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André 3000 discusses OutKast reunion, hip-hop, and rumored solo album in New York Times interview

OutKast // Photo by David Hall
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Photo courtesy of David Hall

For the first time since OutKast reunited back in April, André 3000 has sat down for a proper interview. In an extensive conversation with Jon Caramanica of The New York Times, the reclusive MC talked about his place in hip-hop and why, after eight years, he finally agreed to reunite with Big Boi. He also revealed how Prince served an important role in the success of OutKast’s tour, and gave an update on his long-rumored solo album.

Here are some of the highlights:

André credits his starring role in the Hendrix biopic for rekindling his creative fire…  

Honestly, I needed it in my life, too. Hendrix kind of saved me. I was in a not-so-great space, just in a dark place every day. I needed something to focus on to get me out of my depression and rut. Sometimes, when you’re alone, you can let yourself go. I knew if I got on a train with a lot of different people, then I couldn’t let them down.

He questions whether there’s still a place for him in modern hip-hop…

I remember, at like 25, saying, “I don’t want to be a 40-year-old rapper.” I’m 39 now, and I’m still standing by that. I’m such a fan that I don’t want to infiltrate it with old blood…

My son, he’s 16. Him and his buddies, they’ll be in the car, and I’ll say, “Hey, what do you think about this verse?” That’s my gauge at this point. I don’t have the pulse. Part of art is knowing when not to put paint on. And when to change your medium.

His decision to reunite OutKast…

Honestly, I never planned to go onstage again in that way. If I feel like I’m getting to a place where it’s mimicking or a caricature, I just want to move on. But I felt like: Let me do it now ’cause these kids [in the audience], it feels good to know that they’re happy. I really don’t actually get anything from performing…

I feel good in being able to look at Big Boi and say, “Hey, man, we did it.” Big Boi’s got these great records on his own, but this means something else for him.

André credits Prince for helping him overcome the early struggles of the tour…

It was foreign. My head wasn’t there. I kind of fluffed through rehearsals. A few hours before the Coachella show, I get a message that Prince and Paul McCartney are going to be there. My spirit is not right, and idols are standing side-stage, so as the show started, I’m bummed. This is horrible. In my mind I was already gone to my hotel room halfway through. So Prince called a couple days after. It was my first time actually talking to Prince. He said: “When you come back, people want to be wowed. And what’s the best way to wow people? Just give them the hits.”

I’m explaining to him that I really didn’t want to do it. He said: “I’ve been there. I’ve tried to do other things. After you give them the hits, then you can do whatever.”

He broke it down like this: “You’re a grown man. You’re either going to do it or you’re not.’

His parents died just before OutKast’s reunion tour was to begin, but he never considered pulling out… 

No, it was actually the biggest blessing ever. These shows force me to have to be in front of those people, so it was good therapy for me.

He doesn’t feel confined as a rapper, but he does find it boring…

My thing is I’m an idealist. What I get off on is doing things people said could not be done. And so if I’m at a place where I feel like I’m regurgitating or doing the same thing, it’s doing nothing for me. I get bored really fast. I saw a certain thing in rap. It started becoming acceptable. It wasn’t rebellious. So what could be more rebellious than singing love songs, emotional songs [on his half of “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”] when everybody else is mean-mugging, saying “I’m a player.” I want to say: “I love these bitches, man. I really do.”

He still intends to put out a solo album, but isn’t sure whether it’ll be sung or rapped. He also doesn’t have a timetable for its release…

It’s hard to say. [Laughs.] I’m just going to call it honest. I know this may sound morbid, but I was like, if I were to die today, I have all these half-songs on my hard drive, and I don’t want that.

When you feel it, it’s right. If you don’t feel it, then why? Honestly, think about it. Why do it? Why?

 Read the full interview here.

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