Andre 3000 is one of the most innovative men in hip hop, and since the 1990s, Andre has been bringing us groundbreaking, out-of-the-box music. From Aquemini to Stankonia, the Atlanta rapper, has been around since the days of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
As one of the first experimental rap artists from Atlanta to break into the mainstream, Andre 3000 (real name Andre Benjamin) is considered one of the most forward-thinking rappers of all time. However, the emcee and producer hasn’t always been confident in the music that he makes and has even been hesitant to present some of his tracks to the public.
In 2003, Outkast were preparing to release their fifth studio album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. However, when it came to selecting the singles for the album, both Benjamin and his crewmate Big Boi were unsure which tracks were hit material. The duo’s previous project, Stankonia, had gifted the collective their first number-one single, ‘Ms Jackson’, and in 2003, they were looking to replicate the success of their previous body of work.
Between their explosion onto the scene in 1996 with ATLiens and Stankonia, Andre 3000 had been considered an emcee and lyricist. However, in 2003 he attempted to broaden his range by including some singing in his tracks. Still, he was very uncertain whether or not the culture would welcome it.
In an interview HipHopDX, Benjamin spoke about his emotional state prior to the release of his 2003 single ‘Hey Ya’, unveiling, “I was completely terrified because it’s even worse because I’m coming from a Rap world and everybody got they face frowned up and wanna be as tough as possible and you out there singing.”
He continued, “The first ‘Hey Ya’ performance wasn’t that great. It was nerves. It was scary. Even when I presented the song to L.A. Reid to say, ‘Hey, this is the single,’ his response was, ‘To be honest, I don’t understand this song, but it’s exciting to me.’ So he stood by it and watched it happen.“
‘Hey Ya’ was an anthem and topped the Billboard Hot 100. Furthermore, it received a Grammy award in the category of ‘Best Urban/Alternative Performance’ and became a platinum-certified record. Explaining how sometimes it’s good to be uncomfortable, Benjamin concluded, “I think you’ve gotta have some nerves. I think if you’re too comfortable with things, you really ain’t pushing nothing. You gotta stretch it out.” You can listen to ‘Hey Ya’ in the video below.