Dear Andre 3000,
You’re one of the most revered emcees in the world and have been for many years. Let me chime in with the choir and say with the utmost respect that this is rightfully so. Your knack for combining emotional delivery, melodic flow, technical prowess, poignant lyricism and quotable punchlines is damn near unrivaled in the field of rap or even music in general. Over the years you have received heaps of praise for your taste for adventure and will to musically experiment, pushing the genre as a whole in new directions. Thank you for what you’ve done for hip-hop. I’d like to make a request though; please give Big Boi a call.
See, as much as I love and respect your musical output without him it’s only a shadow of what it can be with him. I know Big Boi is rarely mentioned in the ‘best rapper alive’ listst you’ve been a mainstay on for over a decade, but you’d probably be nowhere near those lists without Daddy Fat Sacks. See, if there’s one duo in hip-hop who are clearly so much more than the sum of them combined it’s Outkast. We’ve often heard how you’re the experimental one flying off in every imaginable direction and Big Boi is the anchor keeping you guys in a realm of reasonable possibilities. However, this theory doesn’t hold up to closer inspection of the Outkast discography and things were never that black and white, and I suspect that grey area is the part were the best work you guys did came from.
In 2003 Outkast released the best-selling hip-hop album of all time, the 11 times platinum double album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” which was actually your first two solo albums packaged together. While the gargantuan hit record “Hey Ya” from your side of the two disc pair waswithout a doubt one of the main catalysts behind the huge commercial succes, the album made something very clear; your half wasn’t that great. Sure, when it peaked, the peaks were of Himalayan proportions and there was plenty to enjoy, but as a concise, focused effort, in other words, as an album, it fell unexpectedly flat. It was meandering and your singing, while servicable, wasn’t strong enough to carry an entire record.
Big Boi’s half on the other hand missed some of the melodic surprises and shear “oh snap!” moments we came to rely on from ‘Kast albums. It was overall a lot more focused while still very varied in sound and his workmanlike approach and sense of collaboration made it an enjoyable record. While neither disc can hold a candle to a ‘real’ Outkast album his part of the double album was clearly the stronger (though less surprising) half. Still, over two discs, the good outweighed the dissapointing and with a worldwide monster hit under your belt you clearly had nothing left to prove. You were done with rapping for a while, dropped a couple verses on the “Idlewild” soundtrack but chose to pursue acting and singing instead. I respected you for seeking growth as an artist rather than stay comfortably coasting on your considerable talents. When you finally returned to rapping you managed to fully live up to the ginormous expectations and it was an event no rap-afficionado will ever forget.
The “International Players Anthem” by UGK and Outkast will never get old. It’s pure hip-hop bliss. Songs from Big Boi’s second solo album “Sir Luscious Left Foot” started leaking and “Royal Flush” united you two and featured Raekwon for what would be one of the best songs of 2009. Label politics kept it from ever becoming more than a 12″ single despite being extremely well-received among fans and the same goes for that great other great collabo you did for that album. The Sleepy Brown featuring “Lookin’ For Ya” can stand among the best of Dungeon fam classics but was never even released due to industry rule #4080. Two stellar Outkast tracks that proved you guys still got it.
When Big Boi’s album finally found a way to get released it didn’t dissapoint. He had grown as a solo artist and his collaborative spirit had reached out to a rich and varied plethora of guests and producers. With Big Boi himself co-producing every track on the album a cohesive sound was garantueed while he managed to get the best out of all of his collacorators. The album became critically acclaimed and was one of the best of 2010, and still one of the best rap albums of recent years. Meanwhile, you kept dropping verses as well. But while the quality of your verses remained as high as ever, the collaborations raised eyebrows. Let’s take a listen to the tracks you’ve spitted on in 2011.
Notice a pattern? They’re all pop tracks, often with YMCMB artists. Now, I sure know better than to tell you what beats to grace and what not to, and every verse you spit is a track I’d check out at least once, but uhm… Let’s just say it how it is; most of these joints suck. There’s nothing wrong with your verses except the songs they’re placed on and you’re a guy who can hop on any track he wants. There isn’t an emcee alive who wouldn’t feel blessed by a 3 Stacks feature. If this is what you want to spit on, by all means do, but a f*ckin’ Ke$ha song? Seriously? “Tick tock on the clock, jacked my whole swag from Uffie and made it trashy” Ke$ha? That’s what one of the best rappers in the game rocks to? Ouch.
Over the years, Big Boi has repeatedly stated a new Outkast album is in the works as soon as you’re done with your new solo album. While he opts for varied and interesting musicians to collaborate with you seem to jump on any random beat you deem hot. Which isn’t wrong by any means, just diametrically opposed to the image people often had of Outkast. When it comes to solo albums though, I’d put my money on Sir Luscious Left Foot’s artistic vision over an assortiment of poppy club tracks and saccharine R&B joints any day. So when you finally feel like releasing that mythical other solo record, give the Dungeon Family a call. Give Cee-Lo and the other Goodie Mobb boys a ring. See what Organized Noize is up to. But most of all, aks for the other half of one of the greatest rap duos of all time to do a feature and if he wants to sit in on a couple sessions. I wouldn’t ask you to rehash old times if you feel like you’ve grown beyond them, but if I could give you any advice it would be to take a similair approach to a full-length project and learn from your man.
…and once you have the solo thing out of your system, a ‘Kast reunion would undoubtedly blow the competition out of the water once again. Your undeniable talent as a top emcee and feel for electronic bounce in your production coupled with Big Boi’s multifaceted approach to his organic sound and considerable prowess on the mic can’t loose. We’ve heard the chemistry is still there. Come on Dre, you can’t leave rap alone, the game needs you.