In a rare moment for André 3000, the reclusive rapper gave a candid and in-depth interview to GQ Style in the magazine’s latest issue.
Donning a line of unofficial Anita Baker merch shirts that he designed himself, the superstar rhymer and one half of OutKast provides some insight into his personal growth, his separation from the music industry, and his new artistic developments.
During the interview, Three Stacks reveals that he has plenty of unheard music in the stash and that he wants to release an album for “personal” reasons at some point. “If I were to drop dead right now, honestly, we’ve done it,” he explains. “And that’s the truth. You know what I mean? Here’s the only thing that I would regret: Man, you know, there is still that album that you wanted to do. Like, I wanted to put out my own project. Things I’ve been working on. But that’s for my personal [satisfaction], you know?”
He says that the music is already done and he’s got plenty of it. “When I pass away, people will find hours and hours of files,” he explains. “Yeah, hard drives and shit. It’s hard drives of me just in the house alone playing horrible guitar. Me playing piano. Me playing a little sax. I was trying to find out: What can I be excited about? Because I never was, to me, a great producer or a great writer or a great rapper. I always felt that I was less than everybody else, so I fought harder. My only gauge to know when something was good was how I felt it. Like, Oh, man, this is dope. Or, This is new. So I got to a place where nothing excited me. I kept trying and pushing and pushing. I got to a place where I was just kinda in a loop. My son would see me go through all these phases. He would be like, I’ve seen my dad have all these great ideas. He had this band idea. And this other idea. And I never followed through with any of it.
“So when my parents passed away and he went off to college, it was like, Man, what am I gonna do? So I felt like it was time to come and study or replenish myself,” he added. “In New York, they have the fashion thing and they have the stage thing—I’ve never done stage before. And they have music. So I saw myself coming to study an instrument, coming to learn Spanish and probably try stage. I’ve only done one.”
That doesn’t mean hip-hop is over for the iconic Atlanta rapper. At one point, André compares hip-hop to boxing and gives hope to fans who want another 3K LP. “It’s Mayweather,” he said. “He knows. He’s like, Yeah, I can fight maybe three more of ’em. But I’m slowing down, and I see these young kids coming up and I was them. And at a certain point, no matter how Mayweather you are, I think it’s classy to be like, You know what? [brushes off hands] …I think I have, like, maybe two more Mayweather fights…Or maybe one.”
Read additional quotes below.
On His Father’s Death: “When my dad passed away, there was mourning for him dying, but there was a whole ‘nother wave of mourning because I realized, Whoa, he died in his house alone. And I wondered: Had he done everything he wanted to do?…I don’t know [if he died in peace]. I don’t think so. He had all these troubles the last few years. He had to get his heart valve replaced and prostate cancer and colon cancer, and it’s kinda back-to-back-to-back at a certain point. But I think we made amends, and that was a cool thing. I do miss not being able to talk to him about him living alone and not ever being married. I think I would have gotten a lot of great insight. I think he would have told me something. Growing up, I would always see these great women, like, Oh, man, she’s cool. Or, She’s really cool–she has her stuff together, and they have a great chemistry. But for some reason, he kept not making it happen, and that’s always happened with me. I know my son looks at me like, Yeah, man, she was cool. Or, Oh, man, she’s, like, great, beautiful. And it’s always me not going to the next step. So I know my kid sees it the same way.”
On His Mother: “My mom was everything. I grew up a mama’s boy completely. When I was small, she was like a dictator. I understand it now, but she still went hard. And I think when a male is not there, the woman goes harder. I would wrestle with my mom. Me and her, going at it. And then you go through this “Ah, man, I hate my mom” phase. And then one day–I think it was Mother’s Day or Valentine’s. I was 23 or 24. I took her out to the movies, and I’d left something in the car, and when I walked back to meet her, I looked at her and caught her face in such a way that I thought, “Oh, wow, that’s Mom.” It’s like that moment where she’s not just this person that took care of you. It’s like, Whoa, she’s a woman and she’s my mom. When you’re growing up, your parents are trying to set this great example for you, so they won’t tell you all their shit. I think more parents should tell kids their shit. It takes a lot of pressure off the kids to realize, Phew, I’m not the only person in the world that can’t get this shit completely right.”
On His Mother’s Drug Use: “When I was around 35, my mom pulled me to the side in the kitchen. Out of nowhere, she was like, ‘You know, when you were 5, I used to go and do crack.’ She was like, ‘It was new during that time. I was dating this drug-dealer guy, and he sold cocaine, and we would do cocaine, and that was like a normal thing.’ And she said, ‘Me and that guy broke up, and I had to find something to get high, and there was this new thing called crack.’ So she tried it, and there it was. And the person that she ended up marrying was the guy that used to keep me when she would go do crack…I think it was more that I triggered it, because at that time, I was doing drugs. I wasn’t doing hard drugs–she saw me smoking [weed] all the time, and I think she saw me going down a path. I think she was trying to tell me the story to help me. She said, ‘You know, I left this dude, and I had to get my own apartment at that point, and I was still smoking crack, and when I moved into this apartment, I guess the people that lived there before left a tennis racket in the corner.’ So at the time, she was like, ‘I’m gonna take tennis lessons.’ Two years later she looked up and she hadn’t taken one, ’cause she was doing drugs. The tennis racket was the thing that made her know ‘I missed all that time.'”
On Past Struggles: “I was in a creative hole, a personal hole, and I was still not dealing with my mom’s and my father’s deaths. And really, I don’t know if I have still. You know: Just push that away. The problem with being successful is you can do whatever you do times ten. And no one to stop you. You can easily go down the wrong path and you get into that place. And the thing that brings you out is other people.”
