Their unique hip hop style grabs a diverse audience worlwide. OutKast's blend of gritty Southern soul, fluid raps, and the rolling G-funk of their Organized Noize production crew epitomized the Atlanta wing of hip-hop's rising force, the Dirty South, during the late '90s. Along with Goodie Mob, OutKast took Southern hip-hop in bold, innovative new directions: less reliance on aggression, more positivity and melody, thicker arrangements, and intricate lyrics. After Dre and Big Boi hit number one on the rap charts with their first single, "Player's Ball," the duo embarked on a run of platinum albums spiked with several hit singles, enjoying numerous critical accolades in addition to their commercial success. Andre Benjamin (Dre) and Antwan Patton (Big Boi) attended the same high school in the Atlanta borough of East Point, and several lyrical battles made each gain respect for the other's skills. They formed OutKast, and were pursued by Organized Noize Productions, hitmakers for TLC and Xscape. Signed to the local LaFace label just after high school, OutKast recorded and released Player's Ball, then watched the single rise to number one on the rap charts. It slipped from the top spot only after six weeks, was certified gold, and created a buzz for a full-length release. That album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, hit the Top 20 in 1994 and was certified platinum by the end of the year. Dre and Big Boi also won Best New Rap Group of the Year at the 1995 Source Awards. OutKast returned with a new album in 1996, releasing ATLiens that August; it hit number two and went platinum with help from the gold-selling single "Elevators (Me & You)" (number 12 pop, number one rap), as well as the Top 40 title track. Aquemini followed in 1998, also hitting number two and going double-platinum. There were no huge hit singles this time around, but critics lavishly praised the album's unified, progressive vision, hailing it as a great leap forward and including it on many year-end polls. Unfortunately, in a somewhat bizarre turn of events, OutKast was sued over the album's lead single "Rosa Parks" by none other than the civil rights pioneer herself, who claimed that the group had unlawfully appropriated her name to promote their music, also objecting to some of the song's language. The initial court decision dismissed the suit in late 1999. Dre modified his name to Andre 3000 before the group issued its hotly anticipated fourth album, Stankonia, in late 2000. Riding the momentum of uniformly excellent reviews and the stellar singles "B.O.B." and "Ms. Jackson," Stankonia debuted at number two and went triple platinum in just a few months; meanwhile, "Ms. Jackson" became their first number one pop single the following February.
Outkast's Manager Says Movie, LP Will Be Their 'Purple Rain'
Group is writing music for soundtrack while film is being edited. Outkast's manager, Blue Williams, says that while his fellas' next projects are taking a little longer than originally expected, they're definitely coming.
Andre 3000 and Big Boi's film, shot from July to October last year, was formerly known as "My Life in Idlewild," a title director Bryan Barber had coined as a joke . It's currently being edited, and the guys are coming up with music for the soundtrack.
"The plan was to do the movie for the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below box, but we couldn't get it up and running in time," Williams explained. "We worked out a deal with HBO for the movie. The guys wanted to take some of the songs from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below 'cause they were still relevant, but we needed new music. Since the movie is being edited, now is when we plug in the new music. There's music that will be [in the movie], and there's music not in the movie. So fans, when they buy the CD, are getting something they haven't heard yet.
"To do it right, we've had to do it like this, so it's taken a minute," Williams continued. "This is gonna be like our 'Pink Floyd: The Wall' or our 'Purple Rain.' We want it to be a body of work that'll stand the test of time."
Although the LP is being billed as a soundtrack, Williams described it as "the next Outkast album" and said Andre and Big will be producing.
"The majority of the music is gonna be the fellas," he said. "It could be all them, but if I say it's gonna be one way, then next week it's gonna be something else. The plan is for it to be mostly them, but I wouldn't be surprised if [there were] some guest appearances."
If Outkast get their way, the film will have its theatrical release this fall, with the soundtrack coming out shortly before the flick.
"The guys did their thing," said Williams. "They don't look like first-time actors. It's not no ghetto — it's a period piece. Big Boi really shines. His acting stands out."
Outkast are also looking forward to dropping a proper group album in 2006. In the interim, Andre is going to keep acting — he's secured a role in John Singleton's next film — and Big Boi has started his own imprint, Purple Ribbon, through Virgin.
The first three artists to be spawned from Big's new deal will be Sleepy Brown, a group called Konkrete and Bubba Sparxxx, who has nearly completed his new album. Killer Mike, an artist Dre and Big Boi are putting out collectively, still has his deal at Sony Music and is releasing his sophomore LP later this year. He's going to put out three singles within the next several weeks.
Williams himself is just as busy as his two star clients. He's working with Jay-Z and L.A. Reid at Def Jam, helping Nick Cannon put together his next album and managing Case, who is in the process of securing a new record deal, and also managing newcomer Lyfe.
Andre 3000 talks about acting, Be Cool and the Outkast movie
A few years back, Outkast was just a talented hip-hop band from Atlanta. Those "in the know" in the music world recognized the talent of the group and, little by little, a following started to build. With each subsequent album, from their debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to the spacey smooth Atliens to the critically acclaimed Aquemini, Outkast refined their talent and broke new musical ground in the process. On Halloween of 2000, Outkast released their most sprawling and daring record to date, Stankonia, an album which mixed and matched just about every musical genre out there. Along with being a brilliant album, it also launched their first crossover hit with the MTV video favorite "Ms. Jackson," directed by F. Gary Gray.
Outkast's biggest breakthrough was yet to come, however, when in 2003 the group split apart in a sense, releasing a double album made up of two solo albums packaged together. Big Boi's was entitled Speakerboxxx, and featured more of the hard edged hip-hop flavor. Andre 3000's The Love Below was a mixture of silky smooth R & B, raps and even pop. The single "Hey Ya" officially brought Outkast into the mainstream, becoming one of the most played singles ever. Throughout 2004, it was hard to go through a full day in public without hearing that "Shake it like a Polaroid picture" line bumping out of someone's car.
Now, after conquering the music world, Andre 3000 has decided to take a crack at acting. He came out to L.A. a few years ago and has been taking acting classes to prepare. Judging by his growing film credits, featuring films with Guy Ritchie, John Singleton and Bryan Barber, Andre 3000 (whose real name and "acting" name is Andre Benjamin), things are off to a pretty good start.
