Selfishly, I want Andre 3000 to make all of those subjective top-five lists.
From internet thugs who push those 140 characters to the limits to the old head in the barbershop who is still living in 1992, we are obsessed with the delusion that we can change an opinion. I don’t want to change anyone’s mind, just make it clear I want Andre to be in the GOAT discussion, at the very least. I stopped arguing on social networks because opinions on hip-hop are highly subjective, and in an era when artists are either cold or trash, it's best to save subjective conversations for those open to actual conversation. How self-proclaimed hip-hop heads can negate a dope verse because (*insert rapper whose career starts post-2001) is one of those “new rappers” or even worse, just immediately writing it off after listening one time is beyond me, so I take the majority of these opinions with a grain of salt.
Whether it was his last verse on “Aquemini” to a variety of features that shut down the internet, Andre's lyricism and ability to manipulate the intricate details of a verse are mindblowing. His unique delivery and ability to push the culture forward makes for a compelling argument against emcees who have made a career of staying in their lane. His music has grown in front of us, as the bars have remained top-notch, but his ability to incorporate more eclecticism means he has expanded his reach - crossing over to mainstream success with Iverson-like grace.
From his now infamous, "The South got something to say" proclamation at the 1995 Source Awards to the conceptual piece of genius work in The Love Below, 3 Stacks embodies some of the best parts about hip-hop. However, to place him atop of some subjective greatest of all-time list would be grossly negligent to the resume of the other half of Outkast. Theoretically, one could compile various verses, snag a few songs and make a good argument, but without Big Boi complimenting those songs, I just don't see it.
Starting with their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Big Boi seemed more comfortable and aware of himself, whereas we respected Dre for his potential. The singles were good, they were memorable, but early on Big Boi established himself over the bass-laden production as Dre’s verses seemed to be searching for their own niche. The consistency of Big Boi coupled with the maturation of Dre provided the soundtrack to many of our lives as ATLiens and Aquemini are often seen by many as undeniable classics.
Big Boi’s ability to remain himself - cooler than the underside of a polar bear's toenail - allowed Dre to express his creative side. Just look at the “Rosa Parks” video - Big Boi wanted a video filled with “impalas and pimpin” while Dre wanted a more futuristic vibe. This dynamic paid dividends both creatively and financially for the duo as they would score even more mainstream success, but Dre’s departure from his more fluid rapping style to a more melodic sound put a strain on the relationship during the recording process for Stankonia. Although the content was heading in a direction he wasn’t completely sure of, Big Boi laid verses on tracks like “Slum Beautiful,” and an introspective interlude towards the end of “Toilet Tisha,” remaining true to himself while accepting the changing sound.
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We've grown accustomed to seeing emcees in a singular competitive way, comparing and contrasting who's better, but that only gets us away from the music. Whenever two or more artists hop on a song, the conversation is seldom about the cohesion between the artists, but a continuous battle of words over who had the better verse. Outkast-wise, it's unfair to hold the two artists to this same standard as their music should trump the need for us to point out who had the better verse or who is the better artist.
Regardless of how much I want to see Dre in that coveted Top-5 list, I simply can't see him there alone. I must defer to other artists out of respect for the collective genius of Outkast. His ability to change music and his unique delivery style (he makes intricate lines seem so simple with a stream of conscious flow) is incredible, but it pales in comparison to the collective he and Big Boi have put together over the years. To keep his name off that list should not be taken as a slight, you could easily make that argument, but that argument marginalizes the career of one of hip-hop's most notable journeymen.
Failing to give Big Boi his due for seemingly remaining the glue that held things together as creative differences abounded? Nope, I won't be the one. His consistency and need to put out new material may not have touched the commercial success of Outkast the duo, but he remains respectable in the eyes of many hip-hop heads. As the two kids from Atlanta transformed music, they remain able to stand on their own, but better when paired together; seamlessly finding ways to blend their unique styles to reach the masses.