André Lauren Benjamin, popularly known by his stage name, André 3000, is one of most modern rap artists to positively expand the creativity and depth of the hip-hop genre. With his eccentric aesthetic in the rap group, Outkast with Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, they both gained major popularity within both demographics of the rap audience: white and black consumers. As André has gotten older, he has respectively left room for the youth to continue and develop the rap game. However, the Atlanta-bred rapper, actor, and philanthropist, André 3000, continues to majorly impact the rap game with his unique and deeply-psychological lyrics.
André Lauren Benjamin, popularly known as André 3000 of Outkast, was born on May 27, 1975 in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up in southwest Atlanta, poverty and constant instability framed Andre’s childhood. André’s young parents had many troubles staying together while he was a child, due to infidelity. As a result, his mother, Sharon Benjamin, would move from place to place, but “raised André to be clean-cut and preppy” as a child (VH1 Driven).
André and his mother landed in one of Atlanta’s most destitute public housing, Bowen Homes. Sharon knew that André deserved more, educationally and socially, so she enrolled him in the “Minority to Majority” program. This program intended to integrate minority children from areas of poverty to be educated in predominately white schools across town. He participated in this program for a majority of his educational career, being constantly exposed to different cultures and musical interests, which you can hear implicitly in his music.
He was a part of two vastly different worlds: from being greeted by pimps as you walk to the bus stop to entering the world of polo-wearing equestrians, foreign cars, and unbothered white comfort within minutes. His range of musical influences stray from Sting, Anita Baker, ZZ Top to A Tribe Called Quest. In his junior year of high school, André’s mother, Sharon, told him to go live with his father because of his teen rebellions and low grades. His father was less harsh on André and became a friend, as they frequently went out and clubbed together. He continued to dissociate at school and dropped out later that year.
In high school, André met Antwan Patton, known as “Big Boi” and created a funkadelic rap duo, called Outkast. As the two Atlanta-natives gained major local popularity after high school, they were signed by LaFace records in 1992. Soon thereafter, they released their first debut album in 1994: “Southernplayalisticadillacmusik”. The album went platinum and Outkast earned the title as the “Best Rap Group of the Year” at the 1995 Source Awards.
They released their next two albums “ATLiens” (1996) and “Aquemini” (1998), crossing the boundaries of rap with natural and eccentric sounds that complimented the André’s funkadelic presence as well as his lyrical prowess. Throughout these years, he was dating the well-known, Erykah Badu, in which you could clearly hear her influence throughout his music.
With their fourth album, they came out with “Stankonia” (2000) containing hits like, “Ms. Jackson” that explained the unfortunate events of André and Erykah Badu’s breakup, concluding with the birth of their first son.
My personal favorite, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” (2003), included hits such as “Hey ya!” and “Prototype”. This album emphasized the musical differences between the two artists. Big Boi’s section of the album “Speakerboxxx” included his single deep-southern rap and disco styles. André’s portion of the album, “The Love Below”, included his unique and eccentric funk style, as well as slow swooning lyrics that touch the heart.
Outkast came out with their fifth album, “Idlewild” (2006) which served as the soundtrack for the movie, “Idlewild” featuring acting positions by Big Boi and André 3000, as well as Terrence Howard and Patti LaBelle. This movie was set in the 1930’s, focusing on the talented blues lead played by André. Throughout this drama produced by LaFace Records, the film featured Outkast’s past hit records as well as new songs off of the soundtrack. André 3000 and Big Boi were more focused on the music than the acting portion of the production. However, they both did a great acting job in this movie causing many the audience to get emotional in the ending.
André 3000’s solo career started slowly after 2007 as both Big Boi and André both endured a hiatus from music due to personal life. André began with appearing on remixes with Jay-Z, Q-Tip, and most popular, UGK’s “International Players Anthem.” He had a major rapping feature on Beyonce’s “Party” causing the public to believe he would come back with his own project. However, in modern times, he has grown a liking between eccentric rap and RnB artists: Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, and Frank Ocean. He has appeared in their most popular songs, “Solo (Reprise)/Pink Matter” by Frank Ocean and “The Ends” by Travis Scott. In most of these guest appearances, he demonstrates his often philosophical lyrics written by himself, that distinguishes him as one of the most lyrical rappers of all time. As of now, André 3000 will continue to appear as a guest artist on other songs; he has made it clear that he has retired from making another solo album.
As well as succeeding in the rap element, André also had a vigorous acting career. He had made appearances in multiple movies, such as Familes, The Shield, Be Cool, Revolver, Semi Pro, and Four Brothers. He also played as the main character, Percival, with Big Boi in Idlewood, with the soundtrack they produced. He also voiced for the crow character in Charlotte’s Web.
As far as creation, André produced his own cartoon that premiered on Cartoon Network, called Class of 3000. He became a member of Quentin Tarantino’s production crew, but left and created his own, “Moxie Turtle” in 2006. In 2012, he produced a Jimi Hendrix biopic, All Is By My Side, starring himself as Jimi. It was presented at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and was nominated for many awards that year.
A special artist contemporary was rapper, Eminem, who was heavily influenced by André 3000. They worked together and also killed time with each other in the booth. Their relationship deemed necessary as they were both heavily lyrical rappers in their time. Eminem remembers how they would both “nerd out together over classic hip hop” together whenever they linked up. Their relationship remained strong throughout their peaked musical years, as well as after.
André 3000’s musical influences are mentioned in the first paragraph; however, André 3000 had a massive influence on the Hip-Hop genre as a whole. Huge lyrical rappers who focus on abstract and eccentric sounds, such as Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and Anderson .Paak were heavily inspired by André. Kendrick Lamar includes a lot of Outkast samples in his released music, as well as a remix with Outkast in “Puzzle Pieces”. Also in his last album release, “DAMN.” (2017), one of Kendrick’s songs, “LUST” resembles “Vibrate” off of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. J. Cole also sampled “Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt.1” from Aquemini in “Land of the Snakes”
André 3000 began selling merchandise, including over 13 shirts that match the slogans he wore at the 2016 One MusicFest in Atlanta. He gave all of the proceeds to the Movement of Black Lives. He stated on his website, “Something very important is happening all over the world and it is happening to all of us. How does it make you feel?”
In conclusion, André 3000 continues to majorly impact the rap game with his unique and deeply-psychological craft. He continues to coparent with Erykah Badu and their son, Seven Sirius Benjamin. As of recently, he joined in the celebration of Big Boi’s last son’s high school graduation. Now, he just travels from New York to Philly playing his flute in the streets and simply, living.
“Contemporary Black Biography.” Encyclopedia.com. 12 Aug. 2020 . (2020, September 17). Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-history-composers-and-performers-biographies/andre-benjamin
André 3000 discography. (2020, August 19). Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_3000_discography
Kaufman, G. (2020, June 12). Andre 3000 Is Turning His Message Jumpsuits Into Charitable Shirts. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/9400346/andre-3000-turning-message-jumpsuits-into-fundraiser
Gale, A. (2018, June 01). André 3000 Does What He Wants. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.complex.com/music/andre-3000-tretorn-profile
Moore, S. (2019, December 20). André 3000 and Eminem used to nerd out together over classic hip-hop. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.nme.com/news/music/andre-3000-eminem-nerd-out-together-classic-hip-hop-hieroglyphics-2589654
Welch, W., & Nocito, P. (2017, October 30). Earth to André 3000: The OutKast Icon Talks Life After “Hey Ya!” Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.gq.com/story/andre-3000-outkast-gq-style-interview