Andre 3000 - Biography
André 3000 is a rapper, actor and entrepreneur who is best known as one half of the award-winning Georgia-based hip-hop-cum-soul duo OutKast. Looking to expand on his well-known remixes, André 3000 made two solo albums in the late 2000s, 3 Stacks (2008 Think Differently) and Alter Ego: Mix Tape (2008 CMP Records), both of which added to an already scintillating body of work both as a musician and as an actor. As a member of the OutKast alongside Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, André 3000 reached the pinnacle of fame and commercial success beginning in the middle-1990s through imaginative use of funk, slang, flamboyant soul and general innovation in their groove-focused raps, as well as the outlandish wardrobes he wore on stage. The progressive Southern rap duo put out multiple platinum albums, won six Grammy awards and were universally praised in the media as envelop-pushers in the hip-hop and R&B genres.
Born André Benjamin in 1975 in Atlanta to parents Lawrence Walker (collections agent) and Sharon Benjamin Hodo (real estate agent), Dré—who is of African American and Native American heritage—met Antwan “Big Boi” Patton at the performing arts-centric Tri-Points High School in East Point, Georgia. Having been influenced by various brands of fashion and music growing up, and with a shared passion for acts like A Tribe Called Quest and the funk pioneers like George Clinton and Sly and the Family Stone, the two began a musical relationship after competing in rap contests.
Not long thereafter, the duo chose the name OutKast after realizing the name The Misfits was already taken by the late-1970s horror punk band. At just 18-years-old, Dré and Big Boi met up with local production team Organized Noize and put out a cassette single, “Player’s Ball,” on Arista subsidiary LaFace Records, which appeared on vinyl the following year in 1994 and rocketed to #1 on Billboard’s rap singles chart. The OutKast tandem was only getting started, as Big Boi’s old-school rap sensibilities combined artistically and aesthetically with André 3000’s jazzier flares and eccentric wardrobe choices (blonde wigs, boas, turbans), making them one of rap’s most game-changing acts in the 1990s.
A collection of smashing commercial successes ensued for OutKast—the inventive debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994 LaFace) spawned the hit single and the album peaked at #20 on The Billboard 200), followed by 1996’s ATliens (LaFace) which topped the R&B Albums charts and went to #2 on The Billboard 200. OutKast’s third album—the space funk odyssey Aquemini (1998 LaFace), which is when Benjamin adopted the André 3000 handle—also went to #2 on the Billboard 200. One of the hit singles, “Rosa Parks,” was met with controversy when the civil-rights heroine Ms. Parks sued the duo for unlawful use of her name, citing defamation of character and discontentedness with the lyrics. The case was eventually dismissed.
OutKast would also score smash hits with 2000’s futuristic crossover album, Stankonia (LaFace), which climbed to #2 on the 200 on the strength of the chart-topping single “Ms. Jackson,” and three years later with the double-disc Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003 LaFace), which ascended to the top of the Billboard 2000 primarily on the André 3000-sung song, “Hey Ya!” On the latter album, each disc is essentially a different perspective from each member, with “The Love Below” side. Both Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below won three Grammy’s apiece, and solidified OutKast as some of popular music’s most artistic practitioners.
André 3000 got more involved with acting in the 2000s, appearing on television shows like The Shield and in movies, such as Hollywood Homicide and Four Brothers. In 2006, he and Big Boi released a musical film that was directed by Bryan Barker called Idlewild, which starred OutKast in a fictional Depression-era Georgia town set in 1935. Since then he has also appeared in Semi-Pro and he voiced a crow character in Charlotte’s Web, and has a great many more cinematic projects that he’s involved with.
André 3000 launched a high-end clothing line called “Benjamin Bixby” in 2008, which caters to a collegiate football apparel look circa 1935. Also in 2008, he released two solo albums—3 Stacks (2008 Think Differently) and Alter Ego: Mix Tape (2008, CMP Records)—both of which contained remixes of previously created material. He has a son, Seven Sirius Benjamin, by his ex-partner, the First Lady of Neo-Soul, Erykah Badu.