André 3000 Shares The Tough Love He Got From Prince

Last month, André 3000 released his first full-length project in over 17 years. The Blue Sun finds the legendary MC/producer focusing his passions on Jazz, with an album rooted in his flute playing—and no rapping and singing. Days after the Epic Records release, André sat down with fellow veteran producer and Grammy Award-winner Questlove to discuss The Blue Sun, as well as some unusual questions about his daily life, journey, and creativity.

Towards the end of the newly-released Questlove Supreme interview (embedded below), André revealed some conversations that he had with Prince ahead of the legend’s 2016 passing. Those exchanges were impactful to André, especially as he has made courageous decisions surrounding his music and career.

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At the 50:00 mark, André explains, “You know, when people pass away, you just kinda want to respect [their legacy], but I think Prince would—I think he would enjoy it.” The OutKast co-founder then shares several recollections with Prince. “I [had] met Prince in passing. [Around the time of] The Love Below, I lived in L.A. I remember me and the homie goin’ out to a club on Sunset [Boulevard].” As André stepped away from his company to use the restroom, a large bodyguard stopped him on behalf of Prince, who was at a table in the corner. It marked the first meeting of the two artists, despite the icon’s run-ins with Erykah Badu and others. 3 Stacks adds that his hit single 2004 “Hey Ya” was already out. “Mind you, I still gotta pee. So I got over to this booth, and it’s Prince, and he’s sitting. And I’m very nervous, man. He motions his hand [to sit down]. I sat down and I didn’t know what to say. He could tell that I didn’t know what to say.” Prince reportedly tried to make André feel at ease, and suggested the two would have future conversations—perhaps at Paisley Park in Minneapolis.

André continues, “So I’m sitting there, and he starts talking about ‘Hey Ya.'” Questlove asks if that freaked out 3 Stacks, who confirms it did. “But what he said, I didn’t know how to take it—if he was taking a dig at me or what. He said, ‘I like that song, “Hey Ya,” man—like, I thought I was the only person who did songs in those tempos.’ That’s what he said to me. I didn’t know if he was like, ‘Mmm. Take that, n___a’ [Laughing] I didn’t know how to take it; this is my hero.”

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André says the message got murkier. “The album had just come out, and we were trying to figure out the next single. And so I didn’t know what to say him, so I said, ‘Hey, have you heard the album?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I heard it.’ I say, ‘Well, what do you think the next single should be?’ Then he said another Prince thing; he said, ‘In my day, we only had one shot.’ [Laughing] Basically, he was saying, it don’t matter now—whatever you do, it don’t matter. And I didn’t know how to take that either. It’s like, okay, cool.”

The story does not end there. “The next time I saw Prince—and it’s always random—I’m walking down the street, like, close to Rodeo [Drive]—by myself—and a limo pulls up close to me—I swear to all the Gods, man.” Dre continues, “So this window rolls down, and this lil’ head pops out, and it’s Prince in the limo. He said, ‘What’s up, man?'” The two greeted, and Prince brought up the fact that an undisclosed magazine was attempting to do a cover of André, perhaps with OutKast—and Prince together. “Prince said, ‘You heard about that [cover idea]?’ I said I’d heard about it, and I was asking him, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Don’t let them do you like that.'” André admits that it was another cryptic point from one of his heroes. “In retrospect, I think what he meant was don’t let them boil you down to being next to me. That’s what I got from it. People will try to put you in them boxes. And I respected that from him. He was [meaning], you’re more than whatever people are saying.”

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However, there is another encounter seven-to-10 years later. “So fast forward. I hadn’t talked to him or seen him [for years]. Big Boi done toured for 10 years. So [OutKast] has this Coachella opportunity—it’s ‘OutKast 20 years.'” 3 Stacks is candid about his attitude towards the headlining show. “I was kind like of whatever about it. There was certain times I ain’t even remember my raps.” André shares that he was apathetic towards the show. During the first weekend, the artist experienced jitters. “I hadn’t been on stage; that’s not my normal, every day [life] anymore. Big Boi does it every night, so that’s normal to him. So I’m comin’ out the dressing room. They start the show. I’m walking to the stage, and I see Paul McCartney walk to the left side of the stage and sit. I saw Prince walk to the right side of the stage and sit.” 3000 laughs at the pressure he felt in the moment, amid his rustiness. “I’m nervous as f__k, I’m walking to the stage, and I see these gods standing on both sides of the stage. Mind you, my whole career, I’ve never used in-ear [monitors]; we always just worked off of whatever speakers are on stage. [It is] my first time ever using in-ears, and they’re acting up. They’re clipping out; I’m hearing voices I don’t even know talking in my ear. I’m like, f__k!” This calamity led to an unsatisfactory OutKast performance—at least for André. “It was a disaster to me,” he says, “It was a new awakening for an old thing I used to do. Halfway through the show, I’m checked out. Like I’m already just trying to get through it.”

André says that he immediately left the venue and went home to sleep. The next day, while traveling back to Los Angeles, he received a call. “He calls; I don’t know where he got the number from,” 3 Stacks says. “First thing he says, he says, ‘You know what your problem is.’ He digs. He goes straight in like that. ‘You don’t understand how big y’all are.’ Of course I’m tellin’ him my sob story: ‘Yeah man, I ain’t really been wantin’ to do it. I don’t like doing old songs.’ He’s like, ‘I’ve been there, man. I know exactly what you mean, where I don’t want to do those songs.'” Prince kicked more hard wisdom. “He said, ‘But you’re a grown man. You signed up to do these shows. So do them.’ Just like that. So that conversation made me have to [reevaluate] how can I make these shows exciting to me. How can I be in it? That’s when the idea to put messages on my uniform every [show came from]. That’s what got me excited.”

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Andre links that fashion moment to Prince, who had done statements in the past. He adds that the wardrobe is safely in OutKast storage. “My biggest excitement of that tour was figuring out what I was gonna say that night. ‘Cause I was trying to say something new. Here’s my thing: I love the blessing of the songs we’ve been given. I don’t like performing old songs really. I just don’t, because I’m in a whole ‘nother space, and I have to kinda get back in a ‘remember-what-that-felt-like’ [space], and I don’t necessarily like doing that. It’s almost like playing dress-up to a great picture that you saw, and now you’re trying to re-be that person again.”

As the two artists finished their Coachella debrief, Prince kicked more wisdom. “He was like, ‘You gotta remind people who you are. When you’ve been gone for a long time, you have to remind people who you are every time.’ He’s like, ‘You gotta do that, first. And then you can do whatever.’ He said, ‘If you remind people what you can do first, then you can shave off all your hair and tell them to do it, and they will do it.’ These are his words. He said, ‘I learned that from Mary J. Blige. I did a couple shows with her, and I’m trying to do all new stuff; she’s doing what people know.'” Prince then started naming artists to André 3000 that existed because of OutKast. 3 Stacks keeps those names confidential.

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Prince then offered two parting jewels. He was disappointed that André did not play his guitar for “Hey Ya.” When the OutKast co-founder shrugged off his chops, Prince interrupted, “But you’re good enough! You should’ve played it.” 3 Stacks closes, “He totally dissed our band. ‘And what’s up with that f__kin’ band?'” André Benjamin admits he was reluctant to perform with a band—whom he was down to support, but Big Boi had a vision. “He was like, ‘What’s up with that band? They sound horrible.’ Yeah, that’s all I remember.”

The rest of the discussion covers André’s daily routines, his new album’s creation, and pieces of wisdom from his journey.

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New music by André 3000 is currently on the Ambrosia For Heads playlist.