Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP vs. Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Released within the same five years, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below found A-list artists exercising their creative freedoms to the fullest. These were not just massive Hip-Hop albums (both of which, interweaving other genres), they were mega releases irrespective of genre. Both nominated for “Album Of The Year,” Outkast’s double-disc would take home the honors. But it was just not acclaim, it was sales and hit-making. In the first time two diamond-certified releases face one another in “Finding The GOAT,” these two very distinct entities square off. As one artist redefined his portrayal, two others separated (maintaining their brand) to better identify themselves through growth. Which statement was better? Your vote may make the difference (Click one then click “vote”).
The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem
Before the new millennium, Eminem rode a rocket-ship to the top of the charts and the elite class of MCs through The Slim Shady LP. The lyrically progressive album was big on pranks, sophomoric humor, and fork-tongued fun. Like its namesake, Slim Shady was as much shtick as it was incredible flows, and complex rhyme patterns. One year later, Eminem refined his approach. This album looked more inward at the man behind the act. The Marshall Mathers LP would still make a mockery out of popular culture, but in between the jagged lines revealed the profane and the profound alike. This is the album that proved Eminem had incredible staying power. Underneath the clown makeup was a creative genius, and a tormented soul—who wanted zero sympathy from anyone.
“The Way I Am” was Eminem’s essay to fame. Rather than accept the misunderstandings, Marshall nipped them right in the bud. The song was a piercingly honest attack at his media portrayal, and an assertion that Hip-Hop was not responsible for massacres like Columbine and the like. Em’ was tackling bigger issues rather than poking fun at pop tarts (which he still would do on “Real Slim Shady”). “Marshall Mathers” was a lucid commentary on the music stars and white MCs to whom Eminem was mistakenly compared. The scathing remarks were closer to the heart than past antics. Upsetting the status quo was still part of the Shady Records founder’s repertoire. “Criminal” exonerated Eminem’s freedom of speech, while the nimble lyricist deliberately crossed lines of all sorts, dragging his feet. However, Eminem’s point was that as much as he could (and would) make fun of you, he made even more fun of himself. Suddenly, Em’ transformed from Don Rickles to Lenny Bruce, with some insightful and derogatory thoughts of the world we all shared. “Stan” would be a masterpiece within M.M.L.P. Co-produced by 45 King (Eric B. & Rakim, Lakim Shabazz, Queen Latifah), the dramatic concept single would introduce the world to Dido. The song was another reaction to stardom and changing circumstance, as Eminem looked at his cult status differently with a big-reveal tale. Not only was the concept grabbing, Eminem wrote in the shoes of another person, and made it a captivating single. The record would blur the lines in Hip-Hop and Pop, singing and rapping—at a time when those walls towered. The third album from the D12 front man would provide his fullest, most compelling production. Eminem was no longer just hardcore Rap, and not simply a lyrical circus freak. Dr. Dre, the Bass Brothers, and 45 King treated these verses on a higher level. The Marshall Mathers LP would be a stone in the sand. Sixteen years later, its herculean legacy still has brawn.
Album Number: 3 (solo)
Released: May 23, 2000
Label: Shady/Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #1
Song Guests: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Xzibit, Sticky Fingaz, RBX, Dido, Bizarre, Dina Rae, D12 (Proof, Bizarre, Kuniva, Mr. Porter, & Swifty McVay), Steve Berman, Paul Rosenberg, Mike Elizondo, John Bigham, Camara Kambon, Tommy Coster
Song Producers: (self), Dr. Dre, Bass Bros. (Jeff Bass & Mark Bass), Mel-Man, 45 King
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below by Outkast
In 2003, Outkast were in a musical class of their own. Having won the Grammy Award for “Best Rap Album” with Stankonia, Andre 3000 and Big Boi went to work on a concept of a different kind. Other iconic groups, such as Wu-Tang Clan, The Fugees, N.W.A., A Tribe Called Quest, and even Geto Boys had always compromised the band in pursuit of solo interests. Up to this point, Outkast had not. Big and Stacks rarely appeared apart even as guests on other records. However, it was also clear that despite their rich synergy and complementing styles, they were two distinct creatives, and men. Each half of the group had begun making their early 2000s music apart, with 3000 relocating to Hollywood, California. As time passed, the two reportedly agreed to execute this experiment as two dope boys should. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below celebrated ‘Kast’s differences, in a way that was revolutionary to music at the time. Packaged together, each founder of the group would get a canvas to create on his own terms. The sum of their two parts was still a multiplier, but essentially ‘Dre and Daddy Fat Sax played creative Battleship. The resulting (and revealing) work—released on two separate discs—would eclipse the group’s previous success and acclaim, and further detach the pair from the rest of the Rap pack. Hip-Hop’s songwriting answer to John Lennon and Paul McCartney had an opportunity to show the world their individuality, without breaking up the band or the brand.
