once upon a time, there was this rap group –well, i guess they’re really just a duo, but for some reason, people always call them a group– called Outkast, and it contained these two rapping dudes: “Atlanta native André “André 3000” Benjamin (formerly known as Dré) and Savannah, Georgia-born Antwan “Big Boi” Patton,” if we go with Wikipedia’s description. anyway, you know, they became hugely successful and sold all these millions of records and everyone loves them. and i am okay with that; we’re not going to veer into some kind of weird “tear down the memories of Outkast you once held dear” territory or anything like that. what i am not okay with is something else: the commonly-held notion that Andre 3000 (i am not going to be using those accent marks from here on out) is somehow light years more advanced and important than Big Boi.
i think this highlights the juxtaposition fairly clearly
now, let’s be clear: Andre 3000 is good at rapping and he has a cool, futuristic stage name. i am not going to argue that he SUCKS. for some reason, though, everyone seems to visualize the group as if Andre 3000 is a once-in-a-lifetime talent who outshines his partner at every time and in every way. this i strongly object to, and have decided to argue against in the form of a listicle, fittingly entitled:
THE LESS-THAN-13-ITEMS LIST OF THINGS THAT MADE ME REALIZE I DON’T REALLY NEED ALL THIS ANDRE 3000 IN MY LIFE
(sorry, i kind of messed up on the usual listicle M.O. here, so you’ll have to forgive me)
warning: this woman WILL destroy your favorite rapper’s ability to focus on making solid rap music for years to come
getting involved with Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu must have something going for her: she can clearly sing, she can clearly lure rappers of respectable talents (Andre 3000, Common, and saddest of all, the D.O.C.) into her web, and the internet tells me she’s known as “the Queen of Neo Soul,” which surely is the kind of title you have to EARN. the catch is this: once she lures you in, you get looping and start making shitty music; the prime example of this remains Common’s Electric Circus fiasco. now, Andre 3000 was probably always a bit of an oddball, but when he started messing around with Badu, i knew deep down that we’d have to prepare ourselves to lose his rapping forever.
changing his rap sobriquet to Andre 3000
it’s been awhile since this happened, so Wikipedia had to remind me, but man, does it really annoy me to remember it. let me just run with a quote from Wikipedia: “Outkast’s fourth album, Stankonia, introduced Benjamin’s new alias André 3000 (largely to distinguish himself from Dr. Dre).” okay, first off, his ACTUAL NAME is Andre, so people are going to call him Dre, and adding 3000 to your name is not going to stop that. second, by the time Stankonia came out, Outkast already had a pair of PLATINUM albums. people knew who Dr. Dre was versus who Dre from Outkast was, so this “to distinguish himself from Dr. Dre” stuff is just lame. now, ultimately, this may just be internet foolishness and have nothing to do with Andre, but fuck it, i am holding it against him.
actually, forget what i said before: i think THIS highlights the juxtaposition fairly clearly
the whole Speakerboxxx/The Love Below thing
basically, whenever Outkast does something ridiculous (“let’s make a double album that seems like it’s a solo album from each of us that thus make people believe we’re breaking up the group”), i blame Andre for it. that’s the deal: he’s the crazy, flashy one, and Big Boi is the other guy. so when they did this and it became a huge debate about if/when Outkast was breaking up, i became annoyed and i hold it against Andre to this day. plus, i’m not actually convinced that Andre has the better half of this double album; as far as i am concerned, “the Rooster” is better than anything on Andre’s disc. finally, the way it comes off is Andre’s high-concept musical experimentation versus Big Boi’s Southern hip-hop sensibilities, and you know what? i side with hip-hop on this point.
the whole Idlewild thing
remember when i told you that if Outkast did something ridiculous, i’d blame Andre 3000 for it? here we go again, because this Idlewild fiasco qualifies. i don’t know a single person that recalls this fondly, and it took Outkast from their diamond-selling prior effort (which, being a double album, was sort of cheating) to a mere platinum release. now, okay, in this day and age, that’s phenomenal success and never was really something to sneer at. except… i kind of suspect a lot of people bought this on the strength of being serious Outkast fans before realizing what they’d done. i don’t know, maybe i am just being overly negative about this?
it was at this point when i realized we might be freed from the tyranny of Andre 3000’s dominance; THANK YOU, BIG BOI
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
i know, i know: it SOUNDS like some horrible mistake visited upon the word by Andre 3000, but it’s actually Big Boi’s first solo album… and it’s actually really good. Big Boi’s rapping like a machine and hanging out with a weird assortment of rappers and singers (which i suppose is to be expected from a rapper who declares his favorite artist to be Kate Bush), and it all works, and yet, i am sure if Andre 3000 was attempting to do the same thing, it would be driving me crazy. but then he’s on hiatus at this time and Big Boi’s out there giving a damn, and basically, what occurred to me was this: we don’t need Andre 3000 to get an excellent album out of Outkast. at least, at this point, i don’t THINK we do…
collaborating with all these damn singers and not making Outkast albums
so, on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, Andre 3000 has no guest appearances, despite that being the kind of thing you’d expect the other half of a rap duo to do on his partner’s album… but he did PRODUCE one track, which just makes the whole thing weirder. and yet, he started popping up and throwing verses on people’s songs, teasing us with the prospect of rapping again. this wouldn’t be SO bad… but when you have time to appear on songs by Ciara, Ke$ha, Beyoncé, Chris Brown and Lloyd, to name a few (and i think it’s Ke$ha that really hurts) and you don’t have time to appear on your partner’s album, that’s pretty fucked up.
Andre who? Big Boi may just have all the ridiculousness covered on his own
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
so Big Boi went out and released ANOTHER rap album where he’s still rapping like a machine and collaborating with all kinds of weird indie pop and rock groups like Phantogram and Little Dragon, all while Andre 3000 is sitting at home doing nothing but pissing me off… and this one is good as well. and i think that’s what did it: you could presume the first solo album was a fluke (it happens), but two of them? Big Boi must actually be onto something here, and it’s clearly something that does not require Andre 3000 to work.
now, the thing is, shortly after all this, i find myself listening to T.I.’s Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head album (short review: it’s of uneven quality), and all of a sudden, Andre 3000 appears and raps for two minutes straight on “Sorry,” completely killing it, and it leaves me thinking the obvious: goddamn, Andre 3000, THIS is why you’re so fucking infuriating. just make another goddamn Outkast album already!
really, it’s sad because the whole thing mirrors an abusive relationship: Andre 3000 keeps jerking us around, and yet we’re so into him, whereas Big Boi is the nice, stable guy that we’re just not attracted to on the same emotional level. okay, this just got too weird. we should maybe wrap it up for now.