Benjamin's latest film re-teams him with the director of the "Ms. Jackson" music video, F. Gary Gray. In Be Cool, Benjamin joins a massive star-studded cast that includes John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, The Rock, Vince Vaughn, Christina Milian, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Cedric the Entertainer and Steven Tyler. Benjamin's character is a rapper in the polar opposite sense to Andre 3000. Named Dabu, the character is a loose-lipped gun toting "gangsta" wearing baggy clothes and garnering some of Be Cool's best laughs.
A long-time fan of Outkast, I was thrilled to learn that I would get the chance to do a one-on-one interview with Andre 3000. Late on a recent Sunday afternoon, I sat down with Benjamin at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. Benjamin was dressed in a typically stylish bright green dress shirt, dark green pants, a green tie and a straw hat. Green is my favorite color too, but I could never look as cool as he does in it. During the course of the talk, we covered a wide range of topics, from Be Cool and his transition to acting to Prince and the Outkast movie. Here's the full deal...
IGN FILMFORCE: How do you define the difference between Andre 3000 the rapper/singer and Andre Benjamin the actor?
ANDRE BENJAMIN: I guess Andre 3000 would lend itself more to what people see in those videos. I mean, he's a character, you know? Andre Benjamin is I guess who you are talking to now. Andre 3000 is the person that they think is wild and crazy and all that type of stuff.
IGNFF: So Andre Benjamin is closer to the real you?
BENJAMIN: Oh yeah. I'm Andre Benjamin. [Andre 3000] is the character I had to play for that song or that video or that album.
IGNFF: What appeals to you so much about acting for you to pursue it so heavily over the past few years?
BENJAMIN: The challenge to play a normal human being, being that I'm an entertainer. People put you on this star type of pedestal and you need to actually break yourself down. To be a normal human being is kind of therapy. I dig it.
IGNFF: Tell me about the evolution of Dabu. I heard Cedric the Entertainer helped to come up with the name?
BENJAMIN: Yeah, Gary offered $200 to whoever could come up with the most ghetto name and Cedric the Entertainer came up with Dabu.
IGNFF: Is there any intimidation factor for you working with such a cast of big names in Be Cool?
BENJAMIN: I honestly didn't think about it until I got on the set. When Gary called me and asked me to read the script and see if I wanted to be in this movie, I read it and I thought it was a great story, but I didn't want to play that character. I didn't want to play Dabu; his name wasn't Dabu then, but knowing that I wanted to make the transition from music into film, I didn't want to play a rapper. I turned it down actually, and Gary said, 'Well, I want to talk to you more about it, so let's meet.' So we met at this hotel and he talked to me about the character and he said, 'Really, you're playing a rapper, but you're playing against type of what people think you are. Really you'll be playing a parody of what people think rappers are.' It's like over the top, bigger. He's like, 'Honestly, man, as far as your film career, this is a great move to be in the film with these people, with this caliber of people.' He said, 'You should think about it,' and I said, 'Okay, fine.' I thought about it and I took the part.
IGNFF: Did you get any guidance or tips from any of the actors while on set?
BENJAMIN: Nah, not really. No, because I knew I was an amateur, but I didn't want to crowd them with questions or anything, so what I did is just sat back and watched and learned from how they were doing it. I learned a lot from Vince Vaughn about preparing for your character before you go on, not waiting until action, you know? I learned from John and Uma because, you know, I was a beginner, so I showed up on set and I'm nervous and I want to be perfect and I don't want to make mistakes; and that's a bad thing when you're thinking about making mistakes. So, when I saw them make human being mistakes, you know, they are vets, and that gave me, honestly, comfort in knowing, 'Hey, we're all humans.'
IGNFF: F. Gary Gray said that a lot of your funniest lines were actually improv. Were you always good at this or is this just news to you that people are laughing?
BENJAMIN: Yeah, that's news to me. I've never taken improv classes. Actually, that's one of the departments I need to work on because everything is always planned for me, you know? I always think it through, you know, as far as creation, I always think it through. But sometimes in films, see that's one thing about film, you don't have a lot of time to plan, unless you're planning your character ahead of time. But on the set, when the camera's rolling, you know, you're just being in it making up stuff as you go along.
IGNFF: How far do you hope to go as an actor? Are there certain genres you're looking forward to playing in?
BENJAMIN: Yeah, I think, I mean I have my favorites that I like to play, but I don't know what I'm good at just yet. I honestly didn't think that I was funny, and then I get into interviews and people tell me, 'You're really funny in the movie.'
IGNFF: You and The Rock stole the show in Be Cool.
BENJAMIN: (Laughs) Well, I'm glad. I haven't seen the movie. Man, that's crazy. So, I want to try it out, you know? I'm working on my fifth film right now. Drama is really good for me. I like that. I want to do a thriller. I want to do a biopic for sure. Those are kinda just like dreams, just to try out, but I want to try the whole gambit and just see where I fit in.
IGNFF: So you moved to L.A. and started taking acting classes, right?
BENJAMIN: Mmm hmmm.
IGNFF: Are you still taking the classes?
BENJAMIN: No, I've been working, so I haven't had time to take classes.
IGNFF: But you're living out here in L.A. now?
BENJAMIN: No, I'm in Atlanta, but really my home, my pitstop is in Atlanta, but I've been working so much I don't have a home. I just finished a film with Guy Ritchie called Revolver and now I'm working with John Singleton on a film called Four Brothers, so I'm working, man.
IGNFF: Is there a title yet for the Outkast movie?
BENJAMIN: We don't have a title just yet. It's a working title. My Life in Idlewild is the working title, the production name.
IGNFF: What was the dynamic of the Outkast movie like? Did you have to talk Big Boi into doing that, into trying out the acting as well?
BENJAMIN: I didn't have to talk him into it. I didn't know, really, if he was really into it as much. But he had no problem with it. I guess it was all in making the next Outkast album, which is going to be the soundtrack to this movie.
IGNFF: The songs in the movie will all be original?
BENJAMIN: Well, there are going to be old songs [as well] in the movie, but the soundtrack is going to be all new songs.
IGNFF: Will the older songs that are in the movie be remixed or new versions?
BENJAMIN: No, they are the same.
