It’s been a while since I wrote on my blog, but I had an amazing story/experience to share, so I needed to check in to Volume 11! I met my idol, Andre “3000” Benjamin, just over a week ago on November 4th at ComplexCon in Long Beach, CA! Below is a recap of my amazing experience!
I was fortunate enough to win the eBay Art Start Sweepstakes, which included a flight for 2 to Long Beach, CA, 2 nights for 2 in a hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, 2 tickets to 2017 ComplexCon (a really cool Hip-Hop convention), and best of all it included a meet and greet with the one and only, Andre 3000 and a pair of shoes that the man himself designed for Tretorn as a part of a larger collection of shoes (all designed by Andre)!
They flew my friend Jay and I out there at 7:30AM EST on 11/4/17, getting us to Long Beach, CA by 10:30AM PST. We basically had 3 full days in Cali! We got off our plane and went to pick up our budget rent-a-car; a Nissan Versa. Somehow, we got even more lucky and they ran out of the Nissan Versas or any comparable cars and they upgraded us (at no extra charge) to a red drop-top Camaro! So, we got to ride around Cali in style for only $80 total for our 3-day trip! We rode EVERYWHERE with the drop-top down! Even at nighttime when it got cooler, we left it down, but put the heat on.
From there we went straight to ComplexCon to claim our event tickets and check it out! We walked around for a while, bumping into and snapping a picture with Ali Shaheed Mohamed from A Tribe Called Quest, and also running across and/or snapping pictures of Pharrell, Pusha T, Travis Barker of Blink 182, Wiz Khalifa, Wale, Kobe Bryant, Chad Ochocinco, Tyga, and Omarion. And those were just the people we had the chance to see. There were many more people there that we missed. Apparently, we missed Kendrick Lamar.
After walking the convention floor for a couple of hours and seeing some really cool people and other things and happenings, I was texted by one of Andre’s people telling me I’d actually be meeting Dre in about 30 minutes instead of on Sunday, like originally planned. I was friggen’ excited, but also freaking out because I wasn’t ready or dressed for the occasion. I was wearing my Grateful Dead shirt! I quickly dropped everything and ran out of the convention center and down the street a few blocks to the parking garage, the Camaro was parked at, to get changed and grab my “Southerplayalisticadillacmuzik” vinyl record (already signed by Big Boi) and Andre’s Gruntz action figure (from the “Stankonia” days). Luckily, we hadn’t checked in to our hotel yet or all of my stuff would have been about 45 minutes away from me. I quickly changed in public; no shame in my game; (in the parking garage) and grabbed my memorabilia for Dre to sign and ran back to the convention center. I left the Camaro in shambles (underwear, clothes, etc. everywhere)! I cleaned up later!
I met up with Andre’s people at Andre’s convention booth where he had an art installation set up. It consisted of a old school kid’s school desk, a screen with some of his art projected on it, and a couple pairs of his Tretorn shoes scattered around, on display. About 15 minutes later, the man, the myth, the legend, Andre 3000 showed up and quietly sat down and begun sketching in a notebook. First, he sketched a skull eating a Tretorn, then he started looking around for inspiration for his next sketch. A girl called from the audience “Sketch me!”, and so he did! When he was done with her sketch he signed it, ripped it out of his notebook, and brought it over to the girl, giving her a hug and her very own original portrait piece by none other than Andre 3000! Priceless! He then sketched a design for a Rugby shirt idea (maybe to pop up in a future collection). And with that he was done with his exhibit. He went around saying hi to some fans, while I rushed away to the Tretorn booth where I was to meet him one on one!
I arrived at the Tretorn booth and was brought in to a room built in to the depths of the booth where there was a private viewing room setup, along with a table of Dre’s Tretorns on display. Myself, my friend Jay, and about 7-10 other people were treated to a viewing of a short clip of Andre talking about how he became inspired to design shoes way back when he was a kid in school, sketching in class and getting yelled at by the teacher. He said “I Andre Benjamin will not draw in class. I Andre Benjamin will not draw in class. I Andre Benjamin will not draw in class. I Andre 3000 drew in mutha f*ckin’ class!” That drew a good laugh from all of us! Once it ended, the lights came up and Jay and I decided to wait outside for Andre to show up, but as I was crossing the threshold of the door, Andre walked in and I was standing face to face with him, about 6 inches to a foot apart. I was shocked, and my heart was pounding. I backed back in to the room and reached out to shake hands with him and pulled him in for one of those half-hug “bro” handshakes. We then stepped back and watched the video again, but this time with Andre in attendance! It was an amazing and humbling experience to sit and view an artist’s work (Andre of all artists) with the artist them self standing right next to you. The video ended and they brought in one more group to watch the video, so this was my 3rd time watching it! I didn’t mind!
