André 3000 is an elusive figure in hip-hop, and his creativity has been missed since the release of Outkast’s last album, Idlewild, in 2006. However, the ‘Hey Ya’ musician has still been an intriguing figure, and his mysticism has compelled journalists over the years.
That said, in a 2008 interview with The Guardian, the rapper, producer and singer (real name André Benjamin) opened up about his childhood, his musical interests and how he became the rap visionary people know him as today.
Opening up about what initially attracted him to hip-hop, the Atlanta rhymer credited Rakim and Eric B. The emcee unveiled that the New York duo showed him the potential hip-hop could have when pushed to the boundaries. Expanding on this, Benjamin stated, “I started rapping and rhyming in school talent shows in Atlanta when I was 12 or 13, and although I always liked rap’s energy, it wasn’t until I heard Rakim that I realised what you could actually do it with it.”
He continued, “He was the coolest, the calmest, and he showed that rap could be fluid rather than just be a rhythmic attack. But I thought I would be drawing and painting for a living at that time. It wasn’t until about four years later, when I met Antwan [‘Big Boi’ Patton, other half of Outkast] in high school, that I took the whole thing seriously.”
André revealed that he had always loved music but expressed that one group, in particular, changed how he felt about it. Benjamin then shockingly unveiled that it was the electro hip-hop group Kraftwerk that blew his mind, explaining, “I heard Kraftwerk when I was young, but it was only years later that I realised how they have been the main influence on hip-hop. Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock’ is a rip-off from Kraftwerk, and that’s a seminal hip-hop record.”
He continued, “They used all electronic sounds – no guitars, no live drums – and they sounded like the future. They would take apart drum machines and then rebuild them themselves to create new beats, and what I really like about electronic music is that you can rock the room, and nobody knows what you look like. The new version of that is a guy called Squarepusher. He’s totally amazing to me, and I’m trying to figure out what he’s doing.”
André’s love for Kraftwerk’s futuristic and cosmic music undoubtedly drove him to explore that world creatively and most probably set the groundwork for projects such as ATLiens. The rapper cited the group’s 1977 album, Trans-Europe Express, as the project that changed the way he felt about music. You can listen to the album below.