André Lauren Benjamin (born May 27, 1975), better known by his stage name André 3000 (formerly known as André), is an American rapper, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor, best known for being part of hip-hop duo OutKast alongside fellow rapper Big Boi. As an actor, Benjamin has made appearances in a number of TV series and films, including Families, The Shield, Be Cool, Revolver, Semi-Pro, Four Brothers, and the leading role of Jimi Hendrix in All Is By My Side. In addition to music and acting, Benjamin has also been an active entrepreneur. In the spring of 2008, he launched a clothing line called Benjamin Bixby. He has also been an advocate for animal rights. He is also known for his work on the Cartoon Network animated series Class of 3000.
Benjamin was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the only child of Sharon Benjamin Hodo (d. 2013), a single mother who sold real estate, and Lawrence Walker, a collections agent. He is African-American and Native American descent. Growing up in East Point, Georgia and Buckhead, he attended Sarah Smith Elementary School, Sutton Middle School and Tri-Cities High School.
In high school, Benjamin (who was then performing as "Andre") met Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. Benjamin & Patton teamed up to form Outkast. Shortly after graduating high school, the duo was signed to the Atlanta-based LaFace label and released their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, in 1994. Buoyed by the success of the single "Player's Ball", the album went platinum by the end of the year and Outkast was named Best New Rap Group of the Year at the 1995 Source Awards. On their next two albums, ATLiens and Aquemini, Outkast experimented with their sound by adding elements of trip-hop, soul, and jungle. The albums were also influenced by a return to traditional black music genres, funk being the prime example. With Outkast's portrayal of themselves as out-of-place extra terrestrials in ATLiens, "the funkadelic, futuristic, and seemingly unfamiliar, weird, or eccentric persona projected by André 3000 creates the chance to transcend the more pronounced characterizations of gangstas and pimps so regularly assumed by black men rap artists." Outkast's distinctive southern "player" style is combined with these Afrofuturistic elements to create a new, unique space for their brand of rap within popular culture. Benjamin's lyrics in particular took on a more surreal, space-age tinge. Within the time of his second and third albums, Benjamin took up the guitar, painting, and a new relationship with singer Erykah Badu. Outkast's fourth album, Stankonia, introduced Benjamin's new alias André 3000 (largely to distinguish himself from Dr. Dre and his new persona after the end of his relationship) and increased the group's crossover appeal with the single "Ms. Jackson", which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written in the aftermath of Benjamin's breakup with Badu and was a fictionalized account of the disintegration of their relationship. In 2002, Outkast released a greatest hits album, Big Boi and Dre Present... OutKast, which contained three new tracks. One track, "The Whole World", won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Later that year, Benjamin participated in the Dungeon Family group album, which saw a number of prominent Atlanta-based hip-hop groups combine into a supergroup. In 2002, André 3000 was referenced on the song "Till I Collapse" by Eminem, who considered him one of the best rappers ever.
In 2003, Outkast released Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, a double album which highlighted the differences in the musical styles of the group's two members. Benjamin's half of the album, The Love Below, garnered the most attention from mainstream audiences, with the popular singles "Hey Ya!" and "Roses". The album's fourth single and video (Benjamin's third), "Prototype", was released shortly after. Big Boi's Speakerboxxx spawned the top ten hit "The Way You Move" and the relatively successful "Ghetto Musick". The Love Below was, unlike Speakerboxxx, an exercise in funk, jazz, and alternative music, featuring sung vocals from Benjamin (instead of rapped). Rolling Stone compared Benjamin to an indie-rock Little Richard" on Outkast's 2003 Number 1 international hit 'Hey Ya!" and later declared the hit one of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, In 2006, OutKast released their sixth album as a group, Idlewild. The album served as a soundtrack to the group's musical film Idlewild. The film centered on life in a 1930s setting and the album took influences from music of that era, particularly blues. Benjamin had a few rapped verses on the album, including on the first single "Mighty O", but mostly stuck with singing as he had on The Love Below. On July 30, 2010, Big Boi revealed in an interview that Outkast would release a new album "as soon as Dré finishes his album" stating that Dré is indeed recording an album. He added that they have the beats recorded for the new Outkast album and will continue recording as soon as Dre is done. In February 2012, Andre stated that there is no new Outkast album in the works, but that he is planning on releasing a solo album later in the year. This was later confirmed false later that year in December.
In January 2014, it was announced that Outkast would be reuniting to celebrate their 20th anniversary by performing at more than 40 festivals worldwide during the spring/summer of 2014, beginning with a headline spot at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California in April.
Solo work: 2007-present:
Benjamin returned to rapping in 2007, after a hiatus from the genre, appearing on various remixes, including: "Walk It Out", "Throw Some D's", "You" and Jay-Z's "30 Something." His contributions to original songs included UGK's "International Players Anthem", Devin the Dude's "What a Job", Fonzworth Bentley's "Everybody", and with Big Boi and Raekwon on "Royal Flush". He also appeared on John Legend's album Evolver, on the track "Green Light", which was released on October 28, 2008. Prior to the release, Benjamin commented: "It's going to be a surprise for a lot of John Legend fans, because it is a lot more upbeat than John is--than people think John is. I was actually happy to hear it. This is a cool John Legend song." Benjamin has stated that he plans on recording a solo rap album and that the response to his remixes is part of the motivation for it. In 2010, he was featured on Ciara's remix for her single "Ride", from the album Basic Instinct and on the remix to Chris Brown's "Deuces".
