Kelis & André 3000

May, 2004: From bun-shakin’ Kelis to André 3000 twistin’ in jockey silks, flamboyance and fun have taken over.

To cel­e­brate the long-await­ed return of The Face, we have select­ed a stand-out sto­ry from each year of our exten­sive archive, from 1980 to 2004.

Remembered by writer Jane Bussman

Sit­ting in Justin Timberlake’s restau­rant in Los Ange­les with the two of them, they were just mag­nets – cus­tomers were com­ing to them like iron fil­ings. Nor­mal­ly when you’re inter­view­ing mas­sive celebri­ties, you get PR peo­ple tied to you like super­glue. But in this case, mem­bers of the pub­lic were fly­ing up, offer­ing them choco­late pud­ding and just stroking them. Peo­ple just loved them! They were both very, very unself­con­scious and gen­uine. Kelis was always in trou­ble for say­ing stuff and then peo­ple were hav­ing a go at her. Then, at the David LaChapelle shoot, she was dressed as some kind of god­dess and just want­ed to go home and sing I’ve Got You, Babe to Nas, who she was going out with. LaChapelle was bril­liant, real­ly good fun. They had this air­brush artist, who was a hip-hop dancer appar­ent­ly, and a spe­cial effects artist from Buffy The Vam­pire Slay­er to do rams’ horns. And I think they’d brought in a DJ, too. It was a lit­tle bit like an episode of Absolute­ly Fab­u­lous, tremen­dous­ly over the top but tremen­dous­ly good-natured.”

Jane Buss­mann is a com­e­dy writer and broad­cast­er who has writ­ten for South Park, Brass­Eye and Smack the Pony. Her book The Worst Date Ever: War Crimes, Hol­ly­wood Heart­throbs and oth­er Abom­i­na­tions was Sun­day Times Pick of the Week and Evening Stan­dard Pick of the Sum­mer. She lives in Spain with her writ­ing part­ner and her dog.

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From bun-shakin’ Kelis to Andre 3000 twistin’ in jock­ey silks, flam­boy­ance and fun have tak­en over. Jane Buss­mann meets the pair who prove you don’t have to get shot to be hip hop royalty

On a Fri­day night in Los Ange­les, Justin Timberlake’s supreme­ly daft, faux-Japan­ese restau­rant Chi is full of peo­ple try­ing to be seen. Most­ly, they’re suits, feel­ing cool pay­ing $250 for a Mouseketeer’s prawn balls. Iron­i­cal­ly, Chi’s din­ers don’t see the future of pop cul­ture walk in.

If you’ve watched any TV since autumn, you’ll know there’s some­thing bet­ter than being cool now, and that’s being Ice Cold. A decade of per­fect pop­stars and aggres­sive hip hop is hand­ing over to rebel war­riors Kelis and Andre Ice Cold 3000’ Ben­jamin, the nut­ti­est musi­cal genius since Prince. Togeth­er, they’re the rulers of the new upbeat age, mak­ing goofy free-expres­sion hip again.

Andre is slim, qui­et and dressed as a Thir­ties cruise-lin­er cap­tain. In per­son, every­thing about OutKast’s front­man seems calm, from his yoga pos­ture and slow smile to his veg­an diet. He has an impres­sive per­son­al­i­ty trait: mak­ing women love him with­out mak­ing eye contact.

Kelis is younger and cuter than her pho­tographs but wears the expres­sion of some­one open­ing a Christ­mas present after the last one turned out to be a wasp. Emo­tions flash across her face, from incensed to haunt­ed­ly sad in one sen­tence. You know some­thing?” she says, touch­ing my arm in an un-diva way. Every morn­ing I wake up and ask myself, how much can I give away? Some­times I love get­ting naked for a shoot,” she says, but when I turned up to do Sat­ur­day Night Live in com­fort­able boots, they were so angry they called a meet­ing to dis­cuss how my image change’ was going to ruin the whole show.”

Puff Dad­dy is a fuck­ing genius. When else have you seen a black man who’s not tal­ent­ed be such an enor­mous star?”

