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Earth, Wind & Fire

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Earth, Wind & Fire's Shining Star

GRAMMY-winning rapper Big Boi pays tribute to 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Earth, Wind & Fire

GRAMMYs/Feb 14, 2016 - 12:48 am

(GRAMMY winners Earth, Wind & Fire were honored with The Recording Academy's 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. The following tribute is featured in the 58th GRAMMY Awards program book. Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White died Feb. 4 at age 74).

Earth, Wind & Fire were established by Maurice White in Chicago in 1969 with the vision of spirituality and universal love. From their 1971 sellf-titled debut album and classics such as 1975's That's The Way Of The World and 1976's Spirit to 2013's Now, Then & Forever, they have helped bridge the gap between the music tastes of all ethnicities.

With songs like "Shining Star," "September," "Reasons," and "Let's Groove," Earth, Wind & Fire moved the music world one song at a time. This funky talented group are not only considered one of the best in the R&B genre, but they incorporated elements of jazz, pop, disco, soul, and even rock into their timeless music, selling more than 90 million albums worldwide. Along the way, the gifted group became the first African-American act to sell out Madison Square Garden in New York.

Maurice White, Verdine White, Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, Larry Dunn, Johnny Graham, Al McKay, Fred White, and Andrew Woolfolk collaborated to create this rich, eclectic sound, with a plethora of instruments and the goal of uniting all in peace and harmony.

As we all know, this universally appreciated group has received numerous accolades for their relentless leadership in music, and I am honored to celebrate their Lifetime Achievement Award.

(As one-half of the six-time GRAMMY-winning duo OutKast, Big Boi performed the group's chart-topping hit "The Way You Move" with Earth, Wind & Fire at the 46th GRAMMY Awards in 2004. The following year he was featured on "This Is How I Feel," a track included on Earth, Wind & Fire's album Illumination. Big Boi's solo work includes 2012's Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors. In 2015 he released Big Grams, a collaborative album with electronic rock duo Phantogram.)

The Recording Academy's 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees, including
(Top Row, L-R): Gladys Knight, the Clark Sisters, Tammy Wynette, Laurie Anderson, Gerald Eaton; (Middle Row, L-R): N.W.A, Tom Scott, Donna Summer, Joel Katz, Steve McEwan; (Bottom Row, L-R): Peter Asher, Tom Kobayashi, DJ Kool Herc, K'naan

Photo Credits: Derek Blanks; Mel Elder, Jr.; Michael Ochs Archives; Stephanie Diani; Kim Virdi; TiVo; photo courtesy of SMPTE; Copyright Brian Leatart; Gittings; Steve McEwan; Henry Diltz; Kobayashi Family; Johnny Nunez/WireImage; Nabil Elderkin

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The Recording Academy Announces 2024 Special Merit Award & Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees: N.W.A, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, DJ Kool Herc & Many More

The 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees include Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Tammy Wynette, the Clark Sisters, and many others. The Special Merit Awards will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Saturday, Feb.3, during GRAMMY Week 2024.

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2024 - 01:55 pm

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, the Recording Academy has announced the 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees.

Laurie Anderson, the Clark Sisters, Gladys Knight, N.W.A, Donna Summer, and Tammy Wynette are the 2024 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award honorees; Peter Asher, DJ Kool Herc and Joel Katz are the Trustees Award recipients; Tom Kobayashi and Tom Scott are the Technical GRAMMY Award honorees; and “Refugee,” written by K’naan, Steve McEwan, and Gerald Eaton (a.k.a. Jarvis Church), is being honored with the Best Song For Social Change Award

The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony celebrating the 2023 Special Merit Award recipients will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 3. 

“The Academy is honored to pay tribute to this year’s Special Merit Award recipients — a remarkable group of creators and industry professionals whose impact resonates with generations worldwide,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “Their contributions to music span genres, backgrounds and crafts, reflecting the rich diversity that fuels our creative community. We look forward to honoring these music industry trailblazers next month as part of our week-long celebration leading up to Music’s Biggest Night.”

Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording (through 1972, recipients included non-performers).

