Andre 3000 has been one of the most prolific rappers in hip-hop in recent months, dropping lyrical gems on a variety of artists' singles, remixes and mixtape tracks. He's also been its most elusive figure, ducking the spotlight when inquiring minds — and reporters — come calling.
But Dre finally came out of hiding on Wednesday in Los Angeles while on the set for the upcoming UGK video "Int'l Players Anthem," which features Dre and his Outkast partner, Big Boi. In an exclusive interview with MTV News, he addressed his string of guest verses.
"Really, [it's been] all by chance, it wasn't like a divine plan or anything," he told MTV News from his trailer. "It was locally-charged. You had some guys that are from Atlanta that I know, that are producers, that had a couple of beats. They were like, 'Would you get on the remix?' I said, 'Sure.' "
On Outkast's "Idlewild" soundtrack, Dre responded to critics of his more adventurous musical forays by returning to his tried-and-true rapping style. Compared to previous multiplatinum sales of Outkast albums, though, the soundtrack was considered a commercial disappointment, and little had been heard from Dre since (see "Big Boi Plays Games, Golf; Andre 3000 Re-Enacts Seattle Battle").
His emergence recently on a seemingly random assortment of tracks has come out of nowhere. The spots include guest verses on the remix to Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's" (also featuring the Game, Nelly, Murphy Lee and Jim Jones); the latest Devin the Dude single, "What a Job" (also featuring Snoop Dogg); Lloyd's "You" remix (also featuring Nas); and the Outkast cameo on UGK's single. It actually started in October, when he appeared on the remix to DJ Unk's hit single, "Walk It Out" (also featuring Big Boi and Jim Jones).
"I think [Outkast DJ Cutmaster Swift] told me that it would be a good idea to get on 'Walk It Out' 'cause I like the song anyway," he said. "You know, Atlanta [is] a whole 'nother thing. The song was a jamming song, and it's like, why not? They sent an instrumental — let me see what I can do to it.
"It's all about if I can write to it, because I actually get a lot of offers to be on songs I would really like to be on, but I just can't write in time. I be doing so much, it's crazy. But I wrote my little piece, went to the studio, put it down and they dug it. That was it. To me, it's all about the beat. If it's jammin' so hard when you writin' to it, you just wanna say something."
Part of the reason Dre has been so elusive lately is because he's been focusing on his burgeoning acting career. Currently, he's been in Los Angeles shooting "Semi-Pro," a Will Ferrell sports comedy set against the 1970s-era American Basketball Association.
Still, the movie couldn't hold Dre back from working with Bun B and Pimp C again — Outkast and UGK first collaborated on the "Shaft" soundtrack song "Tough Guy" in 2000. "We grew up listening to those guys," Dre beamed. "They're living legends."
Outkast's participation on the new UGK single came courtesy Three 6 Mafia, who produced the song and were originally to appear as the guest MCs.
"Juicy J did the beat and sent it over," he said. "It was jammin' and I started writing. I hit Bun B on text [message], and said, 'Is it too late for me to get on this song?' — because they were a weekend away from finishing up the album. Bun sent me back a message: 'What? Of course not.'
"What's funny is I tried to rap my verse to the beat so many times and it just didn't feel right," he continued. "[My verse] is more like a conversational piece. So I told the engineer to drop the beat out, and we tried it that way. It worked and we just left it in like that. Honestly, I never thought we'd get away with it because that's a long-ass motherf------ verse!"
Dre admitted that he and Big Boi are talking about the next Outkast album, which may be another dual-solo release, like Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below. "Really, I gotta find out what I'm tryin' to say," he said. "It's almost like a picnic — you call your auntie and say, 'You bringin' some greens? Yeah? OK, I'm not gonna bring any greens.' I gotta find out what I gotta cook up. But to quote James Brown, 'Whatever it is, it's got to be funky.' "
The video for "Int'l Players Anthem" is due to be completed at the end of this month. UGK's next album, Underground Kingz, is due July 17.
Straight As: Andre 3000 continues to pleasantly surprise us by jumping on all these records. So far he's been flawless, but exactly how do each of these verses compare to one another? We graded them.
Song: DJ Unk's "Walk It Out" remix (also featuring Big Boi and Jim Jones)
Bar Exam: "Your white T, well to me, look like a nightgown/ Make your mama proud, take that thing two sizes down/ Then you'll look like the man that you are or what you could be/ I can I give a damn 'bout your car, but then I would be/ If it was considered a classic before the drastic change/ In production when cars were metal instead of plastic."
Progress Report: This is really the verse that started reminding everyone that hey, Dre is a legend. When he raps, it's always going to be official. Dre overshadows everyone on the track. 3000 killed his verse so badly, he'll probably be remembered for the record more than its originator, DJ Unk.
Song: Lloyd's "You" remix (also featuring Nas)
Bar Exam: "I said, 'What time you get off?'/ She said, 'When you get me off'/ I kinda laughed but it turned into a cough."
Progress Report: Dre perfectly captures the scene at a Whole Foods supermarket when a flirtatious cashier tickles his fancy at the checkout line by giving props to his TV show ("My sister loves your cartoon") and chasing him down in the parking lot to return his credit card.
Song: Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's" remix (also featuring the Game, Nelly, Murphy Lee and Jim Jones)
Bar Exam: "Sh-sh-sheep, count 'em for the rest of ya life/ Yeah, yeah ya partner got away but now he vegetable-like/ So, so I sent his mom and dad a whole case of V8/ He can die, any second, how much long it's gon' take?/ Gon' get it over with, oh what if, you were in my loafers then/ You might be the dope but I would flush it down the toilet/ Like the boys in blue, when they come through with them boots/ And they kickin' down the do' and they don't care who they shoot."
Progress Report: With so many MCs on one remix, of course it's a competition to grab the most attention. Oddly enough, Dre and company are upstaged by somebody who isn't even officially on the remix: Kanye West. After Kanye dropped his version of "Throw Some D's," in which he raps about paying for his chicks to get upgraded in bra sizes, it was a wrap. DJs started blending Ye's raps with Rich Boy's original record, and the star-studded remix faded away.
Song: UGK's "Int'l Players Anthem" (also featuring Big Boi)
Bar Exam: "It makes no sense/ I know crazy/ Give up all this pussycat that's in my lap, no lookin' back/ Spaceships don't come equipped with rearview mirrors/ They dip as quick as they can/ The atmosphere is now ripped/ I'm so like a Pip, I'm glad it's night/ Stole the light from the sun."
Progress Report: Here Dre talks about giving up his playa ways for love, despite some intense advice to the contrary from his closest friends. "Keep your heart three stacks! Keep your heart!" Well, the ATLien has so much heart and soul with his set of rhymes, he doesn't even need a bass line to enthrall you.
Song: Devin the Dude's "What a Job" (also featuring Snoop Dogg)
Bar Exam: "We work nights, we some vampires/ N----s gather 'round the beat like a campfire/ Singin' folk songs, but not no 'Kumbaya my Lord'/ You download it for free, we get charged back for it/ I know you're saying, 'They won't know, they won't miss it/ Besides, I ain't a thief, they won't pay me a visit'/ So if I come to your job, take your corn on the cob/ And take a couple kernels off it, that would be all right with you?/ 'Hell no!' Yeah, exact-a-mundo."
Progress Report: He raps about rapping for the love of the fans and the game, not the spoils of the industry, sure. But the listener's true reward comes from peeping how many different styles he uses for one verse — there are no less than three different flows here.