The orig­i­nal daisy-age rap­pers like Queen Lat­i­fah, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest preached social aware­ness. Andre and Kelis mix up obser­va­tion with post-Eminem humour (Andre to God on infi­deli­ty: Head don’t count, right?”). But despite the daft, Tech­ni­col­or leap­ing around, the mes­sage is as con­sid­ered as any Native Tongues fat bloke in red Kick­ers. I ask Andre about the sleeve pho­to of The Love Below where, instead of the usu­al hip-hop pose of a man try­ing to hump his Cadil­lac, Andre is a cen­taur and a Fifties dad. Two sides of the char­ac­ter of The Love Below, and every man,” he explains. And I thought he did it for a laugh. Instead, like Kelis, he means it. Kelis’s dri­ve seems to come from car­ing intense­ly about every­thing; I’m so moody, if my out­fit doesn’t say exact­ly how I feel, it ruins my day.” Andre agrees: I’ve actu­al­ly got dressed, left the house, got in the car then said, nah’. I go back inside and change.” You get the impres­sion that under­neath their MTV-friend­ly per­son­al­i­ties, these peo­ple who dress as car­toon char­ac­ters are more authen­tic than reg­u­lar per­form­ers. They don’t even text their mates while you’re try­ing to talk to them, which is extra­or­di­nary in Hollywood.

Andre’s idea of per­fect hap­pi­ness is mak­ing music and luurve; not buy­ing Bent­leys or see­ing off oppo­nents. I’m not a brag­gado­cio rap­per,” he asserts, talk­ing about how cool you are or what you’ll do to a bitch.” Kelis feels the same. That’s why I came up with Milk­shake. It’s like, na-na-na-na-nah kin­da fun because girls don’t brag about their shit.” It’s about head, ain’t it?” adds Andre casu­al­ly. A good blowjob,” states Kelis. Andre splut­ters into gig­gles, cool sud­den­ly blown, as it were. But it’s also about what I am as a female,” Kelis con­tin­ues. Peo­ple were ask­ing, is it about big tits. I don’t real­ly have big tits. I have more of a rounder ass; it could be about my ass. It’s about all those things.” Is it a song about fan­ny bat­ter? Fan­ny bat­ter?” Fan­ny bat­ter, lady juice. Yes! It’s def­i­nite­ly juices too,” she laughs, tri­umphant. Fan­ny bat­ter,” says Andre, delight­ed. I hate get­ting all heavy, but brag­gado­cio didn’t come out of our ass­es,” Kelis goes on, Black men were sold accord­ing to how big and strong they were, and how much weight they pulled… it was a testos­terone bat­tle.” She thinks times are final­ly chang­ing. Bat­tles used to be real­ly dope, about lyri­cal skill. Nas and Jay was the last great bat­tle. Now it’s just like civ­il-war re-enactment.”

The Love Below is a barom­e­ter of how much things have changed. Andre expect­ed it to be a cult clas­sic at best. He’d just want­ed to make a sound­track to an imag­i­nary musi­cal, set in Paris. And the same indi­vid­u­al­i­ty forced Kelis to flip off boss­es who lis­tened to Caught Out There and told her black girls shouldn’t scream on records. When it was a huge hit, she had every right to go run­ning round say­ing I told you so. And I did.” She went one step fur­ther with Milk­shake, singing about being top at blowjobs while sit­ting in an ice-cream sun­dae, like an X-rat­ed cher­ry. Unlike Brit­ney and Justin, and their army of image con­sul­tants, Kelis and Andre do it them­selves. Kelis always took con­trol of her des­tiny, shav­ing her head when she was a twee­nie. Mean­while, Andre had nev­er had a styl­ist until his shoot with The Face. These two didn’t pre­tend to be dif­fer­ent to sell more records – they sold more records because they were different.

Out­Kast were on The Chris Rock Show per­form­ing Bombs Over Bagh­dad and I had an Amer­i­can foot­ball shirt with the huge shoul­ders and I’d hung mul­ti­coloured feath­er boas from it…” Just anoth­er day. Except he’d for­got­ten to bring his trousers. So I decide I’m gonna go out in my under­wear! And Big Boi says, You got­ta do it, man! You got­ta do it!’ And I’m telling him, I’m gonna do it! I’m gonna do it!’ So I did it. You can see me in my under­pants, wear­ing big glass­es to hide my eyes, I’m so nervous.”

Kelis and Andre are proof of just how pop­u­lar you can become if you don’t mind giv­ing a part of your­self away and hav­ing peo­ple think you’re weird. I hope I give peo­ple the idea they can do what they want. You couldn’t be black and do crazy colour – now it’s cool every­where.” One acquain­tance who’s helped them deal with that dilem­ma, is, bizarrely, Puff Dad­dy. Isn’t he a bit of a, well, berk? Kells jumps in, He’s a fuck­ing genius. He’ll hate me for say­ing this, but when else have you seen a black man who’s not tal­ent­ed be such an enor­mous star?” But he ponces about in a yacht, dressed like the Span­ish roy­al fam­i­ly. Kelis says that’s the whole point. I think he’s great. He’s a real­ly good per­son… he takes his shit real­ly, real­ly seri­ous­ly. To me, he’s brought back old Hollywood.”