Laurie Anderson is a writer, director, composer, visual artist, musician, and vocalist who has created groundbreaking works that span the worlds of art, theater, experimental music, and technology. As a performer and musician, she has collaborated with many people including Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, William S. Burroughs, Peter Gabriel, Robert Wilson, Christian McBride, and Philip Glass. In 2002, Anderson was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA which culminated in her 2004 touring solo performance, The End of the Moon. She has been nominated for six GRAMMY Awards throughout her recording career and received a GRAMMY for the release Landfall in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet at the 61st GRAMMYs. 

The Clark Sisters, an American gospel vocal group initially consisting of five sisters: Jacky, Denise, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen – have been taking the world by storm since the early 1980s. Credited for helping to bring gospel music to the mainstream, the Clark Sisters are considered pioneers of contemporary gospel. Their biggest crossover hits include: “Is My Living in Vain?,” “Hallelujah,” “He Gave Me Nothing to Lose,” “Endow Me,” their hit song “Jesus Is A Love Song,” “Pure Gold,” “Miracle,” and their largest, mainstream crossover gold-certified, “You Brought The Sunshine.” The Clark Sisters (Jacky, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen) have won three GRAMMYs (two awarded to the group, and one to Karen as a songwriter for “Blessed and Highly Favored”), and with 16 albums to their credit and millions in sales, they are the highest-selling female gospel group in history.

Gladys Knight is a seven-time GRAMMY Award winner who has enjoyed No. 1 hits in pop, gospel, R&B, and adult contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance. Knight has recorded more than 38 albums over the years including four solo albums. She appeared on ABC’s 14th season of “Dancing With The Stars” in 2012, and in 2019, she competed on the inaugural season of “The Masked Singer.” Knight has sung the National Anthem at several major sporting events, including at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in 2019, and at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. She was a National Endowment for the Arts 2021 National Medal of Arts Recipient and received a Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Artistic Achievements in 2022.

N.W.A was a rap group from the Compton district in Los Angeles who are credited by many with inventing gangsta rap. The group, consisting of Eazy-E^, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC-Ren, developed a new sound, which brought in many of the loud, extreme sonic innovations of Public Enemy while adopting a self-consciously violent and dangerous lyrical stance. In 1988, N.W.A released their album, Straight Outta Compton, a brutally intense record that became an underground hit without any support from radio or MTV. This negative attention worked in their favor as it brought the album to multiplatinum status. Although the group was short-lived, gangsta rap established itself as the most popular form of hip-hop during the mid-1990s.

Donna Summer^ rocketed to international superstardom with her groundbreaking merger of R&B, soul, pop, funk, rock, disco, and avant-garde electronica, catapulting underground dance music out of the clubs of Europe and bringing it to the world. Summer holds the record with three consecutive double albums to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts (the only solo artist to ever accomplish this), and first female artist to have four No. 1 singles in a 12-month period on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. A five-time GRAMMY winner and 18-time GRAMMY nominee, Summer was the first artist to win the GRAMMY for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (1979, “Hot Stuff”) as well as the first-ever recipient of the new GRAMMY Category for Best Dance Recording (1997, “Carry On”). Summer was the first female artist to win GRAMMY Awards in four different genres: dance, gospel, rock, and R&B.

Tammy Wynette^ first hit the musical scene in 1966 with “Apartment #9” after moving to Nashville and teaming up with record producer Billy Sherrill. Together, the duo wrote songs that reflected the yearnings and the things Wynette felt were important in her life. In 1968, Wynette released “Stand By Your Man,” which sold more than five million singles and became the largest-selling single ever recorded by a female artist. By 1970, she racked up five No. 1 country hits, was named the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year three times, and won two GRAMMYs. Wynette was the first female country music singer to sell over one million albums and has sold more than 30 million records grossing more than $100 million, earning her the title “The First Lady of Country Music.”

Read More: GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Awards | The Complete List

Trustees Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording (through 1983, recipients included performers).

