Within the matrix of hip hop’s universe, Andre 3000 has shined enigmatically for almost two decades now. Though nearly ten years removed from OutKast’s seminal Speakerboxx/The Love Below, Dre is still one of the culture’s most prized possessions (evidenced by the public’s insatiable thirst for his scene-stealing guest verses). But with that great power comes the ball and chain of responsibility to fans, bosses and rhyme partners who have silently endured the torturous teasing his erratic creative behavior has caused. He’s made it clear that he’s not interested in touring, shooting music videos or returning to hip hop for anything more than the occasional feature verse for the foreseeable future. But he’s continued to make indelible marks on our collective radar by periodically reminding us of one magic word: Maybe.
Until he figures out his next move, he seems to be enjoying the game of “maybe” that Dr. Dre, Justin Timberlake, Jay Electronica and so many other highly touted geniuses are known to play with the public between masterpieces. “Maybe” let’s us know to keep paying attention, but doesn’t put him on the hook artistically. It suggests the potential for greatness, but doesn’t guarantee anything except more anticipation and angst. “Maybe” keeps the legend alive. But even someone as great as Andre must be careful not to take our patience and adoration for granted. For all the hope and optimism provided by “maybes,” there is always the presence of the equal and opposite feeling of dread suggested by the term. Maybe Andre has nothing left to say. When you pour yourself into your art as intensely and honestly as he has, it’s a possibility.
If he has indeed run out of things to say, shouldn’t we celebrate him for politely shutting his mouth and sitting down until he does? Forget his “responsibility” to tour and do videos, not speaking with nothing nice to say shows more reverence to the culture than we could count on from the vast majority of his contemporaries. Reality seems to suggest that only Big Boi is capable of keeping Andre’s attention on emceeing long enough to create the “full solo rap album” that hip hop purists require to grant Mt. Rushmore status. But the birth of Kanye West, Drake, Kid Cudi and other exploratory MC’s (all of whom owe their careers, at least partially, to 3000’s influence), make his universal brand of music more potent than ever.
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