IGNFF: Beyond that album, do you plan to do another solo album?
BENJAMIN: Yeah, I probably will. I don't know if it will be solo. I'll probably start a new group, a new band or something.
IGNFF: I've been a big fan of Outkast for a long time, especially being an Atlanta native myself. I'm also a big Prince fan, and it really felt to me like you channeled early Prince on The Love Below.
BENJAMIN: Thank you, man. Prince is, man, he is one of my greatest influences growing up. I've actually met him a couple of times here in California.
IGNFF: Do you think you might work with Prince one day?
BENJAMIN: There's a possibility man. There's always a possibility that we could work together. When we met, we were in a club and we were sitting down talking. We were talking about a song and talking about tempo and, I guess making moves and singles and I was so excited to meet him man, I just couldn't think of everything I wanted to say. He invited me, you know, [saying I] should come on out to Paisley Park… I've never been to Paisley Park. I'd just love to sit down and just talk to him and hear stories, because he's like, to me, he was the genius of growing up in our time, you know? He's the person that did it.
IGNFF: Are you done with touring for now?
BENJAMIN: Yeah, I'm done with touring, man, for a while. I don't know when I'll hit the stage again. I'm just trying to look for something new to do. Even in music, I gotta find something new to excite myself. I'm just tired of it man, you know?
IGNFF: Tired of the grind of it?
BENJAMIN: Yeah, tired of the grind, tired of creating. You get tired of creating sometimes.
IGNFF: Growing up in Atlanta, the city has really developed into a hotbed of music and Outkast has been a big part of that. What do you think put Atlanta on the map? Because when I was a kid, you wouldn't think of Atlanta as a place for music acts to develop...
BENJAMIN: I think it was a combination of, not even Atlanta, just Georgia maybe, down in Athens, [with] R.E.M. and there was so much pop music coming from Atlanta. There was TLC and Kris Kross. They made it happen for a while. La Face records and Kris Kross pretty much brought a lot of attention to Atlanta. And after that, it was ourselves and Goodie Mob and now you have the whole crunk music, you know Lil Jon and that type of thing.
IGNFF: This is a pretty broad question, but what is the ultimate scenario for yourself if you could set the stage for where you could go in your career?
BENJAMIN: Ultimately, I want to do a number of films. [I want to] get into writing, design a clothing label and just grow old and travel and maybe do movies maybe once every two years, once I get older.
IGNFF: Will music be a part of that?
BENJAMIN: I'm not sure.
What's Up With The Outkast Movie?
The Director Spills It All. Oh, it'll come out, all right. But it won't be called 'My Life in Idlewild.'
For all the talk about the Outkast movie in recent years, few details have actually surfaced. But now that the HBO-produced movie starring Andre 3000 and Big Boi is finished shooting, we went after its director, Bryan Barber, the group's longtime go-to video director, to fill us in.
Yes, it's really coming out. "Probably mid-June," Barber said. "The rumor is that it'll hit theaters first. I'm not supposed to spread the rumor, but I am."
No, it's not really called "My Life in Idlewild." "I was kidding around when I said that title, because where it takes place is called Idlewild," Barber said. "I didn't think anyone would like it. Originally it was called 'Speakerboxxx' and I might still call it that. 'Speakerboxxx' is what the film is. It's actually the first part to another film I wrote, 'The Love Below,' which I wrote for Andre."
However, it's not really based on Big Boi's album. "I had this idea in my mind for two years and wrote it loosely based on my life and wrote their parts loosely based on some of our experiences together as well," Barber said. "Basically, Dre and Big Boi have coinciding stories. Big Boi's in a love triangle and has to choose between his dream of being a businessman and his family. And Dre's is more of a tragic love story. He falls in love with someone from out of town, which motivates him to follow his dream."
Yes, it's really a musical. "It's just something different, out of the ordinary," Barber said. "It's not really a hip-hop movie at all, it just happens to have two major hip-hop stars in it. It's more of a 1930s musical. I took some of the music from Outkast and set it in that time. That's one of the things I set out to do. I was trying to make a statement on how music from today could have been music from the 1930s. Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, the pace of their music is about the same as rap. The things they talked about were the same, carrying guns and carrying knives or women cheating. There's a lot of similarities and I wanted to show how it could have been a part of that era."
However, it's still sort of a hip-hop movie. "They mostly rap in it," Barber said. "There are some new tracks and Outkast songs I think should have been released as singles, as well as some old 1930s music mixed in there."
No, Rosario Dawson isn't in it. She couldn't fit it in her schedule, but Terrence Howard and Paula Jai Parker, both of the Sundance hit "Hustle & Flow," could, along with Ving Rhames, Faizon Love, Malinda Williams and Cicely Tyson.
No, there are no other rappers in it. "I wanted to surround them with actors that had a history of feature films," Barber said. "The predictable thing is when you surround rappers in a movie with their peers. And everyone knows Outkast is everything but predictable."
But there are a few singers. "Macy Gray is great in the movie as a jaded singer," Barber said. "She opens the movie. She sings a song that Dre wrote and it's crazy. When people see her number, it's gonna blow their minds." Vocal powerhouse Patti LaBelle co-stars as well.
No, it wasn't shot in Outkast and Barber's hometown of Atlanta. "We would have loved to have shot in Atlanta, but it didn't offer the old locations," Barber said. "We shot on location in Wilmington, North Carolina, and used a studio there. We battled a hurricane for a lot of filming, but we survived."
And, finally, yes, it'll look like an Outkast video. "There's some magical twists here and there — I guess that's what I bring to directing," Barber said. "I set out to do something I had never seen before."
Andre 3000 goes cannibalistic on singer's new album
OutKast's Andre 3000 appears on Esthero's Wikked Lil' Girls album, due this spring. The Grammy-winning hip-hop star agreed to sing on the Toronto-based singer's record -- a sexy, sophisticated blend of jazz, pop and R&B -- after she sent him four songs this summer.
"He called me a couple of days later," Esthero says, "and said, 'What are we doing, and when?'"
Esthero flew down to OutKast's Stankonia Studios in Atlanta in July, where Andre contributed vocals to "Jungle Book," which Esthero describes as "a fantasy song about being tired of your surroundings and moving to the jungle and living in a tree fort and dancing with fireflies."