Peter Asher’s career began in 1964 as one-half of Peter & Gordon, whose “A World Without Love” topped the charts worldwide. Nine more Top 20 hits followed before Asher became head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple Records in 1968, and discovered, produced and managed James Taylor; later adding Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, 10,000 Maniacs, Cher, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, Bonnie Raitt, Robin Williams, Stevie Nicks, Lyle Lovett, Morrissey, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Ed Sheeran, and more to his roster. Asher won the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year in both 1977 and 1989. He hosts a hit radio show “From Me To You” on Sirius XM and is much in demand not only in the studio but as a performer, speaker and author.

The legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee DJ Kool Herc is consistently credited as the founder of hip-hop. His mastery at the turntables is known worldwide, as are his positive contributions to the evolution of hip-hop culture. Herc’s popularity rose by playing long sets of assorted rhythm breaks strung together. Unlike any of his DJ counterparts, Herc is not a rapid rapper who keeps your head spinning with a patter, but he is a musical innovator to the turntables. He first introduced using two turntables to make the beats last longer, creating the illusion of one long break for the B-Boys to show off their skills. Herc has received a great deal of recognition during his lifetime, including his induction into the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recognition from the New York Landmarks Conservancy as a 2023 Living Landmark. 

Joel Katz has played a profound role in shaping the entertainment industry through his work in facilitating entertainment-related corporate acquisitions and mergers and consulting multi-national and multi-media entertainment companies. Katz was ranked Billboard magazine’s No. 1 entertainment attorney in its “Power 100” list of most powerful executives in the music business and has been called “the dealmaker who thinks outside the box.” At Kennesaw State University, Katz endowed and began a commercial music program – one of the largest music education programs in America with over 500 students. He has authored and co-authored many articles and commentary on topics concerning entertainment law. In honor of his work, the University of Tennessee College of Law dedicated its library in his name, the Joel A. Katz Law Library.

Read More: GRAMMY Trustees Awards | The Complete List

Technical GRAMMY Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees and ratification by the Recording Academy's National Trustees to individuals and/or companies/organizations/institutions who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field. 

Tom Kobayashi^ and Tom Scott met at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound in 1985, when the duo joined the company and completed the building of the Skywalker post-production facilities in both Northern and Southern California. Together, Kobayashi and Scott launched the Entertainment Digital Network, also known as “EDnet,” which employed fiber-optic networks to send high-quality video and audio great distances. Its then-revolutionary technology enabled the industry to link together talent, executives and production facilities at great cost savings. For 25 years, that company connected hundreds of recording studios worldwide in the days before the Internet could handle high-quality audio. EDnet became a part of Onstream Media, and over the decades, tens of thousands of long-distance collaboration sessions were facilitated for the music, advertising, TV, and cinema businesses. 

Best Song For Social Change Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award honors songwriter(s) of message-driven music that speaks to the social issues of our time and has demonstrated and inspired positive global impact. The finalists and recipient(s) are selected annually by a Blue-Ribbon Committee composed of a community of peers dedicated to artistic expression, the craft of songwriting and the power of songs to effect social change. See past recipients here.

In June 2023, singer-songwriter K’naan released the inspiring single and accompanying video “Refugee,” co-written by GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter Steve McEwan and GRAMMY-nominated producer Gerald Eaton (also known by his stage name, Jarvis Church). “Refugee” stands out as a distinctive musical endeavor, skillfully interweaving personal and political narratives, and serving as a tribute to refugees around the world. With the single, K’naan drew inspiration from his personal experiences, aiming to redefine the traditional perception of the term “refugee” into a symbol of resilience and strength. The song was written with the hopes of encouraging individuals to embrace the word “refugee” proudly and to give those made homeless by conflict a song that felt like home.

Read More: GRAMMY Technical Awards | The Complete List

^Denotes posthumous honoree.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

André 3000
André 3000

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Everything We Know About André 3000's New Album 'New Blue Sun'

The seven-time GRAMMY winner is back with his debut solo album — his first full album since Outkast's 2006 swan song. One caveat: there are no beats nor bars.

GRAMMYs/Nov 14, 2023 - 08:02 pm

On Nov. 13, the world woke up to the announcement that André 3000 — the seven-time GRAMMY winning and 23-time nominated Outkast star — would release his debut (!) solo album, New Blue Sun, on Nov. 17.

