There are certain hopes and dreams in hip hop that have existed for so long that they’ve grown to mythological levels. Detox sits on top. There’s that Jay Electronica album. And then there’s the Andre 3000 album that everyone thirsts over but is secretly worried about being disappointed by. Well, that dream may be a near reality. Earlier this week, Andre alluded to an upcoming solo album to BET’s Stephen Hill. Billboard has since spoken to a three stacks representative who said there is no official confirmation that an album is dropping in early 2014 or otherwise. If Dre does drop a solo disc, it would be his first since 2003’s The Love Below, which went on to win a slew of Grammy’s and break all sorts of sales records. We revisit our interview from Issue 23, when he and Big Boi spoke to us about the album, and wonder if Andre has gotten over his disenchantment with the music industry.
OutKast be Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antoine “Big Boi” Patton. These two dudes from down South have been around for a Hotlanta minute. They’ve recorded a slew of of superior hip hop albums. They’ve been recording superior hip hop albums longer than anyone else in the genre. They’ve been friends since high school. And although their personal interests differ, they’re sill tighter than Starsky and Hutch or Beavis and Butt-head or Ren and Stimpy or N.W.A.’s MC Ren and DJ Yella.
Their new album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, is a real trip—two separate discs, each man manning his own laser-scanned spinner. I don’t think either of these guys are on Friendster, but boy, oh boy, are they friendly. And Frank (like Anne). This reporter will shut up now because none of you’se care about what I have to say. I don’t blame you, actually. I mean, you see me on MTV all the time talking shit about Michael Jackson and things. Maybe I should stick to dissing Bubble’s dad on the tube. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
What does The Love Below mean?
ANDRE: The Love Below is like, that bubbling feeling under. People always talk about—especially players, pimps, or whatever—they’re always talkin’ about, “Yeah, I’m cool, I don’t need no bitches. I’m straight. We don’t love these hoes.” But I think, deep down, everybody wants somebody. And no matter what you think, if you’re supposed to be in love, it’s gonna grow up like a weed, you know? It’s just gonna come through the cracks. It’s that bubbling under, that passion.
You feeling hip hop these days?
The last thing I listened to that I was pretty excited about was this dude called The Streets. I like his music. And I like that he wasn’t really on beat. I thought that was cool. And he was saying some cool stuff.
Okay, um, but outside that it’s been…
I mean, you’ve got your club jams that sound really good in the clubs for the moment…I think that’s what it’s boiled down to now: club music. I think hip hop is on life preserve. I think the Neptunes are the only group who are at least keeping it alive, really. The beat. Like, I think 80 to 90 percent of the industry owes their whole career to Chad and Pharrell.
I know that you’re looking to focus more on acting. Do you think the rapper thing…does it hurt your career?
It hurts. Because I get a lot of roles where people want me to come in, but they want me to play this type of role and, like, they got this new movie coming out called Scary Movie 3. They wanted me to be in it to jump out a van and beat up some aliens or whatever. I’m not saying that that was bad, but I didn’t think I wanted to do that first. The image of me, I know, they just think I’m this wild crazy dude. Actually, I’m the opposite; I mean, that’s showbiz. Still, I think I’ve got something else to offer on the screen and stuff.
You checking for any specific actors?
Jeffrey Wright is, like, phenomenal. I respect Mark Wahlberg for making that transition, Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall.
How about Shelley Duvall?!
I don’t know her…um, Denzel, of course. He’s the top of the line. He’s so believable. Like when I’m watching him act, I’m watching the story. That’s what I want to do.
Years ago, you did a song called “Bombs Over Baghdad.” What were your thoughts when all this Iraq madness really jumped off?
The song had nothing to do with that…well, it has something to do with it, but it doesn’t because the title came from when I was in London watching the news. A newscaster said, “Bombs over Baghdad,” and I just thought it was a fresh phrase. I wrote it down; it was about then the United States was over in Baghdad before…kinda like bombing the outskirts [of Iraq]. They were really hitting nothing, I think they were just like warning shots. And so to me, that was the same thing that was going on in hip hop. It was like warning shots—there wasn’t nobody really doing nothing real. So that’s what “Bombs Over Baghdad” was about. The hook says, “Don’t pull that thang out unless you plan to bang,” like, don’t do it unless you’re really gonna do it. Bombs over Baghdad. After the war, people called up saying, “Aw man, y’all some prophets.” And it’s nah [laughs], not really.
What’s the deal with Aquemini Records? Are you active in that? Are you interested in developing new acts?
I’m interested in making opportunities for acts, but the record business is not really what I want to be in. Because with the record company business, you have to be a straight businessman, you know? I have too much of an opinion to have a record company. I’m too, uh, I guess I’m too stubborn to have a record company, because the stuff I don’t like may sell—but I can’t stand behind it.