On January 18, 2011, Kesha released the "The Sleazy Remix", which featured Benjamin. The remix was later re-released on December 13, 2011, also featuring verses by rappers Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and T.I. On June 7, Big Boi leaked a collaboration with Benjamin and Sleepy Brown entitled "Lookin' 4 Ya" - which was originally intended for Big Boi's debut solo album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, however it was blocked by Jive Records from being on the album.
On June 24, 2011, Beyoncé's fourth studio album entitled 4 was released. Benjamin featured on the track "Party", his first collaboration with the singer. The song was later nominated for the Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the Grammy Awards held in 2012. Benjamin continued his string of guest appearances throughout the year - featuring on Lloyd's song "Dedication to My Ex (Miss That)", Lil Wayne's "Interlude" and Drake's "The Real Her". He also featured on the track "Play the Guitar" by B.o.B.
Benjamin was featured alongside Jay-Z on Young Jeezy's track "I Do", released on January 10, 2012. It later appeared on Young Jeezy's fourth studio album Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition. Benjamin's verse, which was initially recorded as a song for his debut solo album, was leaked onto the Internet in 2010. The following month, it was announced that Benjamin would be featured on a song with LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and the alternative rock virtual band Gorillaz titled "DoYaThing", to promote the Gorillaz Converse collection. It was released on 23 February, 2012 in two different versions - one approximately 4-and-a-half-minute radio edit and the explicit 13-minute version. The song was written and recorded over three days, with the 13-minute version being recorded on the last one.
On July 10, 2012, Channel Orange, the debut album by singer-songwriter and Odd Future member Frank Ocean was released. Andre was featured on the song "Pink Matter," supplying vocals and guitar. Later, on July 30, 2012, Rick Ross's album God Forgives, I Don't was released where Benjamin appeared on the song "Sixteen", once again supplying vocals and guitar. Later in the year, Benjamin also featured on T.I.'s album Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head on the song "Sorry". T.I. noted that the collaboration was a "proud moment" for him.
On May 6, 2013 the Great Gatsby Soundtrack was released, featuring a cover by Benjamin and Beyoncé of Amy Winehouse's Back to Black (song), marking their second collaboration. The following month, Capital Cities released their debut album In a Tidal Wave of Mystery on which Benjamin was featured on the song "Farrah Fawcett Hair".'
After being seen in the studio with producer Mike WiLL Made It, it was reported on August 3, 2013 that Andre 3000 would be releasing a new solo album in early 2014. However, the following day a representative for Benjamin told Billboard that "there is no official confirmation on that report." In 2014, Benjamin is set to appear on fellow Dungeon Family member Future's second studio album, Honest, on a song titled "Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)".
André's music aliases:
Early in André's career and prior to his major-market success, Benjamin developed several aliases that he used in various attempts to establish recognition and develop his fan base. His aliases ranged from simply Dré to humorous names such as Possum Aloysius Jenkins III. André is now most commonly referred to as André 3000.
Benjamin has made appearances in Families, The Shield (he plays Robert Huggins, a character that originated in an episode titled "On Tilt" from Season 3 in 2004), Be Cool, Revolver, Semi Pro, and Four Brothers. He was also cast as Percival in Idlewild, released on August 26, 2006. He voiced a crow in Charlotte's Web, a movie adaptation of the 1952 children's book. As of November 2006, he voiced "Sunny Bridges," a prize-winning musician who gives up touring to teach at his alma mater, in Class of 3000, an animated series he produced on Cartoon Network. Benjamin was accused by Timothy Mcgee for supposedly 'stealing' his idea of the show. He has also worked with Esthero on a promotional version of "Jungle Book" which was on a Wikked lil' grrrls sampler, but never made it to the actual album due to issues with Esthero's label, Warner Bros.. The following year, he appeared in the basketball comedy Semi-Pro, with Woody Harrelson and Will Ferrell. He also starred in the 2007 film Battle in Seattle, a film about the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests. Benjamin was a member of Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender's production company A Band Apart until its close in 2006; he then formed his own company, Moxie Turtle. In May 2012, Benjamin began filming a biopic about Jimi Hendrix entitled All Is By My Side. It premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2013.
Benjamin launched the "Benjamin Bixby" clothing line in the spring of 2008, inspired by college football circa 1935. In February 2012 Benjamin announced that he would be returning with another line soon.
In 2004, alongside Alicia Silverstone, Benjamin was voted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to be the 'World's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity'. He is also childhood friends with Fonzworth Bentley. Benjamin also has a son named Seven Sirius Benjamin (born November 18, 1997) with R&B singer Erykah Badu. Benjamin was arrested in Henry County, Georgia in March 2009 after being caught driving his 2007 Porsche Carrera 109 mph in a 65 mph speed zone.
Politics and endorsements:
Benjamin posed for a print advertising campaign by Declare Yourself, a campaign encouraging voter registration among youth for the 2008 United States presidential election. In the ads by photographer David LaChapelle, he has his mouth gagged by a bow-tie in a symbolic function.