André 3000 caused a stir in the news this month after announcing a new solo project that leans into the Outkast rapper’s musical interests of late. I know that some have tired of the discourse around 3 Stacks and his current decision to move on from rapping, but he made an excellent point in explaining why he put down the microphone.
In a recent GQ profile, André 3000 mentioned that at the age of 48 along with his current state of being, rapping isn’t a priority for him as it once was. 3000 also added that the content he’s hearing doesn’t reflect the concerns of those approaching middle age, and he isn’t entirely wrong about that.
Although some took his words as a jab toward some of his veteran peers, the artist born André Lauren Benjamin believes that Hip-Hop artists near or around his age should rap about the reality of where they are and not the fanciful parts of life that most listeners will never obtain.
Sadly, the knee-jerk reaction to 3000’s statement will render some to think he’s dumping on older Hip-Hop acts or calling into question their maturity. Recently, Joe Budden caught the ire of Drake over his For All The Dogs album due to the content seeming to be aimed towards a younger demographic, certainly younger than the 37-year-old Canadian superstar.
Like most discussions around Hip-Hop, which I try to avoid because most people have the communication skills of an agitated wasp, people didn’t hear what 3000, or Budden, for that matter, tried to convey. Even stranger to witness was the entitlement of fans demanding Stacks get back to rapping, even with his Outkast brother Big Boi fully supporting his partner’s new direction.
In the same GQ conversation I referenced above, Stacks didn’t rule out rapping; he just wants to be inspired to do it on his terms. That said, if he never raps again, good for him. He doesn’t need to. And when he does, it’s going to be a body of work that won’t lack substance and will wow us like all the spare verses he’s done over the last decade.
People are saying online that André 3000 saying he has nothing to rap about at 48 seems like a cop-out and I get what some are saying considering how good of a lyricist he is. But if you’ve moved on from something that once served you, it was probably for the better good.
My only countering point to those disappointed in 3000 not rapping — even though he’d probably body the “Grown Man Rap” lane — is to go listen to Little Brother’s 2019 album, May The Lord Watch, or Phonte’s 2018 solo album, No News Is Good News, and Rapper Big Pooh’s 2022 solo album, To Dream In Color, which I named as one of my favorite albums of last year.
I recently caught wind of a rapper out of Detroit by the name of Paradime, an artist who was new to me but epitomized what I meant when it comes to the term “Grown Man Rap.” It’s a phrase I don’t really enjoy, hence the quotes, but it’s clear what I’m trying to convey. The rule that Hip-Hop is a young man’s game is changing as veterans are rapping longer and still great at their crafts.
Speaking of greats, Joell Ortiz, who shares the same Mello Music Group label as the aforementioned Paradime, routinely shows his writing range as a man in his early 40s. Ortiz, if anyone is unaware, will also bar your face off so it’s not just old man on the porch raps going on these days with the vets. Hip-Hop as a whole has so many artists making “mature” (again, lack of a better term here) music you can play in front of your friends and not be accused of trying to keep up with the youngsters.
Acts like Solemn Brigham, Oddisee, Atmosphere, Homeboy Sandman, Rapsody, Sa-Roc, McKinley Dixon, Che Noir, Skyzoo, Homeboy Sandman, J-Live, Open Mike Eagle, and even grittier rappers like Conway The Machine can reach into those chambers to deliver poignant bars to the people. And that was just off the top of my head because I’m sure there are dozens of other rappers who have this said ability.
Hip-Hop is what you make it and what you need from it. And, for what it’s worth, André 3000 doesn’t need to be seen as an elite rapper anymore. Like any of us, he is just a person trying to figure out his life and artistry without compromising his integrity or his purpose.
Check out André 3000’s solo project, New Blue Sun, at your preferred digital outlets.
Photo: Emma McIntyre / Getty
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