Via an NPR scoop, stunned to learn there are "no bars, no beats, no sub-bass. André doesn't sing on this joint, either." Rather, the instrumental, 87-minute album is the culmination of a years-long preoccupation with various flutes — including contrabass, Mayan, bamboo, and a variety of digital models.

And in their reactions, some of those fans spoke for all of us.

"Andre 3000 has about as much critical goodwill as it's possible to have and he is going to test every fiber of that collective empathy," one journalist and editor opined on X. Another music writer and editor chimed in: "This is the tracklisting. This is going to mess up so many peoples' Spotify algorithms."

And Roy Wood Jr., a correspondent on "The Daily Show," summed it up: That boy trained wit Pai Mei & got a Hattori Hanzo Flute. He ready."

With New Blue Sun on the immediate horizon, here's everything we know about it.

It's Built On Improvisation

As NPR points out, New Blue Sun materialized in part due to André's relocation from Atlanta — where Outkast famously hails from — to Los Angeles. There, he ran into the potent percussionist and experimental jazzer, Carlos Niño.

After André and his flute began dropping by Niño's house for basement jam sessions, he was introduced to a whole new world of collaborators, including keyboardist (and Alice Coltrane disciple) Surya Botofasina and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Nate Mercereau.

"We're listening to each other, we're responding to each other, we're supporting each other at certain times… it's kind of mirroring real life," the artist told NPR. "It's a full living, breathing album because it's fully alive. We didn't sketch it out."

The Titles Are Absolutely Gonzo

Check them out for yourself:

  1. I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A "Rap" Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time 

  2. The Slang Word P(*)ssy Rolls Off The Tongue With Far Better Ease Than The Proper Word Vagina . Do You Agree? 

  3. That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn't Control ... Sh¥t Was Wild 

  4. BuyPoloDisorder's Daughter Wears A 3000™ Button Down Embroidered 

  5. Ninety Three 'Til Infinity And Beyoncé 

  6. Ghandi, Dalai Lama, Your Lord & Savior J.C. / Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, And John Wayne Gacy 

  7. Ants To You, Gods To Who ? 

  8. Dreams Once Buried Beneath The Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens

Have Gandhi, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the Dalai Lama ever appeared in the same song title? We think not.

The Album Title Represents Rebirth

André described New Blue Sun's title in heavily sci-fi, yet personal terms.

"The next world or the next beings will be under a bluer, cooler burning sun. It will burn cooler, but it will be large," he explained to NPR. "So when you look up at the sky in these times, there'll be this larger globe of bluish, still bright but bluish because it's cooler. It's kind of like this whole album and this whole direction is a new world for me."

It Represents A Culmination Of His Interest In Jazz

In said interview, André 3000 shouts out jazz/pop crossovers, like Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good," as galvanizing.

"As a rapper, I associated jazz music with old people and elevator music," he admitted. "I remember that playing on the radio as a kid and humming the melodies. So I'm getting affected by these instrumental cats. And once I started really getting into it, I'm like, hold up: Jazz was the rap of that time."

From there, he absorbed John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Yusef Lateef… the rest is history.

"That Night In Hawaii…" Is About An Ayahuasca Trip

Yes, he really did turn into a panther… or felt like it.

"We did it like a three-night kind of phase. The first night was inviting and beautiful and the most powerful love and connection with all things I've ever felt in my life," he said — and the second was a different story.

"My stomach was hurting, my mouth contorted like a panther and I actually turned into a panther," he related. "And I was doing like GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR — like, that kind of thing."

If you find yourself purring for this strange, lovely offering, check it out this Friday, and read the full NPR interview — and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more info about New Blue Sun!

10 Reasons Why Outkast's 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' Is One Of Rap's Most Influential Double Albums

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

10 Essential Facts To Know About GRAMMY-Winning Rapper J. Cole

Outkast at the 2004 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

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10 Reasons Why Outkast's 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' Is One Of Rap's Most Influential Double Albums

As Outkast's seminal album, 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' turns 20, take a deep dive into how the duo's musical odyssey took the double album concept to new creative heights.

GRAMMYs/Sep 22, 2023 - 02:23 pm

"We done split it down the middle so you can see both the visions," raps Big Boi on "Tomb of the Boom," one of the highlights from Outkast's 2003 magnum opus. And he wasn't kidding.

