A couple of months ago I was randomly contacted by a friend I hadn’t spoken to in well over a year. Almost immediately our conversation delved into rap music. We touched base on all of the contemporary rap debates. (He had this weird idea that good kid, m.A.A.d city was better than To Pimp A Butterfly) About an hour later, the tone of the exchange suddenly turned serious. He told me that he had a question for me, warning that I had to approach it with an open mind and resist the urge to react impulsively. Here I was, prepared for anything and this is the question I was asked – “Is it the worst thing in the world if Andre 3000 never releases a solo album?”
To put this in context, Andre 3000 is more than a personal favorite of mine. He’s a mythological figure of the highest order and Player’s Ball will be played at my wedding. So, you can imagine, I was ready to outright reject this idea based on my basic principles as a rap fan and human being. Only because I’d agreed to really mull the question over did I even give it a second thought. The strange thing about letting your critical thinking skills overtake your emotions is that you start saying things you never thought would come out of your mouth like “maybe Andre 3000 shouldn’t release an album” or “it’s okay that Outkast is over.”
Of course, in an ideal world I would welcome any and everything 3 Stacks wanted to put out. But the real dilemma is whether or not he wants to release an album, in this world. As great as Andre is, if his heart isn’t in the music anymore, it makes sense to allow him leave industry with dignity. The idea that artists should keep creating and creating until we, their audience, are done with them is a flawed one. If fans had their way Andre 3000 would have released an album already that may or may not have met expectations. But I can be pretty certain that, regardless, it would have been an exasperating ordeal for the man himself and I can’t bring myself to wish for that.
Fans don’t give a second thought to an artists’ personal life.
The perpetual accumulation of fans is, ostensibly, the goal of any musician. But in the case of Andre 3000, it’s obvious that the kind of fame he reached was never in his plans. The toxic combination of external pressure, perfectionism and general disillusionment can break even the greatest, most illustrious artists.
He’s not the only musician to call it quits at the height of their career, turning down millions of dollars and a gigantic crossover fanbase. Back when Outkast was still recording, Ms. Lauryn Hill seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. Coming off of a once in a lifetime album, she’d apparently decided to literally make it so. What we’re left with is a handful of guest verses from Andre and Lauryn’s MTV Unplugged album. And that’s okay.
It seems that people are constantly demanding something from their favorite musicians. Whether they want Jay Electronica to finally give us Act II or for Frank Ocean to release the follow-up to Channel Orange, fans don’t give a second thought to an artists’ personal life, instead seeing them as unyielding music factories. I think 2016 is as good a time as ever to start seeing musicians as people, even if that means respecting their right to call it quits. Even if they’ve got the potential to give us a classic. They don’t owe the world anything more than they’ve already given us.