Andre 3000 Speaks On Not Having The Confidence To Make New Music (Audio)
Andre 3000 has not released an album in more than 13 years. While Outkast co-founder Big Boi has enjoyed a successful solo career with four titles of his own, “3 Stacks” has pursued work in film and fashion. In recent years, Andre’s music is often a departure from Rap, venturing into Jazz and Soul. Most recently, he has starred alongside Robert Pattinson in last year’s nonlinear sci-fi film, High Life. He’s also released two standalone songs in 2018: one song in recognition of his mother’s passing, dedicated to his parents, the other song a 17-minute Jazz ballad alongside acclaimed Electronic producer James Blake, whom he gave a verse to at the top of this year.
It seems as though Andre 3000 has been avoiding the spotlight for years now, especially in terms of Hip-Hop. According to the MC/producer/musician, it is partly due to severe social anxiety and nervousness, and also related to his age. “I kind of like not being a part of [Rap music], now that I’ve done it,” 3000 told Complex‘s Alex Gale in 2017. This week, however, Andre 3000 spoke candidly with acclaimed producer and Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin on the Broken Record Podcast to discuss his anxieties and mental health in more detail. During this near hour-long conversation, Rubin acts as a sort of a therapist for Andre 3000, and the two talk about music’s position in Andre’s life today.
When asked what Andre 3000 has been listening to lately, he tells Rubin he’s been listening to the wordless compositions of musicians like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass. “I’ve been into a lot of Instrumental music,” he begins. “Sometimes I feel like a lot of lyrics just bombard you, and, I know it sounds crazy [coming] from a Rap artist.” Finding his words, he adds, “Sometimes the thoughts just take over. …I kind of like music that I can have my own thoughts to. It’s where I’ve been lately.”
The conversation then continues into Andre’s own status with music-making, and how he hasn’t been interested in creating music for a specific audience in mind. He also cites his cultural importance to Hip-Hop as being one of the most overbearing anxieties that cripple his ability to write. “I haven’t been making much music,” Andre admits to Rubin, even after a standout 2019 verse for Anderson .Paak’s “Come Home.” “My focus is not there, my confidence is not there,” he states. “I tinker. I tinker a lot. I’ll go to a piano and sit my iPhone down and just record what I’m doing, move my fingers around and whatever happens. But I haven’t been motivated to do a serious project. I’d like to, but it’s just not coming. In my own self, I’m trying to figure out, where do I sit? I don’t even know what I am—and maybe I’m nothing, maybe I’m not supposed to be anything, maybe my history is kind of handicapping in a way. And so, I’m just trying to find out what makes me feels the best right now, and what makes me feel the best is when I just do these random kind of Instrumental kind of things. They make me feel the most rebellious. I don’t like to go with the flow, I don’t know why. But I just feel best when I don’t. So I have to honor that in a way.”
Rubin weighs in on Andre’s words, explaining music as a thoughtless kind of endeavor that shouldn’t have pressure: “I think so much [making music] isn’t to be decided, you know what I’m saying?” The onetime producer for Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., Geto Boys, and JAY-Z says, “I think you need to start making a lot of things with no thinking of what it’s supposed to be, or who’s it for, or what anybody else is going to think, but to just get in the habit of making a lot. Just make a lot. And then, at some point, in that process, you’ll be like, ‘hmm, I really like this.’ And you didn’t know. Through that process, you don’t know when that’s gonna happen. And it’s not a decision you make, it’s not an intellectual idea of, ‘I’m gonna make this thing’—it doesn’t happen like that, it rarely happens like that. It happens when you’re just having fun, making things, no stakes. Nothing’s on the line.”
“I’m glad you say that,” Andre responds at 22:00. “That’s hard to do when everything is actually [on the line]. The problem with being an artist—a successful artist—is, you have to find a comfortable place to do that again. A comfortable place to feel uncomfortable, is what I’m saying.”
“The way that you made the stuff that ended up being successful, wasn’t made from a place of feeling any responsibility,” Rubin responds, recalling Outkast’s earlier work, such as 1994’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, in which Andre 3000 was not initially embraced as a legend.
“Yes, because the attention wasn’t there; you were still proving yourself,” Andre tells Rubin. “I liken it to like—if you’re a kid and you’re playing with a room with toys, and you have this world going on. The moment that your mom opens the door and says, ‘Andre,’ that world kind of stops. Because once the attention is on that world, the world goes away. So you gotta find a way to get back to that place where you can build those worlds again, and not have the eyes or the judging, and that’s hard for me. That’s really hard for me. You see it everywhere—every little thing that I put out, it’s instantly attacked.” Rubin disagrees with the word, and suggests “noticed.” Dre says, “And people nitpick it with fine-tooth combs…that’s not a great place to create from. It makes you draw back. And maybe I don’t have the confidence that I want, or the space to experiment like I used to. The stuff that people loved from back then, it was in a place [where] you were free and didn’t give a sh*t. You didn’t care ’cause they didn’t care. They didn’t even like you. So it was, ‘Great. Don’t like what we’re doing. Now we can just do what we’re doing.'”
At the top of the chat, Andre 3000 revisits the 1995 Source Awards, where Outkast won “Best New Artist,” and the crowd booed. “The way the Hieroglyphics were rapping at the time, it was completely new,” he says of the wordplay and flows. “Me and Eminem, we sat on the phone for about an hour, talking about Hieroglyphics crew [and their flows]. We were trading lyrics on the phone. Like, ‘Do you remember, man?’ They sparked so much; they opened a new door for everybody, I think. I think just to be around [at] that time—like we were out when Wu [Tang Clan] was out, we were out when Nas was out, but we’re from the South, so it’s like we had to step up. Like, I think that was the best blessing. I know people look at the footage of us winning the Source Award and what I had to say on stage, like, ‘Aw, it was messed up they were being booed.’ But I think that was the biggest blessing for us to have to just be better, have to fight and really prove that we were into what we were doing.” He says he understands the Southern Rap stereotypes used against ‘Kast. “But it made us have to be better. We were on the road with Wu, we were on the road with Redman, we were opening up for these people. So we got that schooling.” He credits Organized Noize’s Dungeon studios as instrumental to building individuality.
Andre says that he identifies with fans and critics too. “I’ve noticed that I’m very judgmental of myself at this point. [Maybe] I am in a not so great place. And I feel very judgmental and I hate it; I don’t want to be judgemental.” He admits he’s trying to break free of the cycle through experimenting with melodies. Rubin suggests 3000 make something he’d “be happy to play for a friend” as a litmus test of quality.
Andre 3000 later discusses his solitude. He says that he was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and hyper-sensitivity. “There are times where I’ve prayed to a God I didn’t even know if existed [that] ‘If you just take all of this away from me—if I could just feel normal, my voice, career, all that sh*t, you can have it—if I can feel normal.’ But it just don’t work like that.” Rick Rubin says that he and his guest are “alike in many ways.”
He also reveals that he enjoys using laundromats, and searches for ways to connect. He shares that “Prototype” was penned for Janet Jackson to sing. Meanwhile, “She’s Alive” was intended for Anita Baker to feature on. He breaks down the genesis of his fashion style, beginning in the late 1990s.