May 27: Rapper André '3000' of OutKast – AKA André Lauren Benjamin – is 36 years-old today.

André Lauren Benjamin better known by his stage name André 3000 (not be confused with Dr. Dre) is rapper, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor, best known for being part of American hip-hop duo OutKast alongside fellow rapper Big Boi.

Benjamin was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up in East Point, Georgia and Bankhead, Benjamin saw many different lifestyles related to clothing and music that he combined throughout his career. In high school, Benjamin (who was then performing as "Dre") met Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. Benjamin & Patton teamed up to form Outkast.

Shortly after graduating high school, the duo were signed to the Atlanta-based LaFace label and released their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, in 1994. Buoyed by the success of the single "Player's Ball," the album went platinum by the end of the year and Outkast was named Best New Rap Group of the Year at the 1995 Source Awards.

On their next two albums, ATLiens and Aquemini, Outkast experimented with their sound by adding elements of trip-hop, soul, and jungle. Benjamin's lyrics in particular took on a more surreal, space-age tinge. At this time Benjamin took up the guitar and painting and became involved with singer Erykah Badu.

Outkast's fourth album, Stankonia, saw Benjamin take on the new name of Andre 3000 (largely to distinguish himself from Dr. Dre) and increased the group's crossover appeal with the single "Ms. Jackson," which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written in the aftermath of Benjamin's breakup with Badu and was a fictionalized account of the disintegration of their relationship.

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Alter Ego (The Mix Tape)

In 2001, Outkast released a greatest hits album, Big Boi and Dre Present... OutKast, which contained three new tracks. One track, "The Whole World," won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Later that year, Benjamin participated in the Dungeon Family group album, which saw a number of prominent Atlanta-based hip-hop groups combine into a supergroup.

In 2003, Outkast released Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, a double album which highlighted the differences in the musical styles of the group's two members. Benjamin's half of the album, The Love Below, garnered the most attention from mainstream audiences, with the popular singles "Hey Ya!" and "Roses." The album's fourth single and video (Benjamin's third), "Prototype," was released shortly after.

Big Boi's Speakerboxxx spawned the #1 hit "The Way You Move" and the relatively successful "Ghetto Musick." The Love Below was, unlike Speakerboxxx, an exercise in funk, jazz, and alternative music, featuring mostly sung (instead of rapped) vocals from Benjamin.

In 2006 OutKast released their sixth album as a group Idlewild. The album served as a soundtrack to the group's musical film Idlewild. The film centered around life in a 1930s setting, and the album took influences from music of that era, particularly blues. Benjamin had a few rapped verses on the album, including on the first single "Mighty O."

He returned to rapping in 2007,  appearing on various remixes, including: "Walk It Out," "Throw Some D's," "You," Jay-Z's "30 Something," and original songs such as UGK's "International Players Anthem," Devin the Dude's "What A Job," Fonzworth Bentley's "Everybody," and with Big Boi "Royal Flush" and the leaked single "Lookin For Ya."

He also appeared on John Legend's album, Evolver, on the track "Green Light," which was released on October 28, 2008. In 2010, he was featured on Ciara's remix for her hit single "Ride," from the album Basic Instinct.

In July 2010, Big Boi told an interviewer that Outkast would release a new album. He added that they have the beats recorded for the new  album and will continue recording as soon as Dre is done with his new solo album. A snippet of a track titled "I Do" was leaked August 2010 that featured a new rap verse by Benjamin. On January 14 2011, a song with Ke$ha called "Sleazy (Remix)" leaked out.

As an actor, Benjamin has made appearances in a number of TV series and films, including Families, The Shield, Be Cool, Revolver, Semi-Pro, and Four Brothers.

In addition to music and acting, Benjamin has  been an  entrepreneur. In the spring of 2008, he launched a clothing line called Benjamin Bixby and created a line of dolls based on a species of alien he's dubbed "The Green Meanies." He has also been an advocate for animal rights.

He is also known for his work on the short-lived Cartoon Network animated series Class of 3000.



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