The man affectionately known as 3 Stacks has always had a complicated relationship with Rap. Each album saw a different iteration of Andre, culminating in his damn near R&B record The Love Below, which was one of a double disc of two albums OutKast created. And then in Idlewild, his turn as the sensitive piano player who is suddenly burst into the spotlight. The parallels between that character and that of Andre Benjamin are numerous, but as he steps into the shadow of the late-great Jimi Hendrix the similarities between these two penultimate musicians are set to make for a stellar performance.
It hasn’t come easy for Dre, though. He’s been riddled with self-doubt and depression for some time due to the passing of his parents, his relationship to music, and more, and as one of the most universally beloved artists in the space, his mysterious disappearance from all public life has brought intense speculation. Here, he addresses just about all of them including raising Seven, singing love songs, the tour, and what the future holds for the seemingly melancholy hall of famer.
Andre 3000 reveals much both in an interview with Jon Caramanica at The New York Times and in the latest installment of Esquire magazine’s “What I’ve Learned” series. Here are six pertinent takeaways.
Both Prince & Paul McCartney Attended OutKast’s Coachella Set
After what most critics called an inconsistent show at Coachella, rumors surfaced that The Purple One was in attendance. You can clearly see the influence of one Prince Rogers Nelson on Andre 3000 in the form of his Funk-infused falsetto, but in his recent New York Times interview with Jon Caramanica, Dre confirmed that not only was Prince in attendance but legendary Beatles member Paul McCartney was also on hand.
“My spirit is not right, and idols are standing side-stage, so as the show started, I’m bummed,” Dre said of the now infamous Coachella performance. So what helped spark the noticeable difference in OutKast’s live show? Three Stacks said some simple prodding from Prince to give the audience the hits they wanted was all it took. First, who knew Prince and Paul McCartney were OutKast fans? Second, can you imagine Prince, in all his high-heeled, purple and ruffled glory telling the man who made “Player’s Ball” to essentially man up?
“Jimi: All Is By My Side” Saved Andre 3,000 From “A Dark Place”
While he hints at letting himself go due to being alone, Andre Benjamin doesn’t exactly reveal what landed him in what he described as a rut and a “not-so-great” space. What he does make clear is that thrusting himself into the role of Jimi Hendrix was a way of pulling him out of said rut. Benjamin says he shifted the focus away from himself, and by virtue of being surrounded by cast and crew, he was impacted by a sort of positive peer pressure of not wanting to let down everyone else involved in the project.
“I knew if I got on a train with a lot of different people, then I couldn’t let them down,” Benjamin told Caramanica in his Times interview. As it happens, Dre has been studying Jimi Hendrix for other reasons for upwards of a decade.
“In the back, surrounded by his sparkling space suits, sitting alone and Buddha-like, is Andre,” wrote Rob Marriott in a 2001 issue of VIBE. “His eyes are fixed on some rare and gritty, black-and-white Jimi Hendrix footage he just copped at a local Virgin megastore.” That was nearly 13 years ago. Jimi has apparently saved Dre more than once.
Andre Benjamin’s Style Was Formed In High School
From the hashtag-inspired outfits on OutKast’s current tour, to the turban he rocked for portions of the ATLiens album, and even the football pads he rocked in the “Rosa Parks” video, Andre 3000’s style has been eccentric for quite a while. If anything, the uber preppy style reflected in Dre’s now-defunct Benjamin Bixby collection is a return to his high school roots.
“So there was this huge prep movement where ghetto kids were so into this world that Ralph Lauren had created that we were wearing riding boots to school,” Dre revealed in a August 27 “What I Learned” with Cal Fussman for Esquire.com.
So you can more or less chart Dre’s progression from preppy to esoteric/bohemian and back to preppy. Given that Dre and Big Boi met in high school, one can only think it would have been quite the experience to walk those vaunted halls.
Erykah Badu Encouraged Andre 3000 To Sing
Badu-ism is as real as you want it to be, and it’s no secret that many people thought the Mama’s Gun singer put the battery in 3000’s creative back when he went retro-futuristic after Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. But, if you’ve ever wanted to know just why The Love Below was the pre 808’s and Drake, R&B’ish masterpiece that it ended up being, that longing was satiated when Andre casually stated, “I’m singing around the house, and Erykah’s like: ‘That sounds great. Why you not doing it?’” We guess a woman’s love can make you go a little left, which in this case was a very good thing.
Andre 3000 Struggles With His Mind-blowing Cameos
The shy emcee has been struggling with what’s cool for some time now. In a cover story with VIBE in 2001, at the Milwaukee leg of their 2001 Stank Love Tour Dre was already searching for the essence of young cool, saying, “I watch those kids to see what the music is showing them. And what you see is kids with No Limit medallions on, or you see them looking like Lil Wayne. Those are their heroes.” Fast forward to Andre’s complete takeover of the occasional guest verse, and he’s still struggling with that question. In the recent interview with Jon Caramanica for the New York Times he had this to say, “I struggle with the verses. I don’t sit around and write raps… So if Future calls and says, ‘Hey man, I want you to do this,’ I don’t want to let Future down. I don’t want to let Lil Wayne or Drake down, because I love them.”
Andre 3000 Calls Hip Hop’s Repetition an Addiction
There’s no doubt that Hip Hop is a copycat league. Oh, so that’s doing well? We need one of those! And so in a season you may get a sound that is repeated over and over again because everyone loves it, well, right now. But then it gets stale and it’s on to the next thing. Three stacks agrees. In his interview with Esquire, he had this missive to parlay, “The repetition you hear in hip-hop is addiction. It feels good, so you wanna keep doing it over and over and over again. Classical music takes you to all these places. Hip-hop is: just keep that, just keep that, just keep that …”