As someone who found fame as half of a musical duo called OutKast, André 3000 remains beloved by fans for a career that spans far beyond his uniquely funkadelic brand of hip-hop. From his plans to launch a line of Anita Baker T-shirts to his numerous acting roles in TV, film, and even video games, the ‘World’s Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity’ has redefined what it means to be a hip-hop star, smashing through barriers both sonic and conceptual, much like he’s always done in his music.
Just this year alone, André Benjamin has designed a new sneaker collection for Tretorn and will star in the upcoming sci-fi movie High Life, which will finally see the self-proclaimed ‘ATLien’ reach the stars that he’s pursued ever since OutKast’s second album hit stores in 1996. But with all of these other creative endeavors vying for André Benjamin’s attention, what does the future hold in store for his future-loving alter ego, André 3000? In other words, are we ever going to see his long-rumored solo album?
Goodbye to Stankonia
A recent appearance on N.E.R.D.’s No_One Ever Really Dies continued the impressive run of guest verses that André occasionally bestows on fans, but it turns out that this collaboration almost didn’t happen. Pharrell Williams later explained that Three Stacks originally didn’t like his verse on “Rollinem 7’s” and it’s exactly this reluctance which hints at the real reason why Dre hasn’t released an album of his own material since 2006.
To quote Benjamin on OutKast’s Grammy-winning song from their greatest hits compilation, “The whole world loves it when you make that sound,” yet André himself seems to have grown tired of creating music. Back in August 2017, Dre revealed to Complex that he’s “totally fine” with not recording more music and has enjoyed distancing himself from “the hustle and bustle of putting out an album.” Around the same time, André reinforced his disenchantment with the hip-hop industry during an interview with GQ, explaining that he no longer feels the need to release another hit record.
“If I were to drop dead right now, honestly, we’ve done it. And that’s the truth,” he said. It seems then that Dre no longer wishes to visit Stankonia, “the place from which all funky things come,” but why is this the case? Sure, it’s become common knowledge that André 3000 is hesitant to release a new album, but what changed? Why does a rapper that Billboard named one of the greatest of all time now just see hip-hop as a “hobby”?
Spectacular’s Right in Front of You
During OutKast’s heyday, Dre pushed the boundaries of what hip-hop fans could expect from their idols, combining influences from Prince and Jimi Hendrix with elements of psychedelic Afrofuturism that transcended the typical gangsta tropes that prevailed in the ‘90s and 2000s. The love came from below and all around for the eccentric “Southern Playa” thanks to the distinctive twang of his voice, fashion choices that literally came from out of this world and lyrics that proved there was room in the game for poetic rhymes and emotional lyrics.
Following the mainstream success of records like Aquemini and Stankonia, Three Stacks and Big Boi made the curious decision to release a double album that showcased their individual talents. Released on September 23, 2003, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below became OutKast’s first chart-topping album in the States and received widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike, earning the pair a Grammy for Best Rap Album and a huge win for Album of the Year. “Roses” and “The Way You Move” became massive hits for Outkast around that time, but the song that forever changed their career trajectory was “Hey Ya!,” an infectious yet experimental pop hit that was regarded as an instant classic and further cemented André’s place in the music hall of fame.
As is often the case though, success came at a price. Before Speakerboxxx/The Love Below dropped, Dre was diagnosed with an anxiety condition that made him feel increasingly nervous around people. Speaking to GQ, the “Prototype” singer revealed that this escalated to the point where anxiety even affected him publicly in both the “Hey Ya!” performance at the VMAs and its accompanying music video. While we were all shaking it “like a polaroid picture,” it turns out that André “hated” this experience to the point where he decided to stop touring completely.
Extra Extra Terrestrial Levels of Creativity
While it’s easy to speculate that André 3000 hasn’t released an album in over a decade simply became he became bored of rapping full-time – something which he himself reinforced in the aforementioned interviews – it turns out that his decision to step back away from the spotlight is far more complex than it might seem, much like his nimble wordplay. Yes, it’s always been clear that this real-life ATLien would avoid a traditional career path, often eschewing hip-hop in favor of other creative pursuits, but its Dre’s anxiety and perpetual self-doubt that have had the biggest impact on his career in music.
Recent guest verses with the likes of Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean and former squeeze Erykah Badu reminded listeners once again why Three Stacks is still regarded as one of hip-hop’s elite rappers (and Big Boi also reiterated this recently, describing himself and André to be “two of the best”). Unfortunately though, the other half of OutKast doesn’t agree, labeling himself as a “jack-of-no-trades” who was never “a great producer or a great writer or a great rapper.”
While it may seem like André really did travel 3000 miles from the planet Proto if he honestly believes that his cosmic style of rapping is anything but close to spectacular or fantastic, it’s easy to see why this lack of confidence in his rapping abilities led Three Stacks to new fields of creativity. Since Idlewild was released in 2006, Dre’s creative ventures have encompassed everything from a well-received Jimi Hendrix biopic to his very own animated cartoon, all of which have pulled him further away from the rap game that he no longer feels confident to be a part of.
We Never Relaxin’, OutKast Is Everlastin’
Rumors of a new OutKast album and movie biopic continue to spiral out from the depths of Stankonia over a decade after the release of the duo’s last album, and there are also whisperings that suggest Dre may still create a record of his own one day. Desire for this is so great in the hip-hop community that some outlets have even compiled their own fan-made collections in lieu of an official album release from André 3000, but fans shouldn’t hold their breath.
The space-age rapper may have inspired the likes of Drake, Lil Wayne and Kanye West to explore eccentricity in their music, harnessing emotion without losing stature, but André himself knows that the game has changed. While paying tribute to Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, Three Stacks recently revealed that newcomers like Young Thug make him feel like he can’t keep up anymore. Although it’s easy to contest Dre’s belief that he’s “not on the pulse,” it’s also commendable that the Atlanta star refuses to switch up his style in order to fit in with the ever changing scene, keeping his legacy so fresh and so clean clean without tapping into the anxiety that feeds his self doubt.
As much as we would love to hear what a new record from Proto’s number one resident would sound like in 2018, perhaps it’s for the best if André sticks to guest features instead of recording an entire new album. It’s like he said himself back in 2000, “I think too much. But I’ll write one verse that’ll crush your whole album.” André 3000 the musician may be no more, but André the rapper remains an integral part of hip-hop, one who will continue to steal the spotlight and make headlines with every album-crushing feature that he writes.
If you haven’t already, check out our guide to to André 3000’s incredible guest spots right here.
- Text: David Opie
- Cover Image: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images