Erykah Badu’s mixtape arrived today via Apple Music, and it features a surprise appearance from André 3000, the mercurial rapper who is also the father of Badu’s first child. These days, it’s legendarily difficult to get André on a track. “I struggle with the verses,” he told The New York Times in 2014. “I don’t sit around and write raps. I just don’t.”
But there are exceptions to the rule: “Now the only time I’m really inspired to write raps is if an artist I enjoy invites me to their party.” Badu extended an invitation, and André showed up on “Hello,” one of the highlights of But You Cain’t Use My Phone. Check out a history of Badu and André’s relationship below, and revisit FADER's interviews with each artist.
Sometime in the mid-‘90s:
Badu’s story of meeting André is slightly muddled. “It was 1997,” she said during a Red Bull Music Academy talk in 2013. “My single came out Februrary 7th—‘On and On.’ I heard it in New York in a club and met André that night. No, that’s a year before. Let me back up. Two years earlier I met André at the club and they played the song ‘On and On.’ Two years later, Februrary 7th, ‘On and On’ came out on the radio. February 11th, I got pregnant.” André would later explain the circumstances of their meeting on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
“Otherside Of The Game” is released as the third single off Baduizm. André appears in the music video for the track to play the subject of Badu’s dilemma: Me and baby got this situation/ See brother got this complex occupation/… I ain’t sayin that this life don’t work/ But it’s me and baby that he hurt. 18 years later, the song remains poignant, as the singer’s wispy vocal curls around lazy rim-shots and a formidable bassline.
November 18, 1997:
Seven Sirius Benjamin is born. He has played an important role in the creative process of both his parents. In that same Times interview, André suggested that he routinely would bounce verses off Seven to see if he could still connect with the youth: “That’s my gauge at this point. I don’t have the pulse.” And this year, Seven worked with his mom on her remix of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
Outkast releases Aquemini, which features Badu on “Liberation.” But she’s more than just a contributor: this song sounds like a Baduizm outtake—listen for the flickering break beat and hand percussion. Badu eases gracefully into the track around the four minute mark, after a rousing verse from Cee-Lo that channels gospel’s verve.
“Skew It On The Bar-B” is released as the second single from OutKast’s Aquemini album. The trio Organized Noize produced the track, and two of the three beat makers recently revealed that Badu is actually a large part of the reason the song turned out the way it did. “If there is magic in that song,” Ray Murray explains, “it is the swing of the SP-1200, which is why New York might really love it… It’s a clunkiness… a real square type of rhythm. That was just the vibe.”“Erykah Badu walked in,” Rico Wade adds, “and I remember she was the one who was like, ‘that’s it right there. She was the one… that’s what made Dre say, ‘play it again.’”
October 3, 2000:
Outkast releases “Mrs. Jackson,” a song from André addressed to Badu’s mother following the couple’s breakup. Thoughts of me, thoughts of he, thoughts of she/ Asking what happened to the feeling that her and me had/ I prayed so much about it need some knee pads/ It happened for a reason, one can’t be mad/ So just know that’s everything’s cool/ And yes I will be present on the first day of school—and graduation.
It’s one of the group’s most iconic songs—a buoyant mixture of rap and soul that became a crossover hit. Years later, it also allowed the real Mrs. Jackson to step out of the spotlight for an interview of her own.
October 31, 2000:
Outkast releases Stankonia; once again, Badu is featured on the song “Humble Mumble.” Big Boi and André unfurl intense, tightly coiled verses; in contrast, Badu floats easily above the beat, sometimes slipping into expressive melismatic sighs. I’m wild just like a rock, a stone, a tree, she sings. And I’m free just like the wind.
September 23, 2003:
Outkast releases Speakerboxxx/The Love Below; to fans’ surprise, most of André’s album finds the MC ignoring rap completely in favor of light crooning. In the Times interview, André explained, “I was on my path before I even met Erykah. But one thing I can say. I’m singing around the house, and Erykah’s like: ‘That sounds great. Why are you not doing it?’”
September 23, 2003:
André also explicitly addresses his relationship with Badu during “A Life In The Day Of Benjamin André.” It sounds as if he wants to set the record straight; at the very least, he has some things he has to get off his chest: So on a trip to New York on some beeswax/ I get invited to a club where emcees at/ And on stage is a singer with something on her head/… I started liking this girl/ now you know her as Erykah “On & On” Badu/Call Tryone on the phone why you/ Do that girl like that boy you ought to be ashamed/ That song wasn’t about me and that ain’t my name/ We’re young, in love, in short, we had fun/ No regrets, no abortion, had a son.
September 28, 2014:
The third and final night of OutKast’s homecoming weekend concert series #ATLast ended with a cameo from none other than Badu. She hugged André and exclaimed, “That’s my baby daddy!”
October 3, 2014:
André explains the current status of his relationship with Badu in an interview with Vibe. “We joke a lot. People just don’t know our personal life. We joke like that on the phone. She calls me her baby daddy and I call her my baby mama… It’s totally a punch line. Our son is about to be 17 and he tells us, ‘You guys are nuts.’ Erykah and I are cool friends, man. We talk on the phone. She even asks my advice on relationships. She’s like a cool sister more than anything. The first thing people would think about us is, ‘Oh, they don’t get along.’ But there are always feelings when people grow apart. It’s something you have to get through. But man, we are cool.”
November 27, 2015:
André guests on Badu’s “Hello.” It’s based on the Isley Brothers’ cover of Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me,” a lovely piano ballad from 1972. (The Isleys' version appeared in 1974.) I seem to wanna talk more and more 'bout what really matters, André raps. I've seen my aura hop out my torso and hit a backwards. But his chorus is self-questioning: Is it over for me? Listen here.