André 3000, the creatively mercurial OutKast rapper who recently released a flute-centric album of experimental instrumental music, New Blue Sun, spent an hour chatting with The Roots drummer Questlove for a special episode of his podcast, Questlove Supreme.

Questlove’s excitement for the opportunity and reverence for his guest are clear from the episode’s first moments. “Three Stacks,” he muses to start things off. “S—, he’s so enlightened he might be Four Stacks right now.

He quickly expresses his intention to steer away from the promotional interview topics that André 3000 has already discussed surrounding his first album since OutKast went on ice in 2007: “I want to get into who André 3000 is as a person,” he explains before diving in.

The New André 3000 Album Is All Flutes & No Raps. That Shouldn’t Surprise You. [Listen]

From his series of strangely prescient encounters with the late Prince to the best advice he’s ever gotten (by way of Erykah Badu‘s grandmother), here are ten takeaways from the Andre 3000 episode of Questlove Supreme. Listen to the full episode on the platform of your choice here or stream it below while you read.

Questlove Interviews André 3000 – Questlove Supreme

1. Playing flute in the back seat of Ubers gave him a cultural education:

André 3000: I play in Ubers. I play in cabs. I play in the back. If I’m playing and it’s a Chinese driver, he’ll turn around like, “Oh man, that reminds me of my country.” Or if it’s a Japanese [driver], “Oh, that reminds me of my country.” Or if it’s an African driver… I’m playing the same flute, but every nationality of driver will turn around and tell me it reminds them of their country. That let me know that… every culture has a flute—and a drum, of course.

I started to get schooled on the street and by Uber drivers [with] people asking me about things, like I was in Philly shooting a film. I spent a lot of time in Philly, and I would just walk and play, and this dude comes up to me and he’s like, “Oh, you’re doing that Japanese thing.” And I was like, “What Japanese thing are you talking about?” And then he schools me and tells me there’s a whole Shakuhachi culture where these Japanese players would walk around with baskets on their head to have no identity and no ego and just play for people. And I [would] just walk around in public and play. He was askin’ me, “Was I doing that?” I had no idea what that was, and went to research that and learned about that.

I’m learning, and I see now that anything that I can blow wind through and manipulate the notes with my fingers, I want to play it. If I’m turned on to a Persian ney flute, or a Bansuri flute, or a Chinese gourd, I just like discovering things that I can blow.

2. He’s never really sure what notes he’s playing on a flute:

André 3000: That’s the fun and scary part about how I play. I don’t know what I’m doing until I do it. For me, it’s all physical, and it’s all shapes. If I spread my fingers this way, it gives me an odd note. And I know if I put all my fingers down, it makes another note. … Everything’s on a tightrope. … I’m actually meeting kick-ass flute players [and they’re giving me] exercises. I’m learning how to practice. I never had to study, so I don’t have that in me. To me, it’s always playing.

Questlove: Fun fact: You’re speaking for at least 70 % of musicians out there. … There’s two types of musicians: technical musicians and musicians who feel. I’m a feel musician.

André 3000: That’s all I have, man. That’s the thing about hip-hop. Hip-hop forces you to do the immediate thing. It’s a certain energy. We just try stuff. We just pick up something that’s not supposed to be for a thing and use it for something else.

3. “Plants” are among the instruments credited on New Blue Sun:

André 3000: You’ll see when we play live, but sounds are everywhere, man. Anything is a sound. We’ve only settled on certain instruments because we’re used to ’em, but [New Blue Sun percussionist] Carlos Niño might grab a palm leaf off the side of the road and shake it, you know what I mean? Anything. It could be a beanstalk. Anything. Just whatever makes a cool noise that you like. … Carlos is more concerned with “What’s the most interesting thing?”‘

4. He played saxophone on The Love Below:

André 3000: Since The Love Below I’ve been interested in wind instruments, like I’ve messed around with saxophone. On “She Lives In My Lap” at the end, the horrible saxophone, that’s me messing around on the saxophone.

Questlove: Oh, I thought you had a free jazz saxophone player.

