When GRAMMY-Award winning artist André 3000 hopped on stage to speak, the ComplexCon crew told writer Shirley Ju, "NO PHOTOS OR VIDEOS ALLOWED." Instead, she used words to write about her experience. So find a pen and prepare to learn a thing or two from a hip-hop veteran through the eyes of a hip-hop lover.
Written By: Shirley Ju
December 1, 2017
These were the only instructions we were given: “watch, listen and experience the future...now.” So I made my way to "The Art Of Collab" panel at ComplexCon featuring André 3000, Sarah Andelman, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Jon Wexler.
Those names already bring a certain amount of clout to the event, but everything elevated to another level when I learned Jeff Staple, a notable name in streetwear culture, was hosting the panel. For those of you who may not be familiar with the names above: Andelman is the co-founder of Colette, who the Guardian stated was the “trendiest store in the world.” Hiroshi is a legendary figure in the realm of streetwear and high-fashion. Wexler is the man responsible for signing Kanye West to Adidas.
Unbeknownst to me, eager attendees started waiting in line almost an hour-and-a-half before the panel started. Thank goodness I ran into one of the production managers (shout out to Rya) who was able to sneak me in through the back. Once inside, all was forgotten when legendary Outkast member, André 3000 stepped on stage.
While the conversation’s main focus was fashion, it segued into hip-hop as Wexler asked “André, “how do you select who you’re going to collab with?” Andre replied with the best answer: he’s down to work with a wide range of artists, from no names to big names.
This lead into an epic story about Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo. Apparently, André’s feature on “30 Hours” was news to him as well.
He stated, “and even recently on [The Life of Pablo] Kanye was like, ‘come to the studio.' So I went to the studio and hung out, we were all sitting around listening to...the song that I ended up not being on. People were expecting a verse, and I was expecting a verse, too. I tried to write to it. I sat in the studio for hours and hours, went through a few ideas and it just didn't work. And then his business people called and said, ‘We need you to sign off on the song [from] Pablo.’ I told them, ‘I never did a song a Pablo.’ They’re like ‘No, no you did.’
His transparency made me and the rest of the crowd laugh in astonishment. The follow-up question was even better: What’s your favorite go to method?
“There’s different ways to do it, but sometimes I call it like an internal kind of conditioner." André said. "I have thoughts all the time, whether I’m seeing things or doing things, certain words that people say or a phrase of words, and I’ll just jot them down in my phone. Back in the day, I used to put them in a little micro-cassette or write them down and just keep it. In my phone, I have all these phrases...that are interesting and so when the beat comes, it’s kinda like...your extra arsenal. And sometime you can hit it, sometimes you don’t. After André left the stage, his inspirational thinking and creativity could still be felt."
I asked him what exactly sparked his creativity and he responded, “Literally, I’m motivated to make new pants. Like make these types of pants right here: parachute pants. People love the vibe. I [also] want to make more music. I’m motivated now, [I'm] meeting people I never thought I would meet.”
After a cool conversation with Kill Nigel, I closed out day 2 of ComplexCon with a Con(versation) titled “The Rap Generation Gap Debate: Hip-Hop’s New Rules." The panel featured Dipset's Cam'Ron, KYLE and Young M.A. DJ Akademiks, co-host of Complex’ "Everyday Struggle," was part of the discussion as well.
Glad I decided to take ComplexCon’s advice when they told us to, “watch, listen and experience the future...now.” I learned far more than I expected. I hope you did too.