Seems like the business you’re into most is the business of art and expression.
Man, sometimes it’s hard to sell an expression, but…hey, I just bought a smaller house. I just wanted to simplify, man. Get something I really need. I have a five-bedroom house right now, but it’s really just me by myself. I’ve found a perfect little spot. It’s kinda like paradise. I love the way my house looks—the house I’m living in now—but I don’t want to be there. It’s almost like I hate going home. Sometimes I just rent hotels. I only stay in one room in the house…it’s almost like a high school kid’s room with all these posters and shit on the wall…I don’t even use the other part of the house. I never had the chance to furnish it. There are instruments everywhere. I’ve been living there four years, but it’s ben almost like a huge, big, empty pit-stop; come off the the road, drop off your clothes and, um, that’s about it.
You still love rap?
BIG BOI: I love hip hop. I love funk music. Funky ass hip hop. Whatever it is. As long as that shit can strike a nerve like “Ooh!” make you feel that shit. That’s what I like.
Your partner feels like hip hop doesn’t speak to him anymore. Everyone’s saying the same shit. Everybody’s gangster.
Well, I mean, I don’t listen to everybody. Like, I just went out and bought Eazy-Duz-It [Ruthless, ’88] — Eazy-E’s first album. I don’t listen to everything that’s out. There’s a lot of stuff that’s out right now—true indeed, it ain’t inspiring, but it’s that handful of motherfuckers that are
funky as hell who are keeping this shit alive. I think Pharrell is doing his shit, funky as hell, Dr. Dre is still doing his damn thing, funky as hell. I don’t listen to a lot of new hip hop shit. I listen to a lot of old funk, ’70s shit: Aretha Franklin, Isley Brothers. But as far as, like, new records, 50 Cent’s got a nice little quality album…
As for us, I just feel like the time is right for our album to drop. I feel like, I don’t really worry about how people are gonna take it—as long as I know it’s funky and it’s true to what I’m doing and we’ve been doing. One thing that Bootsy Collins once told me will always be with me. He was like, “Let me tell you where we fucked up at: Once you try to start figuring out what you’re doing, that’s when you start fucking up.” So i don’t even try to figure it out. I just go in the studio. If that shit is funky and jamming, we’re gonna build on it until we’re finished. If it makes the album, it makes it. If not, we catalog that shit until the next one.
We’re still OutKast. You know, we drop a little science in there every now and then. I mean, it’s like, you’ve gotta feed them the right way. When we give it to ’em, first it’s about the beat—the beat gonna catch ’em. And then once you’ve got the beat, the first ten seconds, man, you’ve gotta come in on annihilation mode. I’m proud as hell of this record.
Do you think it’s your best?
I do. I really do. I think this is the one. I’ve got the feeling. With this album right here, it’s like we’ve been in the studio together, but it’s like he’s the commander of his disc and I was the commander of mine. Before it we were co-captains. At first it was kinda hard for me to adapt to calling all the shots. Usually it would be like, “Are we gonna use this, Dre?” Or Dre would be like, “What did you think about this?” This time all the final decisions have landed in my lap…but niggas don’t need to get it twisted at all: That man will write one verse and destroy your whole album with one verse. Like for real. And me, as an MC, I know what I’m capable of doing. Every time I write a rap, I try to outdo the last rhyme I did. Every time I write a rap, if I don’t feel like it’s dope enough, it don’t even feel good to me.
Speaking of dope, let’s talk about weed. It looks like you’ve got a well-fed Chia Pet on your desk.
It’s Hawaiian…it’s right. With this record right here, I smoked pounds to this…every time I listen to it I get to smoking. Feels good. Plus, man, I’m just a smoker. I know it’s bad to smoke but I think I probably got another year or so and then I’ll just cut that shit out completely.
You think you can do it?
Yeah, for my kids. I want to be around to do 80 years, or 90 years, or better. Now it’s like, “Okay, you’ve got babies…” I’ll probably eat the brownies or something. My kids see me smoke, but I don’t want them to think that shit is just cool. For me, when I do music, it just frees your mind; you go in the other zone. You can hear everything when you smoke. Your shit just gets sharp. And there’s certain shit that ain’t there that you can hear. That’s how I come up with the sounds for the musicians sometimes, the guys who play instruments. Smoking, chilling, just vibing. I don’t even drink like that though; I don’t get fucked up drinking. I might get me some Bailey’s, some butterscotch schnapps, make me a Buttery Nipple and just lean with it.
A Buttery Nipple?!
A Buttery Nipple is Bailey’s and butterscotch schnapps. Buttery Nipple. My uncle put me down to it. Old school drink.