On August 20, elusive mega-artist Frank Ocean dropped Blonde—his highly anticipated, years-in-the-making second studio album formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry. Just a day prior, Ocean released Endless, a forty-five-minute visual album, exclusively through Apple Music.
Ocean owned that forty-eight hour period and every hour since with fans hyper-dissecting the projects and consuming the creations at a rapid and rabid pace.
One of the most talked-about songs is “Solo (Reprise),” a one-verse solo track featuring none other than André 3000—himself one of the most perpetually anticipated, elusive artists of the past decade. After previously collaborating on “Pink Matter,” from Ocean’s 2012 studio debut channel ORANGE, the second pairing produced even better results. As with the majority of his verses, the brief track reminds fans just how necessary André 3000 is—either as a solo, group or guest artist.
I remain committed to the idea of André 3000 being a top five all-time emcee despite no proper solo records and a scattered output of material since his 1994 debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik as half of OutKast. Regardless, every OutKast album holds classic or near-classic status and every André appearance is a true treat for fans of hip-hop, art, writing, thinking, creativity, storytelling, and individuality.
I’ve never heard a Three Stacks verse I didn’t like and neither have you. He makes art better.
I anticipate an even greater fever pitch if this man ever decides to focus on his own solo project and simultaneously ruin every other musician’s dream for that season. Listed below are my favorite Three Stacks guest appearances, devoid of any OutKast albums and not extending past the last ten years. Make sure you listen to all of them either during or after reading, as the man’s flows and ideas need to be heard to be appreciated.
Artist: Fonzworth Bentley
Album: C.O.L.O.U.R.S. (2011)
“Shorty, you killing ‘em hard with them lady pants / Simple elegance / Looking better when you dance / Chest to the sun / With your thoroughbred stance / You gallop to the rhythms / Of a native drum chant / Your granny must be Navajo / Your mama do rodeo / Your papa do the Savile Row / I bite you / Ain't no antidotes / The red blouse do arouse / I come at you like a matador / Does attract horny bulls / All the girls are waiting to see which one he pulls / Eenie meenie miney meenie prenuptial / Enforcer in the Porsche / In case fools wanna duel”
An understandably forgotten song, this would’ve been in the recycling bin outside my house (along with the video) if not for a particularly savage Three Stacks verse. He intertwines rhyme schemes with themes and imagery of dreams—even when discussing subjects of little substance. A verse like this is a perfect example of what André 3000 can bring to anything he touches sonically—a particularly unlistenable song saved by a verse of beauty.
“I got a call from Kanye West, and I didn’t know him. He said, ‘Yo, I like your flow, and I really want to go into the studio and do your whole album.’ And I told him—Dog, I’m really not doing an album, but I appreciate the compliment. I did it because I just wanted to set the record straight that I wasn’t an assistant anymore. So I got off the phone with him and I called my homeboy from middle school, Dre—people know him as André 3000—and I told him I had gotten this amazing compliment, and I didn’t really know where to begin? He told me to just go in the studio and have fun.” - Fonzworth Bentley
9. “Deuces (Remix)”
Artist: Chris Brown
Album: F.A.M.E. (2010)
“And here I am / All heavy with the words / Where somebody that's a nerd / Likely fast forward / But shit, they asked for it / It’s hard to throw up them deuces / ‘Cause when you know it’s juicy / You start to sound like Confucius when making up excuses / Chase the Cabooses until the track gone / I gotta find me a new locomotive / Stop making sad songs”
One of the first incarnations of superhero André 3000 guest appearances, the already killing it radio single got that much better with the addition of Three Stacks, who delivered a melancholy-but-deadly verse to close out the posse cut remix.
“The music has to kinda move me in some kind of way. Sometimes it's emotionally, sometimes it's just being there supporting another person. Even the Chris Brown remix—of course I love the beat, but at that time a lot of people were on Chris Brown as a human being. And I know he'd gone through his troubles or whatever and I just was like—I just wanted to stand by him and be like: hey, you know, you can't really charge a man forever and condemn a man forever. So it's really just like a support thing. I thought it was a cool thing to do.” - André 3000
Album: Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Hand (2012)
Producer: Po Johns, Sir Clef & Jazze Pia
“What it ain't / What it is / Even if you gotta live / I learned that apartments are way more exciting / Than a big ass house on a hill / I used to be a way better writer and a rapper / When I used to want a black Karmann Ghia / Now a nigga speeding in a Porsche / Feeling like I'm going off a course / Cut these fuck-niggas off / Negatives in my life / Scream that ’til I'm hoarse / Duck these / Get the fuck off me / Projectiles / Bitch, you ain't really got a choice / I’m living my life / Live yours”
Two Southern generals teaming up to conquer, André opted for his rarely-utilized aggressive approach, pivoting from lamenting the trappings of stardom to metaphorically pushing the TMZ cameras out of his face. I never fully understood the hype behind T.I., and tracks like this further illustrate my confusion: why be boring when you can be a genius?
