Every few months an OutKast appreciation thread starts. Favorite songs are tweeted, lyrics are placed under the proverbial microscope, and people come out of the woodwork — digital termites — to build up André 3000, and tear down Big Boi.
While classic artists of varying degrees of success struggle to maintain a relevancy in the culture, the André 3000 praise – while well intentioned — always seems to come at he expense of a Big Boi punchline.
André 3000 is arguably one of the finest lyricists of all-time — while simultaneously being one of the most reluctant music superstars ever. Since his current demand far outweighs his supply of new music, it stands to reason that part of his appeal is that people love what they can't have.
Big Boi exists on a different plane. He has not only continued making music outside of OutKast, but has done so in a way that only adds to his mystique. Albums like Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors and Big Grams showcased a diversity in sound that usually only applies to André 3000.
We've been conditioned to think about classic Hip-Hop like it's a game of Risk: The Game of Global Domination. Artists are the pieces, land ownership is their relevancy, and war is always inevitable. Based on the very rules of the game, only certain pieces can achieve longevity, while others are treated as collateral damage.
Part of the reason this problem exists, in my estimation, is that when it comes to era-specific debates — whether in Hip-Hop or basketball – the construct of the argument begins by eliminating people from the conversation. People dismiss Big Boi from the "top five" argument because he's perceived to be "less than" his OutKast counterpart, André 3000. Yet, Dre himself vehemently disagrees with that perceived assumption.
In an interview with GQ Style, André heaped praise on his bandmate, going so far as to say that Big Boi was a better rapper than he was.
"Big Boi can rap better than me—I always said that. If somebody said, “Pick who you want from OutKast to go to battle with you,” it wouldn’t be me. ’Cause like, what I’ma do? Say some mind shit? You can’t have thoughts in a battle—nobody gives a shit about that."
In response, Big Boi thanked him for the compliment in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constituion — also making sure to big up his partner in crime as well: “We’re equally matched. Nobody can stop us, together or separate, and that’s not being cocky, that’s being real. I tip my hat to what he said, but we’re equal. “He will kill you and I will destroy you.”
Has anyone ever washed Andre 3000 on a song? Because ... I haven’t heard such a song.— likkle açaí enthusiast (@JadeGemRobin) May 4, 2021
Ironically, those that dismiss Big Boi's skills, and laud André's, would probably rank OutKast as one of the top Hip-Hop groups of all-time. Are these people under the impression that half of every OutKast song ever recorded fall off a cliff, or are elevated, when one starts rapping, and the other stops? A YouTube search of "best OutKast verses" spits out compilations of nothing but André 3000 — suggesting that the bias has even impacted content creators.
If the bias doesn't stem from OutKast songs, then it must surely boil down to guest verses. Here, the argument could be made that André 3000 has simply worked alongside bigger — and more contemporarily favored artists — than Big Boi. The former has placements with juggernauts like Lil Wayne, Drake, JAY-Z, Future, Rick Ross, and Travis Scott, while the latter worked with the likes of Trae the Truth, Trick Daddy, Run the Jewels, and The Game. Thus, it can be perceived that artists clamoring for the top position turn to André 300 more than they do Big Boi.
"OutKast landed, 3-thou was ill, Like a male version of Lauryn Hill. - JAY-Z "A Star is Born"
OutKast's perception seems flawed from the outset. The whole, "player and the poet" narrative doesn't actually fit. Big Boi was the A-student, and André was the drop out. Yet, their attitudes on songs suggested that Big Boi was the arbiter of the streets, while Andre reported on celestial happenings.
André addresses this on "Return of the G's" from Aquemini,, rapping, that intead of talking about "bitches and switches and hoes and clothes and weed," he'd rather "talk about time travelin'" and "somethin' mind unravelin'."
In a rare interview, André shared that the constant dissection of his music is one of the reasons he’s abstained from releasing a larger body of work outside of his occasional features.
“Any little thing I put out, it’s instantly attacked, not in a good or bad way,” he stated. “People nitpick it with a fine-tooth comb. ‘Oh, he said that word!’ And that’s not a great place to create from and it makes you draw back. Maybe I don’t have the confidence that I want, or the space to experiment like I used too.”
Nostalgia is a potent drug. It brings us back to a time and place when life was perceived as a whole lot sweeter. However, pining for what was, instead of what is right in front of us, seems to create an undesirable masking effect. It's hard to reconcile with the fact that André 3000 is probably never going to release another album, so we hope to preserve him for future generations to appreciate by continuing to confirm him as a Hip-Hop deity. There is less nostalgia surrounding Big Boi because he continues to create. Thus, there's the perception that he doesn't need to be heralded because there's no chance that people stop remembering.
We don't build up Robert De Niro to tear down Al Pacino.
We don't celebrate Jean-Michel Basquiat at Keith Harring's expense.
We don't champion Miles Davis, and dismiss John Coltrane.
I'm reminded of the second verse off Big Boi's "Daddy Fat Sax" from his solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot, where he raps, "My daddy told me it was mine for the takin'/A true gift from God, the stars aligned when they made me/Him and Rena's baby, their first born son/I'm Antwan André Patton, the only one/Bloodline of a champion with heart of the lion/I'm defyin' all the laws like a caterpillar flying/Way before my time and reside in the Dirty Dirty/Where they still hangin' nooses like we in the early '30s."
Equal parts braggadocios as it is somber, it's a constant reminder that Hip-Hop will always face monumental external challenges. Do we really need to contribute to the negativity, or can we finally wrap our arms around everyone — big and small — who left their mark on the culture?