So My Cousin' Sha pointed out a highly potential emcee battle currently underway between 2 of the south's rap-titans rather inconspicuously. Think: Notorious BIG vs. NaS inconspicuous.
The Champion: Andre 3000
The Challenger: T.I.
I know. I know. Caught me off guard too. But once Sha laid it down, I cant front, it sounds highly probable. The lyrical jabs fly back-and-forth on at least two cuts: Andre 3000's verse on the "Walk It Out" remix, and T.I.'s on Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar" remix.
The Jab: 'Dre's near classic verse on "Walk It Out" remix. Follow the bold text...
"I walk it out like a usher. / If you say 'real talk' I probably won't trust ya /
If you want to go to war / the guns my pleasure. /
Even Jesus had 12 disciples on the level. / Trigger. / Whatever. /
Now think of Three-thou (3000). /
I'm like jury duty. / You're new to this part of town. /
Your white-tee, well to me / look like a nightgown. /
Make your mama proud. / Take that thang 2 sizes down /
Then you'll look like the man that you are, / or what you could be. /
I could give a damn about your car. / But then I would be, /
If was considered a classic before the drastic change in production;
When cars were metal instead of plastic. Value /
Is what I'm talkin' bout. / Take 2 of these and walk it out. /
You'll be the reason they chalk it out. /
You can't be The King in the parking lot forever. /
Not saying I'm the best but til they find something better /
I am here. No fear. Write me a letter.
Til then, I walk it out..."
The Break Down: First of all, that may be one of the tightest verses of all time just on delivery alone! (Andre 3000 is the greatest Emcee EVAR. Fact.) But when you look at the lyrics in another light, the references to the self-entitled-King-of-the-south are more than coincidental. Follow me:
Dre makes it apparent in the first 4 bars that he is on some emcee battle ish ('if you want to go to war, / the guns my pleasure. / Even Jesus had disciples on the level. Trigger. Whatever.'), but doesn't begin to get specific until the middle of the verse when he spits "your white-tee, well to me, looks like a nightgown" (an indirect snipe and T.I.'s tendency to rock the official Trap uniform - quadruple-extra-large-oversized-white-tee-shirt) and "I could give a damn about your car / but then I would be if it was considered a classic. / Before the drastic change in production. When cars were metal instead of plastic. Value is what I'm talkin' about" (a more direct shot at T.I.'s pre-house-arrest Chevrolet Impala SS endorsement. Remember those Super Bowl ads that ran a couple of years back?).
By this point the idea that Dre is going directly AT T.I. definitely sounds like a possibility. But the right-cross finally lands near the verses conclusion. Dre spits "You can't be The King in the parking lot forever. / Not saying I'm the best but til they find something better, / I am here. No fear. Write me a letter." That line is a blatant shove-in-the-mug at T.I. - who coins the moniker "The King of the South" and named his fifth Lp The King. T.I. feels he can call himself the King of the South because none of the other southern rap legends have ever questioned his self-entitlement. In his mind, if he can walk around screamin' that he is The King without anyone steppin to him then obviously he must be the best. Is it possible that Andre 3000 (who's legendary group Outkast has sold more 20 million albums world wide while re-inventing themselves artistically on each album over the past 12 years and is highly-regarded as the greatest rap duo in rap history) is a bit irritated by T.I.'s bravado? Doesn't sound far-fetched to me. And could it be that Dre wanted to ensure the message is delivered by ending the verse with "not saying that I'm the best but til they find something better, / I Am Here. No Fear. Write me a letter"? Well...you think about it.
The Counter Punch: T.I. verse on the "Superstar" remix. (T.I.'s spits last so let the video load completely, skip through Jeezy's verse, stop at Lupe's - pay homage and then slow down and listen to T.I.'s.) Again, follow the bold...
