Better known by his MC pseudonym, Andre 3000 (a moniker by which he performs musically, as one half of the Dirty South rap act OutKast), André Benjamin first practiced rapping in his teenage years, when the genre was still relatively fresh and young. The then-Atlanta-area teen met Antwan Patton (aka Big Boi), a fellow student at a local high school in the city's East Point; the two impressed each other enormously, via joint participation in rap battles, and officially formed OutKast in 1992. In time, they solicited the attention of Organized Noise Productions -- the very same outfit that made TLC superstars. The duo issued the "Players' Ball" single immediately after graduation in 1994; it shot up to blockbuster sales on the charts. Several records followed, including 1994's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, 1996's ATLiens, 2003's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and 2006's Idlewild; in the process, OutKast rewrote the rules of Dirty South rap, by downplaying aggression and vulgarity, building lyrical complexity, and deepening their arrangements.
Benjamin segued into movie stardom independently of Patton, with a role in Ron Shelton's 2003 action comedy Hollywood Homicide, co-starring with the ever-reliable Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett. The rapper's portrayal of Silk Brown constituted only a bit part (and an urban stereotype at that), but the high profile of the picture jump-started Andre 3000's career as an actor. Hollywood Homicide failed to score with either critics or the public, and disappeared quickly in the summer of 2003. Two years passed before the rapper-cum-actor's next turn, as the diligent Jeremiah, one of the four titular siblings in the gifted John Singleton's 2005 action thriller Four Brothers. Benjamin stuck with urban action for the disappointing Guy Ritchie genre piece Revolver, but, as 2006 rolled around, dramatically expanded his repertoire with the courageous (and intuitive) decision to branch out into a broad panorama of roles. He voiced the part of Elwyn in that year's Charlotte's Web, and -- under the direction of longtime friend and OutKast music video director Bryan Barber -- performed with Antwan Patton as one of the two leads in Idlewild. The latter was a longtime dream of the duo's: to create a black period musical set in the '30s South, with a contemporary hip hop soundtrack. In addition to Benjamin and Patton, Idlewild starred a veritable who's who of African-American entertainers, including Ben Vereen, Patti LaBelle, Cicely Tyson, and Ving Rhames. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi