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You'd think that, after having won six Grammys, Andre "3000" Benjamin, of hip-hop superduo OutKast, would take a break and relax a bit, but the rub is, of course, you don't win a half-dozen Grammys without forgetting what a vacation means. Lately he's been moonlighting as an actor with a real chance at big-screen stardom, what with starring roles in Four Brothers, the musical flop Idlewild, and, this week, the Will Ferrell basketball comedy Semi-Pro. We chatted recently with Benjamin about short shorts, his much-anticipated solo album, and the real impetus behind his recent career moves.
New Times: Talk about how diversified your career has become. You've got your solo music projects and, of course, OutKast; you've created an Emmy-winning cartoon for the Cartoon Network and continue to voice a character on it [Class of 3000]; and then there are the growing motion picture and television credits. This isn't even including the painting and the clothing line that are on the horizon.
Andre Benjamin: It's really whatever's going on at the time, whichever way the wind's blowing. I guess what drives it is creativity. I just like to make stuff. At the end of the day, if I have something in my head and can actually see it produced, come to an end point, that's the joy of it. As long as I can be creative and do something that seems cool, I'm good.
Do the various mediums you dwell in ever help to inform the others, like, say, does your experience making movies influence your time in the studio?
Not really. They all relate in some way because they're all ideas. But I wouldn't say one helps me out in another field.
So they're just ideas, but is the satisfaction you take from each of them similar? For example, Semi-Pro versus working on your next album.
With music, it's kind of like I'm the writer, director, actor — everything. I have control of the outcome. In film, I don't have that control of what it becomes. You're pretty much under somebody else's control.
And you enjoy that loss of control?
Yeah, because for 13 or 14 years, I've kind of been the puppet master, I guess. It's kind of cool, especially when you're going through a period, trying to find inspiration in the music. When a great script comes along with a character I think I can play, it's great.
How do you refer to yourself these days, considering how diversified your artistic interests have become? Are you still a musician first?
Just an artist. I was drawing and painting before I was making music. It's kind of like whatever I can feel something from, I do it. It's not like I'm trying to make this kind of money, this kind of money, this kind of money. It's never the point.