After the two hung out in the lounge, Andre emerged with his animalistic, cannibalistic vocal part, featuring the line "I'll eat you alive."
"When I heard it, I thought he said, 'I'll eat you all night,' and I was laughing," Esthero says. "I said to him, 'I don't think you can say that,' and he said, 'Noooooo, I'm saying, 'I'll eat you alive -- like a cannibal.' . . . He's so talented, so humble and so fun. I'll remember the night in the studio with him forever."
Wikked -- which will follow Esthero's just-released We R in Need of a Musical Revolution! EP -- also features Cee-Lo on the plaintive, gospel-like "Gone" and Sean Lennon on the blissful "Every Day Is a Holiday (With You)."
"Working with Esthero is like mainlining inspiration," says the effusive Lennon, who co-wrote the track. "If songwriting is a highway, Esthero is a souped-up pink Lamborghini. If you don't wear a seatbelt, you get musical whiplash. 'Every Day' was a garden already in bloom -- she simply wanted someone to walk through it with. Lucky me."
Next Year's Outkasts?
Expect green flared trousers and maroon puffy shirts to be all the rage next year. Outkast star Andre 3000 is planning to launch his own clothing range.
Despite often dressing in what seems like Vanessa Feltz's cast-offs, Andre has promised his clothing range (to be called Designs), will be a bit more sober.
Andre, who's a big fan of designer Ralph Lauren, said: "It will be out next spring. There will be something for everybody, whether you want to dress up or down, and there will be a lot of classic finery. It will make an impact."
Er, we're sure it will Andre...
Outkast: School Rap-ort!
He penned the brilliant 'Hey Ya' and is an international star, but instead of sitting back and lavishing in the celeb lifestyle Outkast frontman, Andre 3000 wants to go back to school!
Andre, known as Dre, has his heart set on attending the highly respected Juilliard music School in New York. So whilst fellow Outkast member Big Boi is touring Dre will be dusting off his folders and stocking up his pencil case.
In an attempt to explain his academic move, Dre said: "Since I'm not touring with the album I know I'm going to have a lot of time on my hands so I'm trying to get into the Juilliard."He continued: "I want to go to school and study music. Right now I'm into simplifying and learning."
But Dre has a double challenge on his hands, he's gonna have to juggle being a student and a movie star, as he is set to star with John Travolta in a new film called 'Be Cool'.
So there will be no time for a swift drink at the student union for you eh Dre?
Outkast: Hey Yam!
Outkast star Andre 3000 has become the first hip-hop artist to land the prestigious title of, wait for it, World's Sexiest Vegetarian!
Andre was given the award by PETA (People For Ethical Treatment Of Animals) while actress Alicia Silverstone topped the female category. Over 12,000 people voted in the online poll.
When asked recently how he would spend his last day on earth, Andre replied: "I'd probably go for a great meal - some broccoli probably, because I'm a vegetarian." Broccoli? who says that hip hop stars can't keep it real eh.
Andre 3000 Has Something To Crow About — A Role In 'Charlotte's Web'
Live-action/animated film also stars Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey.
For his next film role, Outkast's Andre 3000 has something to crow about — the rapper has joined a star-studded cast for a live-action/animated adaptation of "Charlotte's Web," where he'll voice a dimwitted crow named Elwyn.
Andre's compatriots in the film will include Julia Roberts as the spider Charlotte, who saves Wilbur the pig from being slaughtered by weaving messages about him into her web; and Dakota Fanning as Fern, the little girl who befriends them both. A slew of stars will voice the various farm animals, including Oprah Winfrey and Cedric the Entertainer as the geese Gussie and Golly, Kathy Bates and Reba McEntire as the cows Bitsy and Betsy, and John Cleese as Samuel the sheep. Thomas Haden Church will voice Brooks, another crow, while Steve Buscemi will voice the barn's wise-cracking rat, Templeton. The role of Wilbur has not yet been cast.
E.B. White's 1952 children's book "Charlotte's Web" was previously made into an animated film in 1973, but this film's style of animation will be photo-real CG, a technique used for the "Babe" and "Stuart Little" films, which will make it appear as if the live-action animals are actually speaking. Gary Winick ("13 Going On 30") has signed on to direct the picture, which will be jointly produced by Kerner Entertainment, Walden Media, Nick Films and Paramount. (MTV's parent company, Viacom, also owns Nick Films and Paramount.)
"Charlotte's Web" will begin production on January 31 in Melbourne, Australia.
Outkast Win Big As Americans Dominate MTV Europe Awards
Usher, Linkin Park, Maroon 5, Alicia Keys also take home trophies.
When in Rome, Outkast prove extremely popular. The Atlanta duo captured three awards at 2004 MTV Europe Music Awards — Best Group, Best Video and Best Song for "Hey Ya!" — in what was a thoroughly American night that also saw awards go to fellow ATL resident Usher (Best Album, Best Male), along with Linkin Park (Best Rock) and Maroon 5 (Best New Act).
Other Americans taking home hardware included Alicia Keys (Best RNB), D12 (Best Hip Hop), the Black Eyed Peas (Best Pop) and Britney Spears (Best Female). The only Europeans to win a major award were Britain's Muse, who scored Best Alternative.
But that didn't mean the evening didn't have a European feel to it. (Check out the red carpet fashion.) The show was held at the Tor di Valle, in the shadow of Rome's Colosseum, so it made sense that things kicked off with host Xzibit being led in on a chariot pulled by a team of leather-clad gladiators. And throughout the night, X-to-the-Z took time to remind viewers that they were indeed live from the Eternal City, draping himself in an Italian flag, nearly belting out an operetta, and shouting "Roma!" about 50 times.
The evening's performers seemed to follow his "more is more" philosophy. Eminem ripped through a one-two combo of singles from his Encore album, starting with "Toy Soldiers," flanked by a tank, a military drum line and a bunch of children in fatigues, and segueing into "Just Lose It," accompanied by an army of popping and locking kids. Gwen Stefani pranced and preened through a replica of the "Alice in Wonderland"-inspired video for her first single, "What You Waiting For," while the Beastie Boys took the stage on bicycles and skateboards (while rocking seersucker suits and porkpie hats.)
