Dr. Dre’s The Chronic vs. Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Two 1990s albums that used every inch of the album format are Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Although Andre Young and Andre 3000 have historically run in different circles, the earliest Death Row Inmates and the Dungeon Family are two of the most fertile movements of Hip-Hop talent. These two albums were the warning shots, of movements and factions that reigned throughout the 1990s, and diversified further in the next millennium. As evidenced at the 1995 Source Awards, Outkast’s southern entrance was one of the biggest distractions to Dre’s “California Love.” The friendly competition between these creative juggernauts lasted well into the years that follow. In finalizing a Top 10 from the 1990s, two masterful breakthrough albums arm-wrestle for survival (click on one then click “vote”).
The Chronic by Dr. Dre
– First Round Winner (against DJ Quik’s Safe + Sound, 81% to 19%)
When Dr. Dre left N.W.A. and Ruthless Records, the greatest material asset the Compton, California impresario may have had was musical sketches. Having hit his stride on Niggaz4Life and The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better, Andre Young built upon his G-Funk foundation, with an album that beckoned the galactic chariots of Parliament-Funkadelic themselves. While The Chronic threaded 1970s “grown-folks” music, its rhymes were rooted in the grim reality of L.A. Riots-era South Central. Songs like “Lyrical Gangbang” weighed the messages and attitudes of young, disenfranchised Black men and women in the U.S., and wanted Middle America to feel the angst, the high stakes survival, and the fearlessness of the youth. Snoop Doggy Dogg would be Dre’s vehicle to pack one of Rap’s most laid-back flows (and attitudes) against the life or death realities of gang-infested Southern California.
The Chronic was one of Rap’s first broad ensembles. Not a group, but a movement, the album called upon a crop of unknown and emerging talent from both coasts, all with skills to prove, and their best work ahead of them. Like Enter The Wu-Tang one year later, personnel knew that anything less than the best would not make the album. The hunger pangs of a cast that included Death Row Records’ would-be stars were manifested in an album that made its mastermind appear to be something of a Gangsta Rap Phil Spector. Dre created dynamic soundscapes built around samples, instrumentation, and a multitude of the slightest of tweaks. Within, he waxed a narrative that effectively spat at his former band mate Eazy-E, strong-armed Luke and 2 Live Crew, and overtook the industry with a forceful comeback statement. In one stroke to the consciousness of Rap, Dr. Dre exhaled indo’ smoke on the masses. His album was a cohesive, deeply-authentic party, and with its cinematic visual aides (see below), became as emblematic of the early 1990s as Grunge. The Chronic had everybody catching a contact—as this album’s wide tracks, extensive melody, and sharp-shooting role-players set the new standard in Hip-Hop. Although it’s surprisingly only triple-platinum, the diamond (status) is in the back of Dre’s symbolic ’64 Impala.
Album Number: 1 (solo)
Released: December 15, 1992
Label: Death Row/Interscope/Priority Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #3 (certified gold, March 1993; certified platinum, March 1993; certified 3x platinum November 1993)
Song Guests: Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, The Lady Of Rage, RBX, Michel’le, Jewell, The D.O.C., Bushwick Bill, Emmage, Ruben, Samara, BJ, Eric “The Drunk” Borders, Katisse Buckingham, Colin Wolfe, Justin Reinhardt
Song Producers: (self), Colin Wolfe, Daz Dillinger, Chris “The Glove” Taylor
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik by Outkast
– First Round Winner (against The Fugees’ The Score, 63% to 37%)
From the moment the album begins, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik proved to be something altogether different for Hip-Hop—just as the crew who made it. Outkast were Georgians who appreciated chromed-up Cadillacs, pimpish suits, and crumbled herb, but they also rivaled the depth of any MC in Hip-Hop. As rookies, Big Boi and Andre 3000 wasted no time proving that from “Myintrotoletuknow,” they could be cool and conscious in the smoothest way possible. The album tackled Black-on-Black crime, prejudice against Dixie MCs, and properly explained the regional lifestyle in a way that made the frigid streets of New York and the tense badlands of L.A. wish they were down. Gold fronts, 100-spoke Daytons on Vogues, and velour bucket hats were the perfect alternative to an MTV music video era of backpacks, loc’s, lowriders, and Timberlands. Outkast made Rap music as a whole seem versatile, simply by grabbing the spotlight. Records like “Call Of da Wild” and “Git Up, Git Out” were lyrically what well-heeled peers wanted to make, but lacked the courage to do so. Whether it was standing up for Blackness in an era that catered to crossover expectations, or simply embracing humility, Outkast made it cool to be yourself years before the kilts, Grammy’s, or singing records. The very same year that Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., and O.C. made brilliant introductions, Outkast did just the same—with the cards arguably stacked against them.
Although Outkast fans would, in time, urge the pair to increase their self-production, opposition can argue that Southern… is the most cohesively produced Outkast LP. Organized Noize managed to give the pair an electric-backbone, with hard drums, bass hits, and Mr. DJ’s crisp scratches. This mere foundation was the framework that ‘Kast would maintain no matter who was behind the boards. Records like “Hootie Hoo,” “Git Up, Git Out,” and “Player’s Ball” had rich choruses, that expertly embraced hit-making potential with organic style. The early Outkast formula would be bottled and sold to many Southern acts throughout the next 10 years, but none could imitate the masters. Like The Chronic, Enter The Wu-Tang, or Hard To Earn, Outkast made an ensemble work to their favor. From Goodie Mob to Society Of Soul, this effort would encapsulate a movement, leaving the listener satisfied and trusting for more. As Atlanta, Georgia was previously thought to a mecca for R&B-Pop, Outkast answered the bell and delivered one of the finest, most equally carried debut albums in Hip-Hop history. This introduction can be placed besides their diamond works and beckon the question, “Why did it take so long for the world to realize?” More than just the Heads should’ve seen the soul-powered Caddy coming.
Album Number: 1
Released: April 26, 1994
Label: LaFace/Arista Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #20 (certified gold, June 1994; certified platinum, April 1995)
Song Guests: Goodie Mob (Cee-Lo, Big Gipp, T-Mo, Khujo), Mr. DJ, Society Of Soul (Sleepy Brown, Rico Wade, Ray Murray, Big Rhube & Espraronza), Preston Crump, T-Bone, Marq Jefferson, Debra Killings, Craig Love, Peaches, Colin Wolfe, Jeff Sparks, Edward Stroud, Kenneth Wright
Song Producers: Organized Noize
So which album belongs in the 1990s Top 10? Make sure you vote above.