Wher­ev­er their inspi­ra­tion comes from, both Kelis and Andre are at that rar­efied point where the great­est music in the world comes thun­der­ing out.

If there was a cam­era on me, peo­ple would be amazed,” says Andre. I’m on my own in the stu­dio, jump­ing up and down in my chair yelling THANK YOU, GOD!’, cos the real­ly good shit sure as hell don’t come from me!” Kelis adds: I hear ya. It’s a spir­it.” She has known Andre since she was a 15-year-old dra­ma stu­dent at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art on. Andre recalls: Her man­ag­er flew her to Atlanta to meet us, and she sang for us in a restau­rant. She had the voice even then.”

And now, they’ve col­lab­o­rat­ed on tracks for each other’s albums, one of which is Kelis and Andre’s new sin­gle Mil­lion­aire. She looks up to Andre like a real fan. You are always doing things and I think, damn, I wish I’d thought of that,” she enthus­es. I was so jeal­ous when I saw you in pearls. I’m always try­ing to get my man to do pearls. I said, Nas, c’mon, pearls – you got­ta.’ He just would not…” Nas, you quit­ter. Andre knows he’s in a bet­ter posi­tion than most artists. When I ask him what the best thing about being Andre 3000 is, he says, Being able to go and record any­thing I want, even a calyp­so album, and if it was good, peo­ple would say it was good. I know a lot of artists who don’t have that.” Kelis looks wist­ful. The best thing about being me?” She sighs. I got a great wardrobe.”

When I’m king, the sun will shine 23 hours a day”

The wait­er brings over Justin’s alarm­ing menu. Andre qui­et­ly spurns beefy dim sum in tzatzi­ki, being sane and also veg­an. He’s an uncon­ven­tion­al cit­i­zen of the deep south, where babies get hot wings instead of dum­mies. He’s also an uncon­ven­tion­al hip-hop artist. Take his Love Gun’, made from shiny, pink chrome. I’m Cupid, but people’s hearts have got so hard nowa­days that a bow and arrow won’t pierce them, so I need the Love Gun,” he explains, dead­ly seri­ous. In a post-9/11 world, Cupid can’t even fly any more. I’m just about to get on the plane, and they took me into this room and said, Sir, do you have any weapons?’ And I said, no. They said, Are you sure?’ I said, of course, I’m sure… Then they showed me an X-ray of the Love Gun and said, Then what about… THIS?’”

Hope­ful­ly we’re say­ing what peo­ple are feel­ing right now.“ Hey Ya! is about fun, sex­u­al free­dom…” says Andre. And, right on cue, four drunk women with big hair and bad, frilly tops appear at the table. I hope you don’t mind,” says the least drunk. But… but… AAARGH! I LOVE YOU!” Imme­di­ate­ly, all four jump Andre.

But peo­ple don’t lis­ten to the lyrics…” he con­tin­ues from under his girl moun­tain. It’s real­ly about stay­ing in a rela­tion­ship because peo­ple say you’ve got to stick with tra­di­tion. That’s why you tell her, Don’t want to meet your dad­dy, I just want you in my Cad­dy / I don’t want to meet your mom­ma. I just want to make you cumma…”

And they’re not lis­ten­ing. They just want a piece of his love below.

As if by mag­ic, there’s anoth­er girl sit­ting next to us. You must think I’m a FUCK­ING BITCH, but I LOVE YOU! Oh God, sing Dracula’s Wed­ding!” She starts bel­low­ing: YOURE ALL I’VE EVER WANT­ED BUT I’M HYP­NO­TISED BY YOOOOOU…”

Ter­ri­fied of you,” cor­rects Andre affa­bly. She ignores him. What­ev­er the fuck it was. God, I love you. AAAAAARGH!” She smoth­ers him and leaves. Andre swears he only gets hit on four times a day, at most. He must mean mar­riage pro­pos­als, because lit­er­al­ly 20 women try in the cou­ple of hours we’re at din­ner. No one even speaks to me for a minute,” says Kelis sad­ly. I got way more atten­tion when I was just, like, this bald girl.” She shrugs. It’s cos every­body knows you’re just with Nas,” Andre offers.