Usher and Keys sang an elegant and sultry rendition of their hit, "My Boo"; Nelly brought some Brazilian booty-shaking to his performance of "Flap Your Wings"; and Maroon 5 kicked out the jams on a souped-up version of "This Love." European faves the Hives and Franz Ferdinand also performed.
Stars from around the globe presented the awards, including Kylie Minogue, Natasha Bedingfield, Naomi Campbell and a pair of Italian soccer stars, Alessandro del Piero and Paolo Di Canio. They were joined by such American celebs as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Elisha Cuthbert and Tony Hawk. The show was seen in more than 1 billion homes around the world and was broadcast in 10 languages.
Outcast: Black Dog/ Black Wolf
Outkast's Andre 3000 walked into the MTV Radio lounge about as cool as anyone wearing blue flood trousers, a pinstripe shirt and suspenders can be. That's to say, he was "ice cold" cool, to borrow a phrase from his current hit single, "Hey Ya!"
His partner in rhyme, Big Boi, followed behind him a few seconds later. He was the antithesis of Dre's psychedelic vintage style, with his baggy camouflage pants and loose-hanging sports jersey. While Andre slinked his skinny frame up to a stool in the room, Big Boi kind of rumbled there, like a bull, clutching a greasy box of fried chicken from a nearby Popeyes.
"Anyone want some chicken? Y'all can have what ya want," Big said in a low mumble.
"You givin' 'em your chicken?" Andre asked, surprised, cocking his head to the side.
"Chicken, sure. Biscuits, too," Big answered. Just some of that Southern hospitality, he seemed to be saying. Andre had no interest in the grease, the chicken, the biscuits or the comfort of this food — he's a vegan, going on eight years.
"You want some?" Big Boi asked, staring at Andre. There was a long pause, then laughter as Andre just shook his head.
It was a small moment in a thousand that happen each day in the lives of Andre and Big Boi, but not an insignificant one, because, for one thing, this easygoing and familiar moment hardly paints the portrait of a group in turmoil.
Yet many have been presenting such a picture of the duo. The press has seized upon the "Outkast Go Their Separate Ways!" story like sharks on fresh sea turtles dropped in their tank. The conceptual divide of the duo's new double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, actually comprised of two solo efforts, and the accompanying cover, a royal looking Big Boi adorned with a hustler-friendly, extravagant fur coat on one side, a white-capped Andre in a glam-rap pose on the other, led to the easy hook. Some magazines would follow suit, featuring two different covers with the two different members. And they all asked the question, "Is this a prelude to breaking up?"
"It's on, brother," Big Boi boomed. "We did something kind of separated to show you the separate visions. It's still the group. The unity is still here." He hit Andre 3000 on the arm, then said, "They thought we were gonna break up, Dre!"
"We've had photo shoots where the entire time, we're together taking pictures," Dre explained in a slow, country manner that's all flat-as-flapjacks vowels and syrupy consonants. "We get the magazine covers back and they just happen to pick the picture where we're both looking away from each other. I understand it but ... no, we're not breaking up. This is just one project, one album. We thought it'd be a great idea."
Indeed, splitting the new Outkast album in two wasn't a precursor to their demise, a signal that these two lifelong friends had suddenly grown sick of each other; it was just another grand — and risky — idea in a career full of bold choices. The move has not only forced the hip-hop community, which embraces change only incrementally, to reconsider what can be a successful album, it's also reinvigorated the creative spirit of both Dre and Big Boi after their last album, Stankonia, drained it out of them. Rather than breaking them apart, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below will probably save them.
"People are always playing this game safely," Big Boi said, shaking his head. The rapper is a solid, 5'6'' mass of feistiness, and if Andre's accent is cat-like sleek, then Big's is pure bulldog. "You know, if you've been winning for a long time, you say, 'I got a formula and it works.' With us, we want to come in and create, and whatever happens, happens. We were wondering what it would sound like if you had me in one kitchen cooking and Dre in the other kitchen cooking. We did it just to make it more exciting. It was a challenge doing it this way. Otherwise you do the same sh-- all the time. We switchin' and changin'. You don't want to do something to just get by."
Some people would disagree. One magazine even asked if on this latest album — where Andre lives out his Prince playboy fantasy and Big Boi acts like a newly single hustler — the group has gone too far musically.
"With Outkast music, it's not the easiest thing to swallow," Dre said. "It's always on that fence — people can hate it or they can love it. Or they could say, 'They have gone too far.' "
But is that where Outkast have gone on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below? Big Boi's single, "The Way You Move," is a smooth, soulful anthem lionizing the female form, while Andre's song has transcended hip-hop and attracted fans of rock and pop radio. If that's "too far," then they'll take it. "I'm not a pop writer," Andre said, "but I do want everybody in the world to get a chance to listen to my music."
What many ignore when they say Outkast have overstepped their bounds or infer that they've grown tired of making music with each other is just how strong the relationship between Andre and Big Boi is. Outkast are not a pair of guys who happened to run into each other in the studio one day only to discover a professional mission. They have known each other since their formative years at Tri-Cities High School in Atlanta, where they were best friends who discovered in each other what they liked about themselves: a desire to do things differently and subvert the mainstream.
One way this manifested itself early on was in their fashion sense. Neither Andre nor Big Boi were afraid of putting their own fingerprints on the styles of the day. They dressed like preppies (in the era of Boyz II Men, new jack swing!) with pressed Girbaud jeans and collared shirts. But they would always add a new wrinkle to the look.
We would cut our clothes up and dye them different colors and say we bought them from Australia or wherever," Big Boi said with a laugh. "Just so people at school could be like, 'Damn, where'd you get that?' We had our own little style. We'd color our hair. Folks was diggin' it. Anything to get a rise out of anybody. That's when we started rapping, too. Two Shades Deep was the name of the group. I was Black Dog and Dre was Black Wolf. Became Outkast right after that."
Big Boi gets downright indignant if people suggest that he and Dre no longer see eye to eye. "It's a brotherhood, man," he said. "You click up with somebody you don't hardly know but at the same time, you got the same fascination with the same things and the personalities click. We started out as just homeboys first. I slept on his bedroom floor the last two years of high school damn near. We came up with the whole vision for the group together. We grew up together and learned those things together — that's how the sound came about. It's like it manifested in both of us and we spit it out in all different types of ways. But we brothers first, before the group. We brothers."
