Andrè 3000 can comfortably be described as one of the greatest rappers of all time. The elder statesman of hip-hop (who has just been announced as featuring on James Blake’s forthcoming album) has created a legacy for himself through his unique perspective on rap and interesting structures to his lyricism.
South London multi-instrumentalist and ‘Drè stan Daniel Alexander can also boast a unique perspective when it comes to his own craftsmanship. The ex-Breton member’s latest EP, ‘Traumology One’, doesn’t shy away from making strong political statements or responding to daily incidents that affect the world, while employing a sultry musicality that instantly recalls Sampha or the aforementioned Blake.
“Like Prince or Dylan, Andrè 3000 has numerously incarnated,” Alexander says, “leaving a chromed-out, spiritual, other-worldly-next-door dent upon the popular imagination, the futurism of his name indicating his timelessness. Listening to ‘Drè is like reading Henry Miller. At once you’re kidnapped from the mundanity of the moment and flung aloft above it all, exposing the intricacies, the beauty and the cracks, glimpsing the density of things as they are, eternal and ephemeral.
“Another bar and you are dropped again, dragged into the tarmac and pressed to review the picture through the crystalline, decalcified prism of Andrè’s kaleidoscopic flow and rhyme.” Below, Alexander runs through his ten favourite examples of Andrè’s lyrical prowess.
1. OutKast – ‘Y’All Scared’
Yo, paragraph indent, I make intense sense
Niggas on that Gil Scott dope (hint hint)
At age fifteen they start smoking Billy Clint’
Now he’s twenty-one and wants to know where the time went
Hey hey hey what’s the haps? Well see your time elapsed
Have you ever thought of the meaning of the word trapped?
“Love how mean he comes in sounding on these first two lines, like he’s spitting through his teeth. The disjoint of the flow is insane.”
2. OutKast – ‘Da Art of Storytellin’ pt. 2’
Baby, did you hear that?” “Yeah, baby, I heard it too”
Look out the window, golly, the sky is electric blue
Mama Earth is dying and crying because of you
Raining cats and jackals, all shackles disintegrate to residue
Silly mortals haven’t a clue as to what the funk is going on
“He paints such a picture of apocalypse using just a conversational tone and the word ‘golly’. Throughout his lyrics but especially on ‘Aquemini’ the essence of what he is spitting is spiritual: ‘Silly mortals haven’t a clue as to what the funk is going on.'”
3. OutKast – ‘Return of the ‘G”
Them niggas that get the wrong impression of expression
Then the question is Big Boi what’s up with Andre?
Is he in a cult? Is he on drugs? Is he gay?
When y’all gon’ break up? When y’all goin’ wake up?
Nigga I’m feelin’ better than ever what’s wrong with you
You get down!
“‘The wrong impression of expression’: No one else was anywhere near as challenging of people’s expectations in their verses, and the two syllables in the refrain ‘get down’ are like two shots, an invite and a threat.”
4. André 3000 – ‘Solo (Reprise)’
So low that I can admit
When I hear that another kid is shot by the popo
It ain’t an event no more
So low 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
“This verse is maybe one of his best ever and is a testament to the fact that he only gets better the more moons that pass. It is so dense, succinct and heartfelt. These lines are particularly devastating.”
5. OutKast – ‘Jazzy Belle’
When they can let they thumb down from hitch hiking
Inviting niggas into the temple they call the body
Now everybody got it, had it, talked about it amongst they friends
Coming around my crew looking Jazzy, wanna pretend
Like you Ms. Goody Four-Shoes
Even Bo knew that you got poked
Like acupuncture patients
While our nation is a boat, straight sinking
“The amount of metaphor sustained in this verse is incredible. There’s something hypnotic about how he bends ‘poem’ to rhyme with ‘throw em’.”
6. André 3000 – ‘A Life in the Day of Benjamin André’
Just when I think I’m going down your shirt
You’re hiking up your skirt now
The events that followed had me volley
If your hometown would be heaven or hell
The angelic nastiness you possessed made you by far the best
“Probably one of his most intimate and heartfelt raps, painting the picture of the mind that was in the man and the processes going on when he was making the first few records, falling in love and having a child. ‘The angelic nastiness you possess made you by far the best’ – I wish I wrote that for my GF…”
7. OutKast – ‘Rosa Parks’
Said, “Baby boy, you only funky as your last cut
You focus on the past, your ass’ll be a ‘has-what'”
That’s one to live by or either that’s one to die to
I try to just throw it at you, determine your own adventure
André, got to her station, here’s my destination
She got off the bus, the conversation lingered in my head for hours
“Slunk, casual and conversational yet unrelenting in its delivery and flow.”
8. OutKast – ‘Ms. Jackson’
I hope we feel like this forever
Forever, forever ever? Forever ever?
Forever never seems that long until you’re grown
“It was on ‘Stankonia’ where I think Drè goes super-saiyan and completely taps in to ‘the signal’ of his powers. Another level. ‘Forever never seems that long until you’re grown’.”
9. OutKast – ‘Humble Mumble’
Do you want to live or wanna exist?
The game changes everyday, so obsolete is the fist and marches
Speeches only reaches those who already know about it
“There are always levels to the wisdom found in Drè’s verses and often you’ll be listening to a song you’ve heard countless times and a new meaning will reveal itself to you from the myriad of intentions he had behind certain lyrics.”
10. OutKast – ‘Synthesizer’
Said she’d tap dance on your laptop
While your laptop’s in your lap
Cybersexy Wendy web walkin’ in the nude
“The pop in the flow almost makes your shoulder dislocate. It has George Clinton on it and it’s just perfect eery-weird-alien-but-on-point Drè. ‘Cybersexy Wendy’ is the name of my cam girl account.”
Listen to Daniel Alexander’s ‘Traumatology One’ EP: