"I never said I wanted to be the best rapper, that's not my goal," says André 3000. "I just want to connect with people."
The ATLian is nonetheless one of the most celebrated creative minds of his generation. His work with Big Boi in Southern rap duo Outkast has brought him critical acclaim and monetary gain. But music isn't his only medium. He acts. He writes. And sometimes, he makes art by jumpsuit.
His latest foray, in collaboration with the Savannah College of Art and Design, is an exhibition of 47 jumpsuits that he personalized with social messages and wore each night for this past summer's Outkast reunion tour. We caught a panel discussion with André and his fellow artists on the subject of art and modern society. Here are the most interesting things Mr. 3000 had to say.
See Also: Andre 3000's Basel 2014 Art Talks: Video
On the Value of Art
"The value is how we take it. Me and my son, we have a funny thing, one of the sayings on the suit is 'Art or Fart.' Sometimes, me and my kid, we might go somewhere and see something on one wall that's supposed to be presented as art and I'll look at Seven, and he'll look at me and we'll say, 'Art or fart?' And we have to make a decision. What is it? Is somebody actually being an artist? Or is somebody messing with you? Especially in a time when we've got people like Banksy creating fake artists, and people flocking to it. It's really saying anybody can do it. We're in a time when you don't have to be a great musician to make great music. I don't know what key I'm in ever. I don't know what note I'm singing, it just happens. I've been doing my thing for a long time, but I wouldn't say that I'm an artist. So it's however it affects you and I think that's what the value is. I can't say this is worth $5,000. What is it worth to me? That's what it is."
On the Internet's Effect
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"What we were talking about before, it's kind of like when we started first doing music. You had to be signed to a record label and you had to be on the radio to have any merit. Now it's like you can be a kid sitting at home on your laptop making cool samples, put it out on SoundCloud, and you can be better than me or any other established artist. So it's kind of leveling the playing field, where, as established artists, we actually have to step our game up and be even tougher, go harder, because now it's not like you can sit in this corner and be the emperor's-new-clothes kind of artist. It makes it greater, so everyone has to compete or has to really be good, and that's what we really want. At the end of the day, we just want good stuff."
On Working With Other Artists
"Collaboration takes a good idea to a great idea. It just happens that way. I honestly don't think anybody can sit alone, even the common great artists, great filmmakers, or great musicians. I may not know how to market it, I may not know how to get it out there. You need other people. Unless you want to sit at home just to please yourself, and if that's what you want to do, that's cool too, but you're going to need somebody else to get it out. So collaboration is key."
On defining art
"I love it that there are really no rules. You don't have to be of a certain caliber to be considered an artist. We have this joke, really anybody can do it as long as you have something to say and people respond. We have the question of trying to figure out what is art. People say it all the time, and I think it's really trendy now for artists to say, 'I'm an artist' or 'I want to be an artist,' 'art, art, art,' but really, what are you saying? What does that mean? Sometimes I think we need to create a new word for art."
On Not Using Social Media
"Being an entertainer, I just feel like I give so much of my life already, and I have to hold something. I communicate through music, suits, but I think it is a great technology, to be honest. And hopefully, someday, I'll find a way to get into it."
See also: Five Signs You Might Be a Shitty Rapper
On Accidental Genius
"Sometimes, not knowing or not being really hip is an advantage. Even when I started producing music, I never took music classes or anything. But sometimes, I would mesh certain things together that weren't supposed to. If I would have gone to school, I may have not thought that way, and then other musicians would come in and be like, "Wow, that's not supposed to go together." But that's how you get the things. You have to kind of put yourself in odd situations where the outcome is different. Sometimes, having a disadvantage is having an advantage."
On the Business of Art
"Being an artist, a lot of times, it's like we're just creative minds just going and going and going, and the perception is, well, there's not a business side to it, and one cool thing about SCAD [Savannah College of Art and Design] is you learn how to be a biz person in your art. It's not just like hey go do whatever and never hope to get anything from it. You don't have to choose. You can be creative and get money."
"The hardest place to be in anything to me is balance -- in music, art, film. Music, you can be the most underground artist, saying the craziest stuff on record that you want to and you can not sell. Or you can go in the studio and do the same thing you just heard last week and make a million dollars. But the hardest place to be is balance, and that's what I respect."
On the "i feel ya" Exhibit
"As a person who's worn every jumpsuit at every show, I got the enjoyment of presenting every message. But for me to see them all together was just mind-blowing to me, because it's an army of messages and thoughts. I'd like people to see it in that way. The sheer number is powerful."
On the Jumpsuit Messages
"Some of them were instant. Some of them were last minute because we had to get it in for the show. Some of them are lyrics to songs you haven't heard yet. Some of them are just kind of me saying sexually nasty things. (It was) anything that came to mind that I felt like other people think but just don't say. Like when you're doing animations, cartoons, like family guy can say anything because they're cartons but if a human person were saying some of these things Family Guy is saying, that show wouldn't be on the air. It's kind of like the suits is the same thing, they can kind of say whatever in a way.
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"i feel ya: SCAD + Andre 3000 Benjamin." Featuring works from André 3000 of Outkast, Greg Brunkalla, and Jimmy O'Neal. Curated by SCAD's executive director of exhibitions Laurie Ann Farrell. Wednesday, December 3, through Sunday, December 14. Mana Miami, 318 NW 23rd St.., Miami. The exhibit is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from December 3 to 7, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from December 8 to 14.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.