On His Image: “My life has changed a lot. I was a vegan/vegetarian for like 14, 15 years. After our first album, we were going hard, out on the road, doing drugs, partaking in every woman, and I started to see myself deteriorate. I would look in the mirror and be like, ‘You look like shit.’ So I got to a point where I said, I gotta stop. So I went that way and tried it. What’s funny is this idea that people have of me as being straight-edge. My homie Cee-Lo, from Goodie Mob, he has this joke. He’s like, ‘Man, I don’t know why these women think we’re sitting cross-legged with incense like some Buddhists, praying with our hands. I mean, we out here fucking these bitches.’ We’re human. I try to find the goodness in the world and like, you know, I mean, even Jesus–Jesus had to get a little bit, you know what I mean? I mean, I hate to say it like this, but Martin Luther King, he was out there, you know what I mean? Just because you have a natural urge and you follow it, it doesn’t mean that you can’t want the best for people and the best for yourself. And now, to be honest, when I write about sex, it’s more like: I’m on a time clock. I’m getting older, so you want to get it all in.”
On Personality Diagnosis: “I was diagnosed with this social thing. I didn’t notice it until I became an entertainer. I don’t know if it’s the shock of all kind of people coming up to you, or the expectations, but I got to this place where it was hard for me to be in public without feeling watched or really nervous…It started to bleed over into my normal life. I’d just meet new people and I would freak out or have to leave…Before [Speakerboxxx/The Love Below ] album, I moved to California. It started a little bit before then, and I just chucked it off as Aw, yeah, man, I just need to take a break. And I started to notice it getting worse and worse. Because the more you run from it, the worse it gets. You don’t want to explain it, because you don’t want to be a weak link around your friends. I never told my crew for a long time, so I just started getting to myself. Spending more time with myself and stopped touring. And it felt great for me to do that, because it’s like, Phew, I don’t like that life, I don’t like that confrontation…A curse can also be a gift. So if you’re watching the ‘Hey Ya!’ video or that performance, I was really nervous. So it made me just move really fast. In the ‘Hey Ya’ video, I didn’t make that shit up like a routine or anything. They were just like, Go! And I’m like, All right. Fuck. [moves fast] And of course that’s what people responded to. And I hated it. So after those times, it was like, All right, I’m done.”
On His Son: “It’s strange when, your whole life, everyone has treated you different from everybody else. They say that if you’re an entertainer, whatever time you took off, you stay that age. I was 17. I wonder how my son feels. He was born into it, ’cause his parents are Erykah [Badu] and me. Even when people heard that we was having a kid, they was like, Oh, this kid is gonna be–…Before he even got here. I really hate it for him. You gotta understand, I’ve only written one check in my life. When I was 17, they still had checkbooks, and my mom taught me how to write a check and do my balance. So I had one check on my balance, and then OutKast took off. I have not paid a bill since. People ask, What does it feel like? As humans, we want attention. We want to be validated. At the same time, it’s strange attention, and a lot of it. If you have an excess of anything, it becomes strange.”
On Money: “Well, I can’t say that I don’t buy a lot of things. And I do a lot for family and friends. But it’s not like I’ve got five cars and three big houses, I’m supporting all these women, or I gotta support my coke habit. So right now, I don’t have to worry about those things. But who knows what it’ll be in five, ten years.”
On Anita Baker: “Well, my mom used to work in a beauty salon. She did nails and had a little booth, and at a beauty salon, there’s always somebody coming in and selling something, be it cologne, or stolen clothes, or phones that last like a month. And a guy came in, back in the day, with a box of cassettes–my mom purchased these Anita Baker bootlegs. She played them all the time at home, and I started to realize, like, Whoa, I enjoy this. As you get older, the people you love pop back up. I was going through an Anita Baker phase, and I started trying to buy a T-shirt. So I go on the Internet and I find this site that had shirts with photos of Anita on them. So I bought two or three of them. Then when I got ’em in the mail, they were like—the part of the shirt where the picture was printed on there was so hard…It feels like this big piece of wood on your chest. So it’s like, ‘Man, this clearly has to be bootleg.’ I felt bad about it, because it’s like, I know Anita ain’t got shit to do with these shirts. I’m an artist, and I’m buying bootleg shirts of another artist, so I felt bad. So I was like, Maybe, so my conscience feels good, let me try to find an address for Anita and send her a little check. And it’ll be a joke, like, ‘Anita, I just bought these shirts, I feel bad about it, here’s $50.’ Then I started thinking, Wouldn’t it be great to design a line of Anita Baker tees and present the line to Anita? Maybe she needs some merch.”
On Tom Ford: “I was in London [during the Benjamin Bixby clothing line era] and just on sheer ‘Fuck it,’ I said, ‘Someone reach out to Tom Ford and see if he’ll meet me.’ So we got a hold of him and he said, ‘Alright, meet me at this restaurant.’ So I go meet Tom Ford, just me and him. I’m like, ‘So yeah, I’m trying to get into this fashion thing.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, if anybody should be the one to make it, it’s you.’ And I was like, ‘So what do you think about Bixby?’ He’s like, ‘I hate that fucking name.’ He was honest: ‘I hate that fucking name, but if you love it…’ I was nervous as hell, but I said, ‘I know you’re not with Gucci anymore, but if you could do it all over again, what would it be?’ I think at that point he’d only done [Tom Ford] eyewear, and he was about to do other things. He’s like, ‘To be honest, fashion shows—I probably wouldn’t do them. There’s so much more I can do with a million dollars.’ I thought that was really smart.”