“I’ve never gotten my motherfucking ass busted on a record ever before. He sat me down and taught me something, and that’s the first time I can say that.” - T.I.
Artist: Lil Wayne
Album: Tha Carter IV (2011)
Producer: Willy Will
“I tell a nigga all those flows are borrowed / It’s the pharaoh / Three Stacks / I woke up in Cairo / Looking at stars so bright in the sky / I thought they were marbles / No car doors / what you call those? / A whole carload of raw hoes / In a Jeep Defender / Please remember: don’t feed the Simba / Three’s assembled like nobody / He's a symbol of what's safari”
Preceded by an aggressive and inspired Tech N9ne verse, Three Stacks came correct on the eighth track off Wayne’s ninth studio album. A must-listen, the man rhymed borrowed with Pharaoh with Cairo with marbles. Then said, “Please remember: don’t feed the Simba” - OK there, André, leave some meat for the vultures.
A year prior, Wayne mentioned his hope for such a collaboration during an interview from prison:
"I've been saying to myself that I really want to do a song with either André 3000 or I really like my man Tech N9ne from the West Coast.” - Lil Wayne
6. “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)”
Album: Underground Kingz (2007)
Producer: DJ Paul & Juicy J
“So I typed a text to a girl I used to see / Saying that I chose this cutie pie with whom I wanna be / And I apologize if this message gets you down / Then I CC'ed every girl that I'd / See-see 'round town / And hate to see y'all frown / But I'd rather see her smiling / Wetness all around me / True, but I'm no island / Peninsula, maybe / It makes no sense / I know, crazy”
Classic hip-hop. Nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 2008, the imagery, easy-going nature and classic albeit heavily recycled beat soundly bests Mathematics’ “Pimpology 101,” which featured the same Willie Hutch sample.
“Yeah, I initially didn't want to do it. But that song, the way you think of it, it's not the one that we set out to create; it ain't the one that you hear now. It went through a series of changes. We have different moments where there's different songs that he (Pimp C) wants to do that I feel like I don't want to do or feel like we don't need to do. But I trusted his judgment and at the same time he trusted mine.” - Bun B
5. “Green Light”
Artist: John Legend
Album: Evolver (2008)
Producer: Malay & KP
“Let's hop in a cab and split it / I’m kidding / We both going to where you living / I got you giggling like a piglet / Oh, that's the ticket / I hope you more like / Anita Baker than Robin Givens / No, I don't know that lady / So let me quit it / I’m just style-freeing / Free-styling which I seldom do / This is what I'm telling you / To the bed I'm nailing you / Like I've been in jail for two / Years and then they let me loose”
Another slept-on classic verse from 3000, he installed dual parts hip-hop and fun into the Platinum-certified first single off Legend’s third studio album. The crossover success was specifically because—and not despite—the presence of a God emcee on a smash radio hit, bringing hip-hop to the coffee shop.
“After we listened to the finished track, we thought it would be really cool if André 3000 became a part of it, because it just sounded like something he’d do. So we played it for him; he loved it, he wanted to get on it right away... So he wrote and recorded his rap very quickly. And from the moment I heard André on it, to me it straightaway felt like the album’s first single. It seemed like the kind of thing that would grab people’s attention, it sounded like a great record and it felt like it would be a big hit... And to me it still feels like that!” - John Legend
4. “Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)”
Album: Honest (2014)
Producer: Organized Noize
“I told the girl I'm 'bout to sell the Porsche / I’m tired of it / She go and told these folks I'm going broke / A smile poured / From my lips / ‘cause if I'm broke / it's only hearted / Broken records from broken English / that's all it / Hold up / And if I were, why? / Would you throw a party? / Affection is so convenient when balling / Correction: these hoes don't mean it when falling / I guess that's why Lois can't be with Clark Kent / Fly on a nigga back while he Superman / But if I'm in a wheelchair / You still there?”