André 3000: That’s me playing. That’s me messing around. It’s horrible, but it’s like…

Questlove: Is it though? I don’t believe in wrong notes. Now I gotta go back and listen again.

André 3000: [laughs] You’ll hear it. You’ll hear it.

Questlove: The thing is, if you do it with a straight face and confidence…

André 3000: Oh, it’s always for real. Even if it’s horrible, you’re gonna believe it.

5. He used to frequent student recitals at the New School in New York City:

André 3000: I started wanting to play saxophone because of John Coltrane. Then I learned that he played clarinet in school, so I went and bought a clarinet. [After moving on to a Selmer bass clarinet and then the oboe,]  I noticed that I loved the deeper tones, that I love wind on wood, as opposed to metal.

When I moved to New York, I would just look at the school schedule of whatever performances were at the New School. I always like to go where the youth is performing new music. There’s something about that college age where you’re dumb enough to try new things but you’re developed enough to do them well. It’s about that period, and so I would just go to the New School and see whatever recitals were playing. It could be piano one night, it could be bassoonists another night, or a whole orchestra.

My interest in wind instruments just kept growing, so I would just collect different wind instruments. And I discovered… the Maya double-flute, which is kind of what really pushed me into wanting to play it all the time.

6. André 3000 wishes he wrote “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman; Questlove wishes he wrote OutKast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”:

André 3000:  The song “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman… As a child hearing that song, it introduced me to, ‘Oh, you can actually hit people in the heart with words.’ When she said the line, ‘Body’s too old for workin, but body’s too young to look like his. Mom went off and left him, she wanted more than he could give. Somebody’s gotta take care of him, so I quit school…” I was like, whoooo. It’s almost like the Black kind of trailer park story. You were on the ride the whole time with these big dreams. And it comes full circle. She had these big dreams like her mama did, and in the end, she gotta keep moving.

Questlove: Anyone that’s ever asked me what song I wish I wrote, I will never hesitate to say… Nothing will ever beat the moment in which [The Roots] were in our tour bus, we had one week to finish our Things Fall Apart album, we were coming back from Pittsburgh. This is August of ’98… Somehow my publicist … had a copy of [OutKast’s] Aquemini, and the feeling of fear when “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” came on… I was like, “F—, they sound like a better band than we do.” Like, every Black university marching band… this was gonna be something I heard forever. And I was like, “Damn. How come ideas don’t come to me like that, man?”

André 3000: I don’t know if I should say thank you or sorry [laughs].

Questlove: It made me try harder. I’ve yet to still create that so in my mind that’s what I’m still doing.

7. The best advice he’s ever gotten came from Erykah Badu’s grandmother:

André 3000: The best advice I’ve gotten came from Erykah’s [Badu] grandmother. Any problem that would come up she would be like, “Ah, keep on living. It’ll happen to you.” That was it. It’s as simple as that. It’s gonna happen.

8. He has recurring dreams about flying:

Questlove: Trains are a running theme of my dreams. What is the theme of yours?

André 3000: Flying.

Questlove: You’re always on a plane?

André 3000: No, I’m always flying. No plane. I can be on the ground and I start to do this type of… it’s almost like a hover. It’s a floating kind of thing. You’re drifting and you’re able to manipulate the drift a little bit, but not fast. I’m always flying and looking down over the world. Like, I’m looking down on mountains… But here’s the craziest thing: Whenever I try to show my friends [my flying]—like I remember in one dream I was trying to show Cee-Lo [Green], I was like Cee, check this out, and I tried to do it for him, and it didn’t work. I have that dream a lot, and it’s the same flying style. It’s a really awesome style.

Questlove: Cus even in your dreams you’re cool as s—?

André 3000: No, ’cause it’s so floaty. It’s hard to try to describe dreams on the microphone [laughs].

9. A New Blue Sun IMAX film and live tour are in the works:

André 3000: We did shoot a film to it that’s gonna be in IMAX theaters, so you’ll have a visual to it, but live, man, that’s what I’m really looking forward to, ’cause that’s the kind of jewel and the magic in it, the feeding off of each other and making that thing. Especially, I’m not a trained musician, so it’s even more exciting to me when a note comes out, or something falls a certain way.