Essentially two solo albums for the price of one, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below saw Atlanta's premier hip-hop duo take the creative reins for one disc each, resulting in a whopping 135 minutes and 40 tracks of genre-hopping genius.

Favorably compared with classic double albums such as Prince's Sign O' The Times, Pink Floyd's The Wall and the Beatles' The White Album, the follow-up to 2000's Stankonia enjoyed similarly super-sized success, too. It topped the Billboard 200 for seven weeks on its way to worldwide sales of 11.4 million, spawned two No. 1 hits and picked up six nominations at the 2004 GRAMMY Awards — which resulted in three wins, including the coveted Album Of The Year.

And a full 20 years on from its Sept. 23, 2003 release, Outkast's fifth studio effort still stands up as a fearless, funkadelic and forward-thinking body of work. Below, take a look at 10 reasons why Speakerboxxx/The Love Below still has the power to get us all shaking it like a Polaroid picture.

It Helped Outkast Join An Exclusive Chart Club

Only 14 acts in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 have knocked themselves off the top spot. And Outkast joined that illustrious group — which also now includes the likes of Drake and Taylor Swift — in 2004 thanks to two of the era's most addictive hits.

The Little Richard-goes-power pop of "Hey Ya!" was the first to reach the summit, spending nine weeks there between December 2003 and the following February. And then it was finally dislodged by the brassy Southern hip-hop of Sleepy Brown collaboration "The Way You Move," which enjoyed just seven days in pole position before Twista's "Slow Jamz" put an end to the Outkast stranglehold.

It Doubled Outkast's GRAMMY Count

By 2004, Outkast were no stranger to the GRAMMY Awards. They'd picked up Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Ms. Jackson" and Best Rap Album for Stankonia in 2002, and then emerged victorious in the former category again a year later for "The Whole World." But it was the 2004 ceremony where they truly reigned supreme.

The duo stole the show with two memorable performances. First, Big Boi performed "The Way You Move" in a star-studded Funk Music Tribute, which also included legends George Clinton, Earth Wind and Fire and Robert Randolph. Later, André 3000 closed out the show with a celebratory rendition of Best Urban/Alternative Performance winner "Hey Ya!"

The "Hey Ya!" performance was a fitting end to the night indeed, as the pair took home the final — and most prestigious — award: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was crowned Album of the Year. (It also won Best Rap Album earlier that evening.)

It Spawned Several Classic Videos

Outkast had always been a visual hip-hop outfit, but their videography undeniably peaked with the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below campaign. "Hey Ya!" deservedly picked up four MTV Video Music Awards thanks to its inspired tribute to the Beatles' debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" — and André 3000's portrayal of all eight of the fabulously named musicians in the video, including guitarist Johnny Vulture and drummer Dookie Blossom Gain III.

Also directed by Bryan Barber, the "The Way You Move" video saw Big Boi showcase his lyrical flow in everything from a rim shop and old-school music hall to dojo and safari retreat. "Roses," meanwhile, finally allowed both members to share the screen as warring members of rival high school crews in a tongue-in-cheek homage to West Side Story.

It Boasts An Impressively Diverse Guest List

Big Boi roped in several usual suspects on Speakerboxxx, including Big Gipp on "Tomb of the Boom," Killer Mike on "Bust" and Cee-Lo Green on "Reset," while also securing the talents of heavy hitters like Jay-Z, Ludacris and Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz. While an undeniably impressive guest list, André 3000's choice of collaborators was even more intriguing.

Shortly before teaming up with the rapper on her own track "Millionaire," Kelis lent her signature husky tones to the appropriately creepy funk of "Dracula's Wedding." Hot on the heels of Come Away with Me, Norah Jones provided the necessary sultriness on the acoustic "Take Off Your Cool." And perhaps most unexpected of all, Hollywood actress Rosario Dawson proved her diva credentials on the metallic funk of "She Lives In My Lap." The Love Below's roll call was yet another sign that Outkast weren't interested in playing by hip-hop's rules.

It Samples Wisely

Considering Speakerboxxx/The Love Below consists of 40 different tracks and clocks in at nearly 135 minutes, it's surprising that Big Boi and André 3000 only relied on a handful of samples. And like their choice of collaborators, they're far from obvious, either.

