Finding The GOAT: Dr. Dre’s The Chronic vs. Outkast’s Stankonia. 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.
In many ways, Outkast and Dr. Dre are the most sacred artists in Hip-Hop. Leaving N.W.A., Dr. Dre enlisted new lyrical troops, for his debut solo vehicle The Chronic, and declared war on boom-bap with an album built on melody, Funk, and West Coast gangsta lifestyle. For their fourth album, Outkast made a pilgrimage back to their first recording studio, and stepped up their own roles in production. Stankonia contends as Outkast’s best work, and as a duo—is certainly their biggest. These two albums continue to permeate the consciousness of not just Rap, but all music. After The Chronic defeated Outkast’s debut in the last round, will the duo strike revenge? Or, does the funky Chronic aroma smell sweeter than the Stank’?
The Chronic by Dr. Dre
- Second Round Winner (against Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, 60% to 40%)
- 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
Stankonia by Outkast
- Second Round Winner (against Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 61% to 39%)
- First Round Winner (against Reflection Eternal’s Train Of Thought, 53% to 47%)
After three arguably flawless albums, how could Outkast possibly follow? In the 2000s, what could Andre 3000 and Big Boi say and do to push the envelope? For the first time in their careers, Outkast released an album into an era when Southern Hip-Hop was dominating radio and video—thanks to Cash Money, No Limit, and other burgeoning movements. Outkast’s Stankonia came at the perfect time—although there truly is no clock for music like this. In a year that desperately sought out new narratives, booming beats, and the complete package, ‘Kast’s fourth album collected big. The world, or those holding the spotlights, finally realized that the Dungeon may be the most interesting lair in music, as Outkast made a charged, fiery, and highly-produced album that reached several generations. Becoming more of their own producers (as Earthtone III), Outkast knew just how to navigate the spaceship.
Courtesy of “B.O.B.,” Outkast led a Southern marching band, with a call to action in the space for rappers to “be about it” once more. ‘Dre and Big proved to be conductors—of the creative train, of a Hip-Hop symphony, and of perhaps the illest drum line ever captured on a Rap record. In a completely different tempo, “Ms. Jackson” defined “baby mama” into the mainstream lexicon. The smash single was slow, melodic, and harmonized. Outkast redefined their roles on records in what is a sung chorus—10 years before Thank Me Later. For as much as the group channeled Parliament-Funkadelic (“Stankonia (Stanklove)”) and Sly & The Family Stone (“Gasoline Dreams”) in places, this was their slow-cooked R&B/Rap masterpiece. What’s more, even in heavily caricatured lyrics and a music video, the song was also personal to the experiences of the band. Although they had seemingly tickled a pop pocket, Stankonia refused to shake the trademark ‘Kast flare. “We Luv Deez Hoes” was a raunchy, torrid (and cautionary) account of money-shots in the Cadillac. However, the album cut was made with the same care as multi-platinum singles, and just as sincere. In Y2K, Big Boi and 3 Stacks had not let the platinum and praise change their lives. This album portrayed two Seville-driving MCs who liked to rhyme about race relations in the South, avoiding scandalous women, and searching for peace of mind. In a decade where Hip-Hop’s interests would look south of the Mason-Dixon, Outkast’s Stankonia immediately stepped up to show their consistency, creativity, and courage.
Album Number: 4
Released: October 31, 2000
Label: LaFace/Arista Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, November 2000; certified platinum, November 2000; certified 4x platinum, November 2003)
Song Guests: Erykah Badu, Khujo Goodie, Gangsta Boo, Killer Mike, J-Sweet, B-Real, Eco, Backbone, Big Gipp, Slimm Calhoun, T-Mo, Blackowned C-Bone, Joi, Cee-Lo Green, Big Rube, Sleepy Brown, Donnie Mathis, David “Whild” Brown, Jason Freeman, Jerry Freeman, Marvin “Chanz” Parkman, Preston Crump, Aaron Mills, Robert Gristler, Dookie Blossumgame, Victor Alexander, Myrna “Screechy Peach” Crenshaw, Rosalin Heard, Paul Douglass-Fedon, Cutmaster Swiff
Song Producers: (self), Organized Noize (Ray Murray, Sleepy Brown, & Rico Wade), Mr. DJ
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.