While Big Boi and Andre share the desire to approach things from a unique perspective, in all other ways they're different. Big Boi is the homeboy of the crew, the populist who most adheres to the traditional styles of hip-hop, like throwback jerseys, 20-inch rims on his SUV and girls with the badunkadunk. Andre is the loner, the one who rhymes about inner emotions and outer space, the one who can throw on a purple fur coat and make it look masculine in the tradition of George Clinton and Prince.
That yin-and-yang fit has made Outkast's previous four albums, from their 1994 debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, to 2000's break-out hit, Stankonia, stand out from the typical sounds of hip-hop. And through it all they've managed to connect with people — Stankonia, as avant-garde a hip-hop album as you'll ever hear, has sold 4 million copies in the U.S.
The success of Stankonia allowed the duo to step back and do things a little differently for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Big Boi explored his roots, his communal, Southern-funk side. The song "Tomb of the Boom" is the epitome of this, a hardcore-beat roundtable that features Ludacris, Big Gipp of the Goodie Mob and a new group discovered by Big Boi called Konkrete. "I wanted to do something like 'The Symphony' with Marley Marl," Big Boi explained. "Just MCs from the South, straight street MCs ready to bust on a hard-ass ghetto beat."
On his side, Andre played with the kaleidoscope of the black musical diaspora, touching on jazz, doo-wop, soul and blues, often in the same song. He wrapped the tracks around a fictional story he created in his head, set in Paris, about a man afflicted with lust who finally falls in love. Musically, what stands out is his withdrawal from any actual rapping; instead, Andre sings most of his lines in a down-home falsetto.
Once again, Outkast's experimentation seems to be working — both for themselves and for the fans. In conceiving the album, the two came up with a story line for a new movie, which will be produced for HBO and based on the songs from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It's a rap fairy tale that finds Andre searching for love and Big Boi living out a gangsta-pimp fantasy — much like the themes on their own albums. The soundtrack to the film, which begins shooting early next year for a fall release, will mix some of the songs that missed the cut for these discs, as well as new cuts Andre and Big Boi are working on together. "I want to put my creative energy into different things now," Andre divulged. "Restaurants, things like that. I want to see fly stuff everywhere."
The first week Speakerboxxx/The Love Below showed up in stores, it sold 509,000 copies, topping the Billboard albums chart and besting a list of high-profile debuts that week from Dave Matthews, Limp Bizkit, R. Kelly and Eminem protégé Obie Trice. It proved Outkast's place in the pantheon of pop was not an anomaly that began and ended with Stankonia.
"It's always amazing to me," Andre said, smiling. "You never know what people are going to like. I've seen the best of them, boys I've loved, go by the wayside. I don't know if it's them or the audience. Maybe it's the times. One thing I do know, nobody will stay on top forever. Once you get that in your mind, it won't be such a crash. You just gotta keep on keepin' on, keep doing what you want to do."
Andre 3000: The Awakening
We're going to have to call him Andre 180 now.
The admittedly spaced-out half of Outkast has taken his head out of the stars and changed his attitude. Back in 1994, on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik's "Git Up, Git Out," Dre rapped, "Y'all tellin' me that I need to get out and vote, huh?/ Why? Ain't nobody black runnin' but crackers, so why I got to register?/ I'm thinkin' of better sh-- to do with my time." And even as late as 2003, around the time the Kast released Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below, the world's best-dressed man still wasn't down with going to the polls.
Almost a year later, though, 3000 is a changed man. He's registered for the upcoming election, and every time we see him, he's encouraging his fellow Americans to follow suit. Dre has become so passionate that he's currently shooting a documentary on youth and voting, which will come out a little before Election Day, and has signed on as a spokesperson for Declare Yourself, an organization set up to get people registered.
"If you don't vote, you're pretty much giving up your power," Dre advises. "You're pretty much saying, 'Do what you will with me.' "
So why the change of heart? We caught up with Dre in his New York hotel one day before he went to the RNC to watch President Bush speak, and the poetic performer chalked it up to being swayed in part by the man behind such 1970s TV shows as "All in the Family," "Maude" and "The Jeffersons."
MTV: So with all that you have going on — winning awards, shooting a movie, recording an album, clothes shopping — why even take time out to get involved in this voting situation?
Andre 3000: Honestly, what got me involved — 'cause I'm not really political at all — was [TV producer] Norman Lear contacted my acting agent. I really didn't know the name, I didn't know "Good Times" and all this production history. My people were like, "You would want to meet with this guy." So I sit down and meet with him. He said, "I'm doing this campaign and getting the youth to vote. My kids tell me if I need the young people, I should come to you because people respect what you do. We want you to head up this campaign to get young people to vote."
MTV: That's a real big dog. Did you jump at the offer?
Andre: I said, "I really appreciate it, but I don't know if I'm the ideal person for your campaign." I was 28 at the time and I've never voted. He said, "That's perfect. You are the guy, because we're trying to get people that don't vote." At the same time, Donovan Leitch, who's been doing a series of voting documentaries, contacted me and said, "We want you to host our next documentary." It was all coming at one time. Then on top of that, the importance of voting this year ... it's so much hoopla around the election. Those three things pulled it all together for me.
MTV: So for somebody who never cared to vote before, what's been the most enlightening thing for you during this whole process?
Andre: Once I started doing the documentary, I was doing a lot of interviews, talking to older people, talking to different delegates, and they were saying how these older people fought for us — especially African-Americans — for the right to vote. Now you have kids who don't even exercise the right, so it's almost disrespectful in a way. They spent all this time dying, getting shot at, sprayed, hurt, for you to vote and you just all say, "All I want to do is ball."
I challenge anybody that's a hip-hop artist who's on the record talking about what's going on in the street and the community: If you haven't voted, you have no right to complain at all. It's crazy 'cause I've [talked] in some of my rhymes about not voting and the importance of not voting. I have to retract those statements. I'm man enough to do it. I was younger, going through my rebel stage — I still have some of that in my blood — but you gotta be smart about it.
MTV: What about Big Boi? I see him speaking out alongside you at the different award shows and other public functions about the importance of voting. Was he always down with the cause, or did you have to reel him in?
