Andre 3000 Benjamin: All Pro

Damn. Andre “3000” Benjamin, one half of the musical

phenomenon OutKast – the man justly dubbed “World’s Best Dressed Man” by Esquire magazine – is dressed like a

flaming seahorse!

 

In the comedy Semi-Pro

starring Will Ferrell (Jackie Moon) and co-starring Woody Harrelson (Monix),

Benjamin plays basketball star Clarence “Coffee Black” Withers for the Flint

Michigan Tropics, a fictitious team in the American Basketball Association

(ABA) league.

 

In one scene, the fashion-forward trendsetter dons a pink,

turquoise and yellow seahorse costume, fins and all. While he liked Coffee

Black’s attitude, which added flair to the leather trench coats and the

skin-tight turtlenecks, Benjamin just couldn’t get with some of the ‘70s styled

threads.

 

“Some of the clothing maybe [went] a little bit too far. I couldn’t

really do bell bottoms,” he says. “I don’t know if it really works right now,

but you only get one or two chances in a lifetime to do something like that.”

As far as the aquatic digs go, “My character didn’t like it and I didn’t like

it.”

 

Andre’s character is modeled after the ABA’s most famous

player, Julius Erving, better known as “Dr. J,” who played for the Virginia

Squires and the New York Nets. During Erving’s tenure with the ABA, the

three-point shot and the slam dunk contest was invented. While researching his part for

the film, Benjamin called the basketball legend to get some pointers and to

make sure he was honoring his legacy.

 

“I knew I had to represent an African-American player in the

ABA during that time, and I didn’t want to buffoon it,” Andre explains. Among

the game talk, Dr. J explained to Andre the magic of the ABA league and how it

expressed the uprising of the revolutionary time period. “He told me that Afros

wasn’t a style – it turned into a style. It was really about rebellion. Letting

your hair grow out was a way of saying ‘to hell with it’ – and the bigger it

was, the more to hell with it you were.”

 

Sitting in the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta dressed in a

white button-down shirt, blue corduroy pants (with black suspenders) and what

looks to be a knitted yellow and blue stripped tie, the multi-platinum star

admits that he isn’t very athletic. But he feels this project is a refreshing

addition to his resume, giving him a chance to stretch his acting muscles and

showcase another side of his personality that’s typically seen in his music

videos.

 

“Being in a film or doing a record sometimes you play

characters. You look at the video ‘Hey Ya’ – that was a character, but you go

home,” he says. “I’m actually not like people see in the videos or in movies. I

did Idlewild and people were like, ‘How

did you pull off being calm?’ I was like, ‘That’s the easy part.’”

 

The talented thespian also finds it effortless to express

his creativity through different mediums. In addition to writing and producing

songs, having his face plastered on the big screen or overseeing the production

of his Cartoon Network show, Class of

3000, Benjamin says he’s pursuing one love that has yet to catch fire.

 

“What’s funny is that before all of this acting, music… I

actually draw and I paint. After high school I would get letters from art

schools to come to their schools. I want to be able to do enough pieces that I

can travel around and show it in like a gallery.”

 

But he does admit to a few mishaps, one being the song “Land

of a Million Drums” featured on the Scooby

Doo movie soundtrack. The other led to falling in love with Erykah Badu.

 

“How I met the mother of my child… I went to New York and my

manager had an idea that I should model. So I went to this studio and we got

these head shots,” he says, laughing at himself. “I was a model for two days. I

only did the head shots, I didn’t get jobs or anything. And that night after I

took the pictures, my manager said, ‘Some girl is performing at this club’ –

and it happened to be Erykah performing at a club.”

 

But some things in life aren’t as serendipitous.

 

For the past four years, the bona fide innovator has been

waiting to play Jimi Hendrix in a biopic. He was originally approached by the

Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society, Dead

Presidents) and then hooked up with famed producer Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind, Inside Man), but has

hit a continuous roadblock with the famed guitarist’s estate. “To be honest

with you, it’s the family, the Hendrix family. I think the [step] sister

[Janie] pretty much has all the rights to the songs, and until they release

songs, we won’t be able to do it.”

 

Until then, he’s gearing up to debut his clothing line

Benjamin Bixby this Fall. The line, which is inspired by the look of football

players circa 1935 and designed by him, is much like Benjamin – unique. He says

he traveled to China, Paris and Italy

to find the right fabric. “The thing that I find special to me [is that] you

can’t find it anywhere else,” he says of the dapper collection, which will be

available in Barney’s.

 

After quickly opening his brown leather bomber jacket and

showcasing the lining, much like “Hustle Man” on Martin, but more cool like “Lenny” on Good Times, he nods his head to himself as if to say mission

accomplished. “I’m always looking for stuff that makes me feel like an

individual.”

 

Yaminah Ahmad is an

editor and freelance writer in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

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