Dave Navarro once said that going solo is the kiss of death. Then he went solo. Now he's playing guitar for Christina Aguilera at the MTV Video Music Awards. Outkast could have gone that route, too. Instead, they've stayed a group while not doing any real collaborative music, and have put out two solo CDs under their collective rubric.

Big Boi clearly brings the southern hip-hop influence to Outkast, but there's more of Prince's sensuality on Speakerboxxx than there is Mystikal's southern bump. "Bowtie" would be the time for Big Boi to bring out the southern fried funk, but he dials it back, making it smooth and sultry. Admittedly, there is some of the expected on here. "The Way You Move" sounds like any other Outkast song, with Big Boi's super-fast rhyming over a spare but booming beat. On the chorus, he flips it with a jazzy horn section and a beautiful falsetto hook.

There are some straightforward songs on the album. "Hey Ya" is irresistible -- full of hooks, a catchy falsetto and a breakdown that will have everyone on the floor. But there's undoubtedly an eccentric element to the album, too. On "The Love Below," Andre 3000 turns into a torch singer, and then a guitar part reminiscent of Hendrix moves seamlessly into "Love Hater."

Sometimes bands don't live up to expectations - but here Outkast has done just that, and more, making one of the most interesting and exciting albums of the year.


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