Discover more from The Nelson George Mixtape
ANDRE 3000 EMBRACES HIS MUSE AND HIS AGE
Recalling a chance encounter on the day the performer releases a flute album
I was having lunch at my favorite dosa spot in Soho pre-pandemic when I heard a voice by the cash register say the order was for “Benjamin.” I looked up and there, waiting on his dosa, was the world’s most mysterious MC, Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 formerly of the innovative duo Outkast. I’d interviewed him for Spin magazine not long after the explosive success of Speakerboxx/The Love Below, but we were hardly friends.
Still, I invited him to sit down, and he did. For about forty minutes we ate dosas, talked life, art and hip hop. Andre was living nearby and said he was spending much of his time visiting art galleries and studying art history. He talked about the challenges of being a father to his son Seven. Creation was very much on his mind. Music was not. He told a funny story about attending a recent Travis Scott show at Madison Square Garden but left early “because it was too loud.” Andre was happy to mentor young MCs and hang with them in the studio, but expressed no desire to be the back in the spotlight.
Of course, I asked about him about making new music. He’d done quite a few features for friends since the last Outkast album, but Andre expressed no interest in putting out a collection of new songs. His reasoning was very simple: “You write about what happens to you. Last week I got glasses. That was the big that happened to me. I don’t think people want records about my new glasses.” He felt like hip hop was not a form well suited to express what his life was like as a forty something year old man. I think he was right.
Nas has made some good middle aged hip-hop. I still think Jay Z’s ‘444’ studio album, released in 2017, is some of his best work. But, overall, I don’t think the form has been kind to older MCs since the nature of hip hop is so initimately linked to the concerns of youth. I find so many older MCs are trapped into writing new bars that celebrate their past, but don’t grapple with who they are now. Andre peeped this conundrum and found a new vehicle for self-expression. I haven’t yet listened to the album, ‘New Blue Sun,’ but looking forward to hearing what my fellow dosa lover is into at forty-eight years old.
The Nelson George Mixtape is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.