Andre and Kelis both live in LA part time. He’s pin­ing for the south while film­ing Be Cool, the sequel to Get Shorty, along­side John Tra­vol­ta. I’m play­ing the total oppo­site to myself: a hood with two phones, a pager and corn­rows. I slap peo­ple! Tch!” He slaps the air. I shoot peo­ple! Bang! With the gun side­ways!” Tra­vol­ta is very relaxed on set, for a Sci­en­tol­o­gist. He’s one of those? Real­ly?” says Andre. I met Prince the oth­er day. He talked about the Jehovah’s Wit­ness thing.” What a dis­ap­point­ing image. Prince turn­ing up on Andre’s doorstep with a Gideons’ Bible.

There will also be an Out­Kast movie, direct­ed by Bryan Bar­ber who did the Hey Ya! video. lt’s a musi­cal, and it may even not be seen in the­atres. That depends on HBO,” he says. I ask Andre if he would like to play Osama Bin Laden in a Life Of Bri­an-type polit­i­cal satire I’m shoot­ing for about 10p this sum­mer. He’s con­sid­er­ing this offer when a woman prompt­ly plonks her­self almost square on his plums. I’m a sales agent for Via­gra, and I’ve got a car-full of free sam­ples,” she states, a one-line pitch that wastes mine instant­ly. But Via­gra only lasts four hours, and our com­peti­tors’ ver­sion lasts the whole week­end,” laments Via­gra Girl.

The whole week­end…” Andre whis­pers, star­ing at some­thing only he can see.

Kelis leans in. I nev­er had a prob­lem, but is Via­gra…?” The sales­girl doesn’t miss a beat. Yes. Penis, cli­toris – same tis­sue. Off the record: if a woman takes Via­gra it will have exact­ly the same effect.” Every­one nods, heads spin­ning. We call it a night. The valets are stag­gered to see Andre and Kelis. And even more stag­gered when they see his school-mum car and her reg­u­lar 4×4 among the Mercs and Porsches. As Andre climbs into his car, I thank him on behalf of the women of Los Ange­les for a won­der­ful night. Stank you smelly much,” grins Andre.

Next morn­ing we all meet up in hyper-trendy Sil­ver­lake for pho­tographs. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, fash­ion shoots have an atmos­phere some­where between a can­cer ward and an arranged mar­riage. Uber-shut­ter­bug David LaChapelle, how­ev­er, doesn’t mess about. Eric Rico DJs Jimi Hendrix’s Pur­ple Haze, and Pub­lic Ene­my. A big guy called Drag­on, in pink stud­ded wrist­bands, is get­ting ready to paint Kelis as a wood nymph. Drag­on is also wear­ing sheep’s hooves and sheep’s hands. These were bor­rowed from Tim, Buffy’s spe­cial-effects artist, who’s doing full ram” on Andre. For the record, hooves pull on like gloves, and they’re strange­ly soft.

David LaChapelle is exhaust­ed after direct­ing the Elton John Vegas show. But this is fun because Kelis and Andre are inspired, they don’t have that naked ambi­tion, like a cat hang­ing on a screen door. When artists are doing what they want to do, and peo­ple are allow­ing them to do that, they have a state of grace and they tap into some­thing real­ly amaz­ing. They’re touch­ing the mag­ic string.” Andre duly changes into his imper­fect gen­tle­man” out­fit: golf trousers with psy­choac­tive swirls. I designed them – they’re made of cur­tain! Golf-adel­ic!” he beams. Kelis picks out some kind of Vivid Video romper suit. Can we get some tape?” she begs. Some­one runs in with dou­ble-sided, tape to stop Kelis’s breasts fly­ing out. What peo­ple don’t know is I’m a real­ly great cook. All I want is to be a home­body,” she says, miss­ing Nas. The Son­ny & Cher of hip-hop? No one ever com­pared us to them before, and he’ll kill me, but that is our song! Last year, for Valentine’s Day, I got him these lit­tle bears that sing I Got You Babe.” She’s get­ting mar­ried this sum­mer, in a green dress. More flack immi­nent, and she couldn’t give a damn.

Then we hear a voice. When I am king, the sun will shine 23 hours a day.” I look round and Andre is stand­ing in the mid­dle of the room with his arms held to the sky, bare chest­ed, gold Tutankhamen body armour and Cleopa­tra eyes. Of course: he’s the Sun God. But instead of con­flict, he’s spread­ing good times. This image burns in our minds, bonkers and strange­ly poignant.

Andre sits down, head­dress glit­ter­ing. The future? Well, John­ny Vul­ture has left the band and had a falling out with Andre 3000 – he’s dif­fi­cult to work with – so for my next project I think I’m going to pro­duce the Vul­tures’ album…” For a sec­ond, every­one is lost in Andre’s world of fic­tion­al char­ac­ters who are all him. But we all know the future is safe in the Sun God’s hands.


Relat­ed

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