Andre: Big Boi, honestly, he doesn't say it a lot, but he's always with the current events and what's going on. I'm always the one that never pays attention. This is nothing new for Big Boi, he's always been involved.
MTV: The conventions, man — you went to Boston for the Democratic National Convention and you're out here in NYC for the Republican National Convention. A lot of us will never experience going to just one of those. What are they like?
Andre: Because I'm an entertainer, I know performance, I know showmanship, I know how to market certain things. I see a lot of that going on at these conventions. It's almost like a big concert, a big show; a lot of MCs going on one after each other, saying their rhymes, saying their punch lines, saying their key points, doing the little gestures and hand movements and getting the crowd amped. It's pretty much the same thing [as in rap]. They're selling something. They're trying to say, "Get on my team or get down with my crew." It is a big party. When they say "political parties," they really mean that. They have great parties after these speeches and these people with lots of money drink and get drunk like everybody else. They probably go to the hotel and have a good time. People write their speeches like people write their rhymes or songs. I wanna know who really writes their speeches. They're saying a lot of good stuff, but is it really coming from them? That's almost like learning that an MC don't write their own rhymes. That's a no-no.
MTV: What's the difference between both parties?
Andre: It's funny because I'm at the point where I'm undecided. In the documentary I'm asking people what's the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. Both parties have some cool things to say. I almost want a middle party, but there's not a middle party right now. I didn't use my celebrity to say, "I'm voting for this person and you should vote for this person too because I'm voting for this person." [You need to find out] what the platforms are, see what they're talking about, see if it speaks to you, your community. That's what it's all about. Everybody is not going to be 100 percent right, but what's most right for what's going on right now? I think that's important.
MTV: With so many people from the hip-hop community getting involved for the first time in the whole political arena, I think it's just a matter of time before we see somebody that's representing the culture throw their own hat in the ring for some type of office.
Andre: I see it really soon. You've got the governor of California, Mr. Terminator. You got Ronald Reagan. I think really soon you gonna see a person like a Bono. I think Sean "Puffy" Combs, he has something to stand on if he wanted to do it. When you can steer public opinion one way, that's power. Music is power. So I see it coming together one day where one musician is going to say, "Let me run. I have some things to say. Let me run." And a lot of people are going to follow them.
Judge Wants Rosa Parks' Medical Records Because Of OutKast Suit
A federal judge says it would be good to know if civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks really approves of a series of lawsuits over a hip-hop song by OutKast that uses her name.
U.S. District Court Judge George Steeh has told lawyers for the civil rights icon to release some of Parks' medical records.
Parks is 91 and suffers from dementia.
In recent years her lawyers have been fighting against OutKast and the hip-hop duo's record label over the song "Rosa Parks" -- claiming she objects to the use of her name as the song's title, though the lyrics don't directly refer to her.
Recently, former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer was appointed guardian of Parks' interests. Archer has argued against having her medical information released.
Back in 1955, Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white man.
That triggered a boycott of the city's buses and helped sparked the civil rights movement.
Andre 3000's Hendrix movie hopes dashed
Outkast star Andre 3000's hopes of making a movie based on the life of Jimi Hendrix have been crushed after Hendrix's estate refused to allow his music to be used in the film.
The flamboyant singer - real name Andre Benjamin - was desperate to make a big-screen adaptation of the late rocker's life using his classic tunes for the movie's soundtrack.
However, when Andre and the movie's producers approached the estate, they were told Hendrix's legendary music - including classic tracks such as 'Purple Haze' and 'Foxy Lady' - was not allowed to feature in the film in any capacity.
The surprising decision could now mean the movie never sees the light of day, despite the best efforts of producers to try and obtain the rights to Hendrix's back catalogue.
Andre said: "I can go and make a Hendrix film right now but I cannot use any Hendrix songs in the film."
The 'Hey Ya' singer also revealed a host of top Hollywood actors have all tried in the past to make a biopic on the legendary guitarist's life but all have been unsuccessful.
He added: "I've heard that Will Smith wanted to do a film at one time, and Laurence Fishburne. Eddie Murphy had wanted to do it at the beginning of his career. There's been a lot of scripts to try and make it happen."
Andre 3000, Mark Wahlberg And Tyrese As Brothers?
Andre 3000, Mark Wahlberg and Tyrese as brothers? It could only happen in Hollywood ...
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dre has signed on to star alongside Wahlberg and Tyrese in a Paramount Pictures drama. The film, currently untitled but formely known as ''Four Brothers,
revolves around four brothers who seek to avenge their mother's death. Garrett Hedlund ("Troy," "Friday Night Lights") is slated to play the fourth brother. John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood," "2 Fast 2 Furious") will direct; principal photography is scheduled to begin Monday in Toronto.
While that project looks to keep Dre busy for the next few months, it seems that his dream of portraying legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix may end up being just that. Janie Hendrix, president and CEO of Experience Hendrix, the organization that manages the guitarist's estate, said the company is not currently working with anyone on a Hendrix biopic nor is it licensing music to any film at this time.
Andre has expressed his desire to play Hendrix in a biopic being developed by the Hughes brothers (see "Outkast's Andre 3000 Has Been Doing His Hendrix Homework"). However, without the cooperation of Experience Hendrix, it seems unlikely that the film will proceed.
Meanwhile, the long-awaited Outkast HBO movie, "My Life in Idlewild," is expected to be on its way shortly (see "Outkast Wrap Movie, Prep Two New LPs Despite Busy Awards-Show Schedule"). According representatives at HBO, the film is in post-production, however there is no word yet as to when the film will air.
Next up for Dre on the film front is "Be Cool," the sequel to "Get Shorty" (see "Christina Milian, Black Eyed Peas Heat Up 'Be Cool' Soundtrack"). The film finds Dre in familiar territory — playing a rapper.
OutKast's Andre 3000 to co-star in new Mark Wahlberg movie
Andre 3000, half of the hip-hop duo OutKast, will appear in an untitled film co-starring Mark Wahlberg, the Hollywood Reporter says.
Andre 3000, whose real name is Andre Benjamin, will play the sibling of Wahlberg, drawn into a plan to avenge their mother's death, the Reporter said Thursday. Director John Singleton will begin shooting Monday in Toronto.
