"Our label tried so hard to make us Tribe" - Andre 3000 On The Influence Of Phife & ATCQ
Last night, a legion of hip-hop’s elite gathered at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater in honor and celebration of the late Phife Dawg with his family and friends. Perhaps some of you even tuned-in to catch some of those touching moments during the terribly-orchestrated “live” stream (shame on you, REVOLT.) But what you wouldn’t have caught — because the stream cut out as soon as the musical remembrances began — were the heartfelt words of artists like Andre 3000, Kanye West, as well as Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, who closed out the near-four-hour tribute with their own emotional eulogies.
Today, we bring you the full transcript of Andre 3000’s portion, chock-full of anecdotes that speak to Tribe and Phife’s influence on OutKast, explaining that there simply could not have have been “Two Dope Boys In A Cadillac” without Tip, Ali and the beloved Mutty Ranks. Scroll through Andre 3000’s words below and check back for the Kanye’s in just a bit.
“Man, it’s about Phife. I wasn’t prepared to say anything, but it’s like, “Outkast would not be Outkast.” When we got our deal, we rapped for [Outkast producer] Rico Wade in the parking lot. The only thing me and Big [Boi] had was “Scenario” on cassette and we rapped for days, just going. And in high school, my first rap name was Jhaz because of these niggas. It was J-H-A-Z; I don’t know how I was thinking I was spelling that shit. [Crowd laughs.] Because of “Jazz (We’ve Got).” We would sit in high school and be like, “Man, we love them.”
I’m going to say some interesting news and some disappointing news at the same time. About a year or two ago, we were talking about doing a Tribe Called Quest and Outkast album. Yeah. For whatever reason, it did not happen. I don’t want to let the time go by, because you never know. And that’s one of the biggest things about regret. Whatever reason we didn’t do it, it was on our plate and we just… let it go for our own personal reasons.
Influence. Influence is really important. In the same way that we’re here because of you all, and it’s totally true. Man, our label tried so hard to make us Tribe. [Crowd laughs.] In our bio — we didn’t write the shit — they called me the poet and Big Boi the playa like it was some “Southern Tribe” shit. We didn’t like it; we just wanted to rap. But they wanted us to be Tribe so bad and we loved them niggas so bad, we were like, “We’ll be a street Tribe.” We’ll be robbin niggas. Imagine me tryin to rob a nigga. [Crowd laughs.] We wanted to be “hood Tribe.” I guess that’s what we ended up being, in a way.
But influence. I had a conversation with Tip and it shocked the shit out of me. One day, he said, ‘When y’all came out as Outkast, I knew that the tides had changed. I knew rap had changed.” And I knew what he was talking about because when I see [Lil] Wayne and Young Thug, I’m like, “Ohhh, I can’t keep up with that shit. It’s so dope.” It’s the connection. They’re them because of us and it has to keep going. All this old niggas hatin on the young niggas, that shit got to stop. It’s all music. It’s all influence. It’ll keep going because we’re all connected.
I don’t have no big message or speech or nothing but just, “Keep that shit going.” And Tribe meant everything to me. They are everything. It’s always, “Who are the greatest groups?” Fuck that shit. [Points to Tribe Called Quest.] This dude [Q-Tip] taught me what kind of rapper I wanted to be. My first rap, I remember it now, it was “Young and naive/Alive I keep the dream/Writin’ funky lyrics at the age of 16.” I wrote it because of you. [Points to Q-Tip.] I didn’t even know what the word naive meant. [Crowd laughs.] Q-Tip taught me words. “Elation.” I’m sitting in high school like, “Damn I gotta look this shit up.” “I’m filled with elation.” Ohhhhh, okay. We can use these words too? We can be smart? Yeah, man. He gave me fuel. And I gotta give the young niggas fuel. We gotta quit hatin’ on each other. To Phife.”
h/t Rolling Stone