Andre 3000 on Playing 'Normal' in 'American Crime,' New Music and His 'Great Reunion' With Erykah Badu
There were already tons of reasons to watch American Crime, the ABC drama whose first season was nominated for 10 Emmy Awards and three Golden Globes, but now there’s one more for music fans: Outkast’s André 3000 is starring in the show’s second season, which premieres Jan. 6. The gig reunites the 40-year-old with director John Ridley, who oversaw André’s transformation into rock legend Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All Is by My Side. But American Crime will be a new turn for André: In his first TV role, he plays an architect and the husband to season-one star Regina King. The show doesn’t signal a move away from music, however. More than a year after Outkast’s $60 million festival tour, the star tells Billboard he has been working on new music, like “Hello,” his recent duet with ex-partner Erykah Badu.
What got you interested in the American Crime role?
The relationship I had with John Ridley. When he called, I knew it would be something good. I hadn’t seen season one at the time, but I trust John’s taste in that way.
You play a married architect, which is a new kind of role for you.
It was fun because it was like an exercise in being able to be outside of myself. I’ve never been married. Of course, I have an 18-year-old kid now, so there were parallels, like the issues of being in a black family or a black person having a black kid in a private school. In real life, I always feel like an oddball going to my kid’s school because I’m a musician; I’m not the normal dad. So to be able to play one is fun to me.
What was it like working with Regina King?
It was awesome. I have watched her on television since I was a kid, so it was crazy to actually be on set with her.
Do you have any other acting roles coming up?
Nothing right now. I’m just reading [scripts] and trying to create my own material at some point.
As in screenwriting or directing your own films?
Yeah. I’d like to get on the other side of filmmaking. I’ve always been more of a conceptual type of person so I’ve got to get a little bit more experience under my belt to step into the director mode. And of course, writing -- that’s a beast to tackle. But yeah, I'll maybe be partnering with people at this point, just to learn.
Have you had time to work on music lately?
I still get time to think about music. [Shooting TV and film projects] is not so bad -- it kind of puts you in the place where you’re fiending to do music. I’ve been holding [back] for a long time, so now I’m really interested in figuring out some type of music to do. I’m always recording.
Can you say what you’re working on or with whom?
I can’t say that I have a target right now. I’ve gotten in trouble before for saying when or what is coming, so I like to just kind of let it be. I’d like to put out some kind of music project, but we’ll see.
What music are you listening to now?
I always listen to a lot of jazz, a lot of Thelonious Monk. The new Kid Cudi album [Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven] is awesome to me. That’s kind of like the most recent thing that I think is really great. But other than that I’ve kind of just been working in the studio and listening to what I’m doing.
How did your “Hello” duet with Erykah Badu, from her recent mixtape But You Caint Use My Phone, come together?
Our son Seven and I were trying to figure out songs that could help her -- songs that were related to the subject of the mixtape: phones. We came across [The Isley Brothers’ 1974 cover of Todd Rundgren’s] “Hello, It’s Me.” Ron Isley repeats the phrase “hello, hello” as if he was answering the phone. I told Erykah, “You should make this into a new song and get somebody to rap on it.” She was like, “Well, you should rap on it!” I’m happy it happened. It was a great reunion, because I don’t think people have heard a song from us in ages.
After you finished the Outkast tour, you said you felt like a sellout. A year later, how do you feel about it now?
It was a great thing; everybody enjoyed themselves. The fans got something they really didn’t expect. And I didn’t expect that at the time -- we just went out and had a good time.
An edited version of this story will appear in the Jan. 16 issue of Billboard.