"Okay now. / Anyone who know me, they know me to ride /
But when the shit was selling slow it's just my homies and I. /
Had to get rid of all the phonies and the homies disguised. /
So you speaking, I don't reply, homie don't be surprised. /
You ain't gotta ride for me, I didn't ask you to. /
Take the journey on my own, I would gladly do. /
You gon' and turn around now, I'll call a cab for you. /
I stand up on my own 2, he kiss the ass of who? /
No way Jose, we pot Rose, blow dro, that's more than okay. /
See but don't say. My folk, they flip more yay than Cirque du Soleil. /
Keyser Soze, oh they kill people and get off like OJ. /
You catch your case, just shut your face, don't get caught singing do, re, /
Mi, fa, say, la, ti, do, ghetto hero, G-code I obey. /
He's so gay, didn't have no business hanging around me no way. /
It's okay, life lesson learned I suggest that you go your way. /
I be straight, no conversation man. That's all I'm gon' say (hey). /
The Break Down: First off, I gotta give props to T.I. for that verse. Lyrically it was on point and he FINALLY veered away from the same mundane flow he normally defaults to. The ish is tight alone, but again, when you look at the content in a rap battle context, it comes across as a reply to Dre's verse above. Keep following:
The first allusion appears when T.I. spits "had to get rid of all the phonies and the homies disguised. / So when you speak and I don't reply, homie don't be surprised" (a potential ironic reference that he doesn't intend to reply to Dre's jabs and-slash-or that 3000 shouldn't expect any love from him when they cross paths in the future. One or the other. Maybe neither). Then he gets more specific when he says "You gon' turn around now, I'll call a cab for you. / I stand on my own two. He kiss the ass of who?" (A sly comparison to T.I.'s solo career and the fact that Andre is one-half of the duo Outkast. I'd say that T.I. means that Big Boi has carried Dre over the past 12 years...he's not delusional. Thats just unrealistic...kind of like when Nas said Jay-Z was wack compared to Beanie Siegel in his diss track classic "Ether.")
Similar to Dre's verse, T.I.'s most specific allusions turn more directly towards the end of his verse when he says "don't get caught singing do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do, ghetto hero, G-code I obey" (a potential shot to Andre spending his half of the classic double disk Speakerboxx/The Love Below crooning about love and relationships). Then [The King?] closes his possible-reply with "He's so gay, didn't have no business hanging round me no way. Life lesson learned I suggest you go your way. I be straight, no conversation man. Thats all I'm gon' say" (a possible reference to Dre's style choices and that T.I. does not intend to further dual with Mr. 3000).
Clearly T.I.'s reference's to Dre's are a bit loser than Dre's to T.I., but the possibility that he is indeed responding to the "Walk It Out" verse still has legs. The question is why would T.I.P. try to brush off the battle rather than come more definitively. My guess that even though he calls himself "The King of the South", in his heart-of-hearts he knows that he is not his region's best emcee. T.I. has a lot on the line by stepping in the square against Andre 3000. Not only would he LOSE (re: lyrically sodomized), but T.I. has finally crossed the barrier between respected rapper to pop-culture success (remember he was the official sponsor for Chevrolet's Impala SS series...prior to getting arrested for possessing a-small-country's-weapons-armory-amount of guns).
Its like what Robert Wuhl said on his HBO comedy special "Assume the Position": when legend becomes fact, print the legend. T.I.'s career was built more on his image and trap-history than his talent. Because he possesses an ill amount of street credibility without having the emcee ability to back it up, he needs to be more strategic about who he faces in the square. And this isn't the first time he used this tactic. After helping to build his legend by running head on at lyrically-deficient-Houston-rapper Lil' Flip earlier this century once Flip questioned his crown at a show in Atlanta, Tip threw an opening shot at Ludacris on Young Buck's "Stomp" remix, only to retreat into reconciliation after peeping 'Cris's blistering reply on the same track. Paper Kings are wary of sharp edges...so they fold out of the way. T.I. is no dummy. He understands that to maintain the image of his title he must bob-and-weave around more-worthy contenders (similar to how Lenox Lewis retired as heavy weight champion rather than go-toe-to-toe once and for all with his only real competition, Vladimir Klitschko). Plus, his career is on hold since he is on house arrest. He can't afford to have anyone tapping on his tooth-pick-tower. This couldn't come at worse time for him. So he gives just enough not to look like a punk, while hoping to simultaneously diffuse the encounter.
Either way, Sha shed the light on this one for me and I appreciate it. Apparently Dre replies again on a track featuring Raekwon, but we couldn't find it on either of latest napster-replacements. Rest assured I will send it your way if we ever uncover it.