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No group can be compared to the Wu-Tang Clan. RZA's production is incredible. I can't see how they wouldn't be #1.
                 — Eric, 24
                   Buffalo, NY

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Rank: 4

estimonial
Andre 3000 and Big Boi are about as different from each other as they are from the rest of the industry — but they've made one of the greatest musical marriages in history. Groups before them — such as the Geto Boys, UGK, and 8Ball and MJG — inspired Southern rap acts to tell their stories on wax, but the 'Kast were really the first ones to take the Southern experience into the mainstream.

Even with the stardom, the ATLiens showed that they were probably the most uncompromising and unpredictable group in hip-hop history. It wasn't enough for them to go left — they took it somewhere into the cosmos. Big Boi is a brash b-boy who steered his words more toward the streets, and Andre adopted the second moniker "3000" because he's about 1,000 years past his peers when it comes to imagination.

In 10 years' time, The Love Below, his half of Outkast's 2003 Spearkerboxx/ The Love Below — which has been certified 11 times platinum by the RIAA, and in 2004 became the first and thus far only LP by a rap group to win the Grammy for Album of the Year — will be considered one of the most creative albums of our generation. But that's the 'Kast's MO, isn't it? With the exception of their new "Idlewild" soundtrack, they've done what no other hip-hop group has ever done: make every album multiplatinum while garnering the stamp of "classic" from critics and fans.

Co-Signer: Q-Tip, A Tribe Called Quest
"I feel Outkast took the sensibility of what we were trying to achieve and opened it up: [Tribe colleague] Phife and I were polar opposites in terms of tone and what we talked about. I think Outkast is dope because they're two opposites and they come together to make cohesive-sounding music. That's amazing to me — they bumped it up and made it work for them. When I see that similarity, I'm like, Hmm ... It's nice to see that they were able to take what we were doing and go further with it — they go places we never even touched."

100 Percent Proof
"One moment you frequent the booty clubs/ And the next four years you and somebody's daughter raisin' y'all own young'n/ Now that's a beautiful thang/ That's if you're on top of your game/ And man enough to handle real-life situations/ Can't gamble feeding baby on that dope money/ Might not always be sufficient/ But the United Parcel Service and the people at the post office/ Didn't call you back, because you had cloudy pi--." (Big Boi, "Spottieottiedopaliscious")

"Return of the gangsta, thanks ta'/ Them n---as who got them kids who got enough to buy an ounce/ But not enough to bounce them kids to the zoo or to the park/ So they grow up in the dark/ Never seein' light, so they end up being like/ Yo' sorry ass, robbin' n---as in broad-ass daylight/ Get down." (Andre 3000, "Return of the 'G' ")

Selected Catalog
*Southernplayalisticadillacmuzick (1994), *ATLiens (1996), *Aquemini (1998), *Stankonia (2000), *Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003), Idlewild (2006).

* = undeniable classic




NEXT: Run-DMC's Run says of this group: 'The records were so powerful, the beats were so big and the voices were so commanding.' ...
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Photo: Ernest Paniccioli

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