Who knew that The Sound of Music showtune "My Favorite Things" would work as a drum and bass instrumental? Or that Timmy Thomas' one-hit wonder "Why Can't We Live Together" and the sensual New Jack Swing of Aaliyah's "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number" would fit perfectly as on "Pink and Blue"?

Elsewhere, the propulsive electronic hip-hop of opener "Ghetto Musick" borrows from Patti LaBelle's '80s soul jam "Love, Need and Want You," while "She Lives in My Lap" lifts from both Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" and Volume 10's "Pistolgrip-Pump."

It Paved The Way For Genre-Hopping

While genre boundaries have been well and truly broken down in today's streaming era, back in 2003, most major artists stayed in their lane — but not Outkast.

The Love Below certainly has little regard for pigeonholing, veering from big band crooning ("Love Hater") to celestial neo soul ("Prototype") to twitchy electro ("Vibrate") with both confidence and panache. The more-focused Speakerboxxx also keeps listeners on their toes, whether it's with the squelchy P-funk of "Last Call," punchy rap-rock of "Bust" or the mariachi-tinged hip-hop of "The Rooster."

Despite its mammoth running time, the album impressively never repeats itself, providing more flashes of invention than most of the duo's peers manage in an entire career.

Even The Interludes Are Inspired

Of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below's 40 tracks, 11 could be classed as interludes — a number that would normally draw groans, especially considering how much they're often the bane of a hip-hop album. But while the blink-and-you'll-miss-it contribution from comedian Henry Welch ("D-Boi") and the brief helium-voiced reprise of "Bowtie" are rather pointless, the majority of the breathers do add something to the record.

"Interlude" is a hypnotic spoken word piece which offers a crash course in Outkast history ("Believe in the dirty Southernplayalisticadillac-funky-ATLiens/ Together, makes Aquemini"). "The Love Below (Intro)" is a sumptuous orchestral number in which André 3000 throws things back to the Rat Pack. And "God (Interlude)" finds the latter living up to his horndog reputation in a cheeky prayer recited over some sun-dappled guitars.

It's About Both Love And War

As titles such as "Happy Valentine's Day," "Behold a Lady" and, of course, The Love Below would suggest, André 3000's half of the album is largely focused on the affairs of the heart — no doubt informed by his break up from Erykah Badu and subsequent quest to find 'the one.'

But to counterbalance all the love talk, Speakerboxxx is a more socially-conscious record in which Big Boi tackles themes of spirituality, philosophy and politics, none more so than on "War," a fervent protest song which no doubt left George W. Bush's ears burning ("Basically America, you got f—ed/ The media shucked and jived, now we stuck, damn.")

The Pair Deliver Career-Best Vocals

Free from having to battle for space on the same track — they only appear together on "Ghetto Musick," "Knowing" and "Roses" — Big Boi and André 3000 have arguably never sounded better than on their respective discs.

The former is in particularly ebullient form on his alter ego Sir Lucious Left Foot's origin story "Unhappy," and also spars well with hip-hop giants Jay-Z and Ludacris on "Flip Flop Rock" and "Tomb of the Boom," respectively. His regular partner in crime, meanwhile, appears to relish channeling his inner Prince on the falsetto-led "Spread" and final single "Prototype."

It Helped Revive The Hip-Hop Double Album

The mid-'90s had been a boom period for the hip-hop double album, with Tupac Shakur's All Eyez on Me, Notorious B.I.G's Life After Death and Wu Tang Clan's Wu Tang Forever regarded as the holy trinity. But the concept had fallen out of favor until Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below shifted nearly six million copies in the United States alone.

Following its triumph, Nas (2004's Street's Disciple), UGK Underground Kingz (2007's Outkast-featuring Underground Kingz) and Tech N9ne (2008's Killer) all got in on the act. More recently, Vince Staples (2015's Summertime '06), Drake (2018's Scorpion) and Kendrick Lamar (2022's Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers) have also tried to bottle lightning twice. But while they all have their high points, none quite match up to the sheer brilliance of Outkast's crowning glory.

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