Andre 3000 is behind the No. 1 pop single "Hey Ya," and will appear in the upcoming "Get Shorty" sequel "Be Cool" as well as Guy Ritchie's "Revolver."
Park's Family Desperate To End Outkast Track Row
The long-running legal battle between civil-rights icon ROSA PARKS and hip-hop act OUTKAST looks set to end, after Parks' family announced she is mentally unfit to fight in court.
RHEA McCAULEY, one of Parks' 13 nieces and nephews, claims 91-year-old Park is unaware she's been involved in the five-year-old dispute over the track from Outkast's platinum 1998 album AQUEMINI.
Parks' lawyers sued Outkast's parent label BMG, claiming the company was profiting from her name, which is a registered trademark. The lawsuit also alleges the conglomerate defamed her name and legacy as a civil rights pioneer for African-Americans.
McCauley tells American newspaper USA TODAY, "It's not something Auntie Rosie would ever have wanted.
"She was very unconcerned about money but very concerned about her privacy. This would not be the way she would want to be remembered."
Parks' lawyer GREGORY REED is also confident a deal can be made before the trial starts on 10 January (05).
He says, "I take it as a very good sign that matters appear to be moving forward. It's time, for the sake of Mrs Parks, that everyone gets together to resolve this."
OutKast Stays Busy With Debut Film, Two Albums
While their five-times-platinum 2003 Arista set, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," continues to yield hit singles, the members of acclaimed hip-hop duo OutKast have an ambitious slate of projects on tap for 2005. Andre 3000 and Big Boi have just finished filming their first movie, which will air on HBO, and are simultaneously working on two albums.
The pair has also signed a distribution deal with Virgin for its Purple Label imprint, which will house longtime collaborator Sleepy Brown and rapper Bubba Sparxxx (formerly of Interscope).
"We just finished the OutKast movie, which will be out next year," Big Boi said on the red carpet at the Billboard Music Awards, where OutKast took home five trophies. "We don't know what it will be called yet. The next album probably will be the soundtrack to the movie. But we're also working on another album called 'The Hard 10,' which is top secret."
Big Boi added that the new music features he and Andre 3000 working together, as opposed to "Speakerboxx/The Love Below," which comprised one disc of material from each artist. As for the film, it is set in the Prohibition-era South and features Ving Rhames, Terrence Howard and Paula Jai Parker, in addition to Big Boi and Andre.
OutKast manager Michael "Blue" Williams told Billboard.com scheduling is still up in the air for the film and album projects. "If the movie comes out in the spring, the next album will be the soundtrack to that," he said. "If we push the movie until fall, we may drop 'The Hard 10' in the spring, to hold fans over. But creatively, with Dre and Big, they may just say, 'No, we'll wait,' and the next album will be the soundtrack to the movie."
Asked to describe the sound of the new tunes thus far, Williams enthused, "You're going to be surprised, because you'll be like, 'How did they do it again, musically?' I can't really describe it, but whenever I go into one of their new projects and hear the music, I find myself going, 'Wow, it's different, but it's still a hit.'"
Bold, bare and beautiful
THE ever-fashion-conscious team from The Eye chooses the year's 10 stylish moments.
7. Andre 3000
ALL we can say is thank God for Mr 3000. Yes, plenty of Hollywood men do the suave-dark-suit-and-groomed-hair-look adequately, but when it comes to a little personal style, most men fail miserably (that is, David Arquette and his multi-coloured shockers). Which is why Andre 3000, of hip hop group OutKast, has won a bevy of best dressed awards this year. Effortless, quirky, pure brilliance from the singer.
Gwen Stefani collaboration with Outkast is key to her success
These days, blonde bombshell Gwen Stefani is a girl caught between two worlds, balancing collaborations with artists like Dr. Dre, Andre 3000 and Jimmy Jam with her appearance in Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator” playing Jean Harlow. Her latest release, “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” finds her mixing it up with a stellar lineup of yesterday and today’s stars to produce a sound rooted just as firmly between both worlds, part Depeche Mode and Debbie Deb, part gangsta rap and Britney Spears.
You really don’t know what’s in store when the album opens with Stefani singing a soft a cappella intro, but within seconds, “L.A.M.B.” sizzles as it kicks off with “What You Waiting For?” a pop anthem about triumphing over procrastination. Stefani says the song was inspired by the final nudge from former No Doubt band mate Linda Perry. “Rich Girl,” featuring bad-ass diva Eve, is definitely inspired by the current style of shout-out rap songs, with the innovative use of the “Fiddler on the Roof” refrain of “If I Were a Rich Man.” Watch out, Tevye.
Some critics, especially in Europe, have criticized “L.A.M.B.” as merely a sugary pop album. Admittedly, several tracks, including the saccharine “Cool” and the only slightly more substantive “The Real Thing,” evoke memories of Debbie Gibson headlining at the local shopping mall—its refrain of, “I need you, you’re my love supply” makes me cringe. And “Crash,” with it’s lyrics, “Drive back baby to me fast in your car/ I’m here waiting/ Crash into me real hard,” reminds me of warmed-over Duran Duran. But the album is a triumph of tiny treasures that compensate for the undeniable lapses.
It is not always so easy to discern when Stefani is being sincere and when she is shooting for irony. In her track “Luxurious,” Stefani sets up the typical rap bling-bling song, with lyrics like “We’re so rich in love, we’re rollin’ in cashmere, got it in fifth gear, baby. Diamond in the rough is looking so sparkly.” She goes on to catalogue her fortunes and fame, “trying so hard saving up the paper. Now we get to lay back.” Two-thirds through the song, however, she adds comical “ca-ching” sound effects, which somehow shakes the image of Stefani tooling through L.A. in her Escalade.
She teams up with OutKast’s Andre 3000 for “L.A.M.B.”’s final track, “Long Way to Go,” a song about battling racism. The two begin the track with a somber, spoken word introduction, cutting into fast synthesizer and drums. “When snow hits the asphalt, cold looks and bad talk come,” the two sing. The song is followed by a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
In her press notes, Stefani remarks, “This record is a collaboration of a lot of great talents coming together and trying to make something that’s classic. Something that you want to listen to over and over.” If this is her goal, Stefani succeeds in producing one of the best new classics of 2004.