Listen to this song by hip-hop genre-hopper and one-half of Outkast, Andre 3000. It’s ‘She’s Alive’ as taken from his 2003 album, The Love Below, a tribute to the struggles and sacrifices of a single mother (and indirectly, maybe all single mothers). The album was packaged with his musical partner’s solo record; Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx.
The approach to this record was out of the ordinary to say the least, after a number of hits to precede it. Here were two innovators in hip hop effectively releasing their solo albums as a twofer, branded under the Outkast name, and among other achievements producing two number one hits of stunning quality; “Hey Ya” and “I Like The Way You Move”. It was a feat of marketing genius that paid in dividends in the form of massive crossover sales and awards to boot.
But, the real genius, particularly on Andre 3000’s The Love Below is, first, the bold eclecticism, mixing straight-ahead jazz and tin pan alley, hip-hop, soul, funk, electronica, and rock. And second, in its thematic content, with the ups and downs of love presented in an unabashed manner, whether between a man and his paramour, or a mother and her son. This record represents out-of-the box thinking, and a big artistic and commercial risk where hip-hop, and even rock is concerned. To do it in the early 2000s, when record labels were still clutching the reins of distribution and marketing, and when radio was controlled by large corporations disinterested in musical evolution, was yet another level of risk.
This is not even to mention the subject matter of this particular song, working as it does against the grain of the misogyny and braggadocio that is associated with hip hop (as much as it’s associated with rock music, to be fair). This is a song about the triumph of womanhood, and the contrasting weakness of men when the shit comes down. Now, this could be seen as a personal tale of triumph over adversity, with a single mother abandoned by an incapable father, and forced to raise a child on her own. Or it could be seen as a social statement about fatherless children in inner cities all over America, reported to be up to nearly 40% of children in homes without fathers.
Either way, I think it’s a song about gratitude, expressed by one generation to the one that preceded it, and from a son to his mother who made sure that he never had to go without.
For more information about Andre 3000 and Outkast, check out Outkast.com