On a warm, sunny day in Dallas, Texas, 33-year-old Andre Benjamin hops into a rented Chrysler Pacific, and gets situated. “Put y’all seat belts on,” he orders Seven, his 12-year-old son with Erykah Badu, and Seven’s 11-year-old playmate. They’re headed to Six Flags Over Texas, an hour drive away.
When they arrive, Andre hops out the car and throws on a pair of dark shades. Seven tells his dad he looks like one of The Isley Brothers. “The Isley Brothers?” his father says, letting out a high-pitched laugh. He’s wearing a periwinkle blue Benjamin Bixby button down (his own line, launched in early 2008), jeans, and New Balance sneakers. His hair is parted down the center like J.T. from The Five Heartbeats.
Andre Benjamin, a.k.a. Andre 3000, is enjoying his life outside OutKast. And who can blame him? Of all the Dungeon Family members, OutKast is the most commercially successful by far, having sold 25 million copies of their six albums, and won six Grammy Awards. Their 2000 album Stankonia alone moved over 10 million units, and while the 2003 follow-up double-disc Speakerboxxx/The Love Below sparked rumors of a split within the duo, it also sparked two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles and won the Grammy for Album of the Year, one of two rap albums ever to do so. “Goodie Mob dope as hell,” says DJ Swift, OutKast’s longtime tour DJ and Andre’s confidante. “But I think OutKast was just so high it kind of overshadowed them a little bit.”
But at one point, even Goodie Mob— who’ve weathered their own storms— were confused about the status of OutKast. Though they’ve had their share of tension, Big Boi says he and Andre find the endless break-up speculation annoying. “There was never no need to announce a break up,” says Big. “That probably would have been beneficial to both of us, because that way we could have got out of our contract.” Nevertheless, he insists that OutKast is now and always has been together.
The strain on their partnership first became evident after the commercially successful effort Stankonia, which featured the smash singles “Ms. Jackson” and “So Fresh, So Clean.” Lucrative endorsement deals were offered, but Dre refused to sign off on anything that didn’t fit his strict vegetarian lifestyle. Due to some shrewd real estate investments early on, Andre was financially secure enough to turn offers down. “As far as money, he was already straight,” says Rico. “He wasn’t really spending. Like, Dre ain’t got no Bentley.”
“To be very honest, nigga fucked up some of my money,” Rico throws in. “Tide wanted to use ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ for promotion. Dre wouldn’t sign off, and Tide changed their mind.” Then came an offer from the California Milk Processor Board. “I thought the ‘Got Milk?’ ad was some cool shit,” Big says. “I [told Dre], ‘Shit man, you can get some soy milk!’ and he said, ‘Man, people ain’t gon’ know that’s some damn soy milk!’ I was like, Damn!”