Don’t sleep on this verse because you’re tired of Future. Three Stacks murders the flow while legendary production collective Organized Noize provide a beautiful backdrop betraying the somewhat off-putting theme. Rhyming about frugality and self-misidentification, André actually sounds hurt while delivering a sneaky hilarious take on distrust amongst the sexes.
And don’t forget: Future came up under the Dungeon Family and his cousin Rico Wade:
“He took me in and more like played a father role, a father-figure role. He took me in as a cousin, as a friend, as a CEO. He played so many roles and made sure he was just always there. The Dungeon Family motto is just being different.” - Future
3. “Solo (Reprise)”
Artist: Frank Ocean
Album: Blonde (2016)
Producer: Mike Dean
“So-lo that I can admit / When I hear that another kid is shot by the po-po / It ain't an event no more / So-lo that no more high horses / So hard to wear Polo / When I do / I cut the pony off / Now there's a hole that once was a logo / How fitting / So-lo that I can give a fuck about what is trending / Tryna cut down on my spending / Regardless of winning / Instead of pretending / And bending over backwards / Over half of these hoes had work done / Saying they want something real from a man / Just saying if / We being real persons”
Three Stacks’ returned in 2016 similar to Nas on DJ Khaled's Major Key album. One of André’s best-ever appearances; the flow, urgency, subject matter and finality of it all reestablishes the greatness within the 41-year-old’s mind. He should rap more often.
“He said, ‘I just want you to tell a story. Honestly, I don’t care what it is, just tell a story.’ When I got the track [‘Pink Matter’], I just started writing to it. I’m just happy to be a part of that whole movement and his whole movement because he has become a whole another kind of icon in today’s age. I was just happy to be a part of that album.” - André 3000
2. “The Art of Storytellin’ Part IV”
Artist: DJ Drama
Album: Gangsta Grillz: The Album (2007)
Producer: Don Cannon
“Got a cord / Umbilical attached to a place that can't afford / No landscaping / Or window draping / This old lady told me / If I ain't got nothing good / Say nathan / That's why I don't talk much / I swear it don't cost much / To pay attention to me / I tell like it is / Then I tell it how it could be / The hood be / Requesting my services / Oh, don't get nervous it's / Step-yo-game-up time / These ain't them same old rhymes / Designed to have you dancing in some club / Niggas ride to me / Women be off in they tub / Exfoliating / with they poms-poms / Yelling, ‘Go, 3000!’ / I’m in my whatever bumping N.W.A / ‘A 100 Miles And / Runnin’ / Runnin’ / Runnin' / Runnin'’ / Summon / Woman / Come in / Sit down / Heard you need some plumbing”
An amazing verse only outdone by the No. 1 selection, this is another must-listen. You’ll likely run it back instantly, as André hypes up his delivery with the same energy and bravado as the rest of his best storytelling verses. The man has so many layers and entendres to his verses, it’s like he’s using Game Genie when he’s in the booth.
“They called me - I think before the Idlewild album - and was like, ‘We want to do a Gangsta Grillz before the album.’ Of course I was like, ‘Definitely.’ It didn’t wind up happening. They got kind of busy and it got close to the album. That’s when the guys called me like, ‘Look, we’re not going to be able to do the tape, but we got you a song for the album.” - DJ Drama
Artist: Rick Ross
Album: God Forgives, I Don’t (2012)
Producer: J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
“I’m in my room / Booming / Drawing LL Cool J album covers / With Crayolas on construction paper / I’m trying to fuck my neighbor / I‘m tryna hook my waves up / I’m tryna pull my grades up / To get them saddle lace ups / Before lil' Marc was Jacob / Before them girls wore makeup / Before my voice would break up / Before we'd tour them shake clubs / Before my mama wake up / Before my crumbs would cake up / Before they tell me they love me and we'll never break up / Before the time she makes love to someone that I thought was my homeboy / But boy / was I wrong now”
André killed this song for over two minutes straight in addition to singing the silky chorus. He made Ross an afterthought on his own record and project, which is ironic considering Ross often saves his best material for other people’s projects. This is the premiere guest appearance, exhibiting every aspect of greatness delivered in his typically effortless flow.
“Classic. Basically it was just when you get some music that you really love or a track that you really love, sometimes sixteen bars is not enough to really express yourself. We just went to that next level. I think for people to hear André do what he did; I’ma let y’all count how many bars he did as well as of course what I did, man. He pulled out the guitar and banjo on this one and he sang a little bit on the end of it. It just broke all the rules of making a standard record.” - Rick Ross