Near the beginning of his interview for T.I.'s podcast expediTIously, Young Thug offers an insight into his creative process: "Any time I'm myself, it's always really different." It's a statement that sheds light on his subsequent negative comments about André 3000 ("I can’t rap you two André 3000 songs. I ain’t never paid attention to him. Never in my life") but also connects him to the erstwhile Outkast rapper. Both artists create by this code, understanding that greatness is never comfortable or neat. It chafes, sometimes to a point to severe irritation.
That's where Thug found himself over the weekend, when clips of his remarks were circulated around the internet and roundly condemned. A freshman member of congress even weighed in. The internet eventually resurfaced excerpts of 3000 praising Thug, from a 2017 interview with Complex ("To do those things he does, you have to have big fuckin' balls... That's one of my mottos: Don't let people get too comfortable with what you're doing.") to his eulogy at Phife Dawg's funeral. "It's so dope," Andre said of hip-hop's new generation, specifically naming Thug. "They're them because of us," 3000 says. "The old niggas hating on the young niggas, that shit gotta stop."
Nothing of what 3000 says is in dispute. Young Thug remains one of the greatest rappers alive, and the long shadow of his influence is comparable to that of André 3000. It's unfortunate that the expediTIously appearance dragged up a long-settled debate over the value of Thug's artistry, but the internet loves nothing better than living in the past. Perhaps the constant comparisons to 3000 made Thug feel like his own singular creative powers were being diminished. Maybe a rich, famous, and powerful celebrity had an ego trip. Whatever the reason, Thug was embodying the iconoclasm André 3000 said he saw.
Thug's stature in music is one reason why the controversy is overblown, and he has earned the right not to be dismissed out of hand. It also won't be the first domino in the collapse of André 3000's legacy. His catalog is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant in hip-hop; in 2017, it got its own course at the University of Georgia. He is the pantheon now, even if glimmers of his influence are still strewn across modern music like diamonds.
3000 secured his place in history by taking on sacred cows; treating him like one diminishes what made him special. A seeker like Thug questioning the unquestionable — the value in the legacy of an artist who influenced him and paved the way for his career — honors the original spirit of what made 3000 great, and reflects how much of 3000 is in Thug. An assumed legend is a stagnant one, and depending on the source, even petulant criticism can offer it a new dimension. Nobody, however great, should get too comfortable. André 3000 knows that better than most.
(L) thumbnail image by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/Getty Images (R) by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images