Made largely in Stankonia Studios, Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx was a tenacious examination of rhythms. With his Purple Ribbon crew at his side (Killer Mike, Konkrete, Sleepy Brown), Big expanded the musicality of the Atlanta, Georgia sound. “Knowing” was a ricochet flow storytelling around hard-hitting drums, distorted echos, and inventive melody. “Last Call,” joined by Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, was Big Boi’s latest P-Funk derivative. With an aqua-boogie bassline, the record merged Funk with Crunk in a way that seemed futuristic for the mid-2000s. Hit single “The Way You Move” remained the first disc’s standout. Big Boi’s nimble, precise delivery traipsed through an elaborate set of Earth Wing & Fire-like brass, and booty bass. The MC could rap indiscreetly about a woman’s curves in a way that would make grandmas and uncles rush the wedding dance-floor. Outkast teleported the music of the Sevilles and strip clubs together, to ’00s pop. Opposite, Andre 3000 veered away from traditional verse. “Pink & Blue” was Prince-tinged Rock, with a drum machine bed of sound. “Take Off Your Cool,” assisted by Pop Vocal Jazz revivalist Norah Jones was both whimsical and polished. Andre tapped into Jazz, classic Rock, and R&B all at once. An album largely produced at home sounded it, but in an honest, stripped down way. However, when he brought out the multi-tracking and the high energy, Andre 3000 proved he had a portal to the pop charts. “Hey Ya!” celebrated the dynamic tones in ‘Dre’s voice, as he got weird in a way that blended genre, era, and intent. That, and next song “Roses” were incredibly simple writings from one of Rap’s renowned lyricists. However, 3 Stacks demonstrated that his greatest instrument may be his voice. Years before he would play Jimi Hendrix, the artist gave the people what he wanted them to hear, not what they demanded. The experiment exploded as an amazing success. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below would take the highest Grammy honors in the year that followed. Outkast would not—and did not—release their final album together. Instead, the diamond-certified dichotomy showed how two teenagers were gettin’ it approaching their thirties. Both albums deal extensively with sex—something that had long been the core of ‘Kast’s inspiration. However, for a group already so hard to pin down, Outkast divided to further conquer ears, preconceptions, and stagnant times for music.
Album Number: 5
Released: September 23, 2003
Label: LaFace/Arista Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #1
Song Guests: Jay Z, Killer Mike, Ludacris, Big Gipp, Cee-Lo Green, Sleepy Brown, Jazze Pha, Kelis, Norah Jones, Konkrete, Khujo Goodie, Slimm Calhoun, Big Mello, Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz (Lil Jon, Big Sam, & Lil Bo), Rosario Dawson, Aaron Mills, Jeff Van Veen, Bonnie Hayes & the Wild Combo, Catherine Chan, Charles Veal, Cutmaster Swiff, Darryl Otis Smith, David Arenz, David Braitberg, David Whild, Debra Killings, Donnie Mathis, Eleanor Arnez, Eric Johnson, Gina Kronstadt, Hornz Unlimited, Jim Sitterly, John Krovoza, Joi, Kevin Brandon, Kevin Kendrick, Kevin O’Neal, Kevin Smith, King Stephen, Lisa Chien, Louis Kabok, Marcy Vaj, Marianne Lee Stitt, Mark Cargill, Mark Casillas, Martin Smith, Marvin “Chanz” Parkman, Matt Boykin, Michele Nardone, Mildryln “Big Gul” Andrews, Moffett Morris, Myrna Crenshaw, Patrick Morgan, Rajinder Kala, Richard Keller, Richard Adkins, Robin Ross, Sanford Salzinger, Tomi Martin, Tibor Zelig, Yarda Kettner, Victor Alexander, Zaza
Song Producers: (self), Mr. DJ, Cutmaster Swiff, Carl Mo, Dojo5
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.