The CD came out Tuesday, the movie is in theaters Friday. Three years removed from their monster hit Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, the genre-melding geniuses behind Outkast, are back — this time with a swing/hip-hop combination, Idlewild.
Andre (real name: Andre Benjamin) was in California last month to promote his upcoming Cartoon Network series, Class of 3000, the animated story of a musician named Sunny Bridges who quits the music business while at the top of his game to become a teacher.
The character sounds a little like Andre, who announced a couple of years ago that his touring days were over. (Andre continues to make music, including new songs for each episode of Class of 3000.)
After promoting the TV show, he found time to talk music, starting with an answer to the inevitable question:
NUVO: There is a belief that you and Big Boi are not together and not even friends anymore.
Andre: That’s totally not true. You get to a point where we’ve been doing it 11, 12 years. We don’t shoot people or go out and slap people, and I’m not dating Janet Jackson, so writers really don’t have a lot to talk about.
NUVO: So there’s no dispute about touring?
Andre: I can say we are friends. So when I told Big Boi that I wasn’t touring, he was probably like “Oh, man, what’s that all about?” But we stayed friends through and through.
NUVO: How difficult is it to follow up Speakerboxxx/The Love Below?
Andre: It’s not really difficult. If you’re measuring album sales, hell, yeah, it’s difficult. We sold 10 million last album, and it may not reach that point this album. As an artist, you can only do the best you can do. But it’s a different situation because it’s an Outkast album, but at the same time it’s a soundtrack. It’s a 1930s musical period piece, so it’s 1930s-ish, but it’s still Outkast’s sound.
NUVO: When you started bringing the mix of sounds to record companies, did they just look at you and think, “I have no idea what this is”?
Andre: At first. Even L.A. Reid, when I brought “Hey Ya” to him, he was like, “Honestly, I don’t understand this record, but I do understand that it’s exciting.” I guess after you’ve proven yourself, they’re like, “Well, go do what you do.” But I don’t think people get it. A lot of times, I don’t get it. I just have to do it.
NUVO: How do you hear it? Do you hear it in your mind and then write it?
Andre: There’s different ways. Sometimes a song may start with just a title. The song “Bombs Over Baghdad,” that was me in a hotel room in London and a newscaster said, “Blah, blah, blah, bombs over Baghdad.” I just thought that term sounded really cool, so I wrote it down on a piece of paper. I was working on this rhythm one day and it sounded really urgent, and I said, “This is ‘Bombs Over Baghdad.’” Or sometimes you’re sitting around with a guitar making up a riff and it turns into a whole song. Or you have a subject you want to talk about and that becomes a song. So there are different ways.