Questlove: When it lands right.

André 3000: And I don’t know it. I don’t know music theory-wise [how] to make something land. I just know how to land because I jumped up before it [laughs]. That’s the only way that I know, so doing it live, actually doing music with these brothers, that’s the fun, and I can’t wait for people to experience in a room watching us do it.

10. He had a series of strange, sagely encounters with Prince:

The first time he met Prince, André explains, was soon after Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was released. He was on the way to the bathroom at a nightclub when a bodyguard grabbed him and said Prince wanted to meet him.

André 3000: Mind you, I still gotta pee. I go over to the booth and it’s Prince and he’s sitting. He motions me to sit down. I didn’t know what to say, and he could tell that I didn’t know what to say. He was like, “We don’t have to say everything now. You could come out to Paisley Park.” So he starts talking about “Hey Ya”. But what he said, I didn’t know how to take it. I didn’t know if he was taking a dig at me. He was like “I like that song ‘Hey Ya’. I thought I was the only person who did songs in those tempos.” That’s what he said to me, and I didn’t know if he was like, “Ungh, take that…”

Questlove: I think he considered you a peer

André 3000: We had been trying to figure out the next single, the album just come out, and I say to him, “You’ve heard the album?” He’s like “Yeah, I’ve heard it.” And I said, “What do you think the next single should be?” Then, he said another Prince thing. He said, “In my day, we only had one shot” [laughs]. Basically, he was saying, “It don’t matter now.” And I didn’t know how to take that, either. It’s like, okay cool…

The next time I saw Prince, and it’s always random, so I’m walking down the street close to Rodeo [Drive] by myself and a limo pulls up close to me. I swear to all the gods, man. This window rolls down and this little head pops out and it’s Prince. And he said, “What’s up, man? You heard about this magazine?” I forget which one, but they proposed to put [me and Prince] on the cover of the magazine together. And Prince said you heard about that? And I was askin’ him, like, “What do you think?” And he said, “Don’t let them do you like that.”

In retrospect, I think what he meant was “Don’t let them boil you down to being next to me,” you know what I mean? People try to put you in them boxes, and I respected that from him. Like, you’re more than what people are saying.

Fast forward [seven to ten years, to when OutKast reunited for Coachella and an anniversary tour in 2014], I hadn’t talked to him or seen him that whole time. … I was kind of whatever about [performing again]. The first weekend nerves… I hadn’t been onstage, that’s not my normal every day anymore. Big Boi does this every night so it’s normal to him.

I see Paul McCartney walk to the left side of the stage and sit. I see Prince walk to the right side of the stage and sit. Tyler, the Creator just met us backstage. Tyler is new. I’m nervous as f—, I’m walking to the stage, and I see these gods standing on both sides of the stage. [After issues with his in-ear monitors, which he had never used to perform before], halfway through the show I’m checked out, I’m just trying to get through it, I’m already in my bed. Soon as I walked off stage I went home and went to sleep. It’s like a bad night, so let me go to sleep and wake up in the morning.

I’m driving back to L.A. [the next day] and my manager calls and he’s like, “Prince wants to talk to you.” First thing he says, he says, ‘You know what your problem is? You don’t understand how big y’all are.” … He said, “When you’ve been gone for a long time, you’ve got to remind people who you are. You gotta do that first. And then, you can do whatever. … If you remind people what you do first, you can shave off all your hair and tell them to do it and they will do it. I learned that from Mary J. Blige. … Give the people what they want first, and then you can do whatever you want after that.”

I was [talking about how I didn’t like performing old songs] … like doing dress-up to an eighth-grade picture of yourself you saw. … He was like “I’ve been there … but you’re a grown man, you signed up to do these shows, so do them.” Just like that. That conversation made me have to re-figure out “How can I make these shows mean something to me. … How do I make this exciting?” … My biggest excitement of that tour was the messages he put on the uniform. … “What can I do to make it fun?” That’s how I got through it. That gave me an entryway to make this exciting.

Listen to the André 3000 interview on Questlove Supreme on the platform of your choice here. For more on André 3000’s debut solo album, New Blue Sun, head here.