After the 3rd viewing, his people brought myself, Jay and Dre aside and introduced us! I was definitely tongue tied and star-struck! I was speaking with someone who I have the highest regard for. A man I listened to for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours! I began to tell him how much all of his music meant to me and how it changed my life and my view on the world. I went on to explain that I was especially affected and changed by “The Love Below”. His music opened my mind to so many different styles and sounds and made me want to hear all types of music and artists, who were breaking boundaries and blending genres and taking chances like him and Big Boi. Today, I listen to Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, Classic Rock, Jazz, Classical, Opera, Funk, Disco, Avant Garde and anything else you can name and a lot of that is thanks to him opening my mind.
I then pulled out my “Southerplayalisticadillacmuzik” vinyl and told him how I met Big Boi 4 years prior, thanks to another sweepstakes. I guess I’m LUCKY when it comes to OutKast and the Dungeon Family; I also met Killer Mike, and high fived Sleepy Brown and Cee-Lo and got Cee-Lo’s autograph on my Atlanta Braves hat. I went on to tell him that it’s been my goal ever since I met Big, to meet him too and complete my prized possession (the sign “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” vinyl) with his signature. He smiled wide and graciously signed the record. I then dug in to my backpack and told him that he was going to laugh at me, but that I had his action figure and was hoping he could sign it like Big Boi did with his and complete my Gruntz collection. Dre laughed and asked, “Aw man, where did you get this from!?!” I told him that coincidentally I bought it on eBay about 10 years earlier, which is perfect and full circle, considering how I was meeting him because I won a sweepstakes on eBay! Big Boi had a similar reaction when I pulled out his Grunt 4 years ago. I guess they don’t have people bring them out very often…or at all. Hopefully that will keep me memorable to them!
I packed my memorabilia away and Dre proceeded to give me a pair of super exclusive Candy Cane Tretorns, from his collection! I asked him to sign them as they were too special to ever wear anyway, but he didn’t want to ruin the shoes, so he signed the box instead. They will be on display in a display case from this day forth, while the record is in its frame and the action figures are on display too! He then went on to ask me if there was anything he could do for me. I was like, “what can YOU do for ME!?!” I said “Man, you’re Andre 3000, what am I going to ask of you!?! You’ve already given me so much!” But I went on to say “I don’t know? Let’s chill!” He laughed, and my friend Jay chimed in and asked for a more reasonable request. He reminded me to ask for a video of Dre saying to the members of my OutKast Facebook group. It won’t let me share the video in this blog feed, but if you join the group, you can join us and also check out the video! Dre happily obliged! I went on to tell him how I started the group 12 years ago and how we are now 12,000+ members strong and as far as I know, the largest OutKast fan community on the internet. He mentioned how he doesn’t do social media and I acknowledged that fact, but told him “No worries, that we are keeping your message alive in my group.” He smiled a big smile and recorded the video! I also wanted to ask him about a solo album or an OutKast album, but I didn’t want to annoy him, since he gets asked that all the time and he was there to promote his shoes and art, and I didn’t want to take away from that, so I left that topic alone. I just proceeded to thank him profusely and said goodbye and how much he meant to me again and how much the experience meant to me.
I started to leave when Jay said to me “Isn’t that guy famous too?” I turned around and who do I see? Fonzworth Bentley! So, I made my way back across the room and said hi to Bentley and told him I was a fan and would love a pic with both Dre and him. I pulled Jay into the pic and that memory was saved forever! After the picture, Dre introduced me to Bentley, saying “This is my number 1 fan, Dan!” What an honor to be called his #1 fan, by Dre himself! So, then Bentley put me on the spot and asked me what my favorite Dre verses were and I froze up! It didn’t occur to me to prepare an answer for this, since I love so many of his verses. So, I began to say that that’s hard because I like so many, but a couple that come to mind right now are the Aquemini song verse and I always thought that his verse on Kelis’ “Millionaire” was really cool and fun. After I left the meeting I was kicking myself for not naming other songs I like even more. I was so nervous that I choked and just pretty much named the first songs that came to mind. If I had that part to do again, I’d say “Millennium”, “Synthesizer”, “Humble Mumble”, Da Art of Storytellin’ Part 4”, and “30 Something Remix”. My meet and greet and overall experience was amazing, but that would be the one thing I would go back and fix, if I could. Although, I’m not harping on it because my experience with Dre was so amazing and more than I could have ever asked for!
I was on cloud 9 the rest of the day/weekend/the rest of my life! Jay and I went to the N.E.R.D. concert/listening party at the arena that night, where we were the first people to ever hear their new album! One of the songs from the album features Dre and when they announced it, everyone went crazy thinking he’d come out. Alas, Dre didn’t come out, even though he was there! The concert ended, and we drove to Beverly Hills, to pass out at our hotel.
We woke the next day and attended the second day of the convention where we wandered the convention floor more and then sat VIP with Dre’s friends and people and watched him take part in a panel discussion where he discussed his collaborations (mainly in fashion). Everyone in the audience received an art print by Dre, as well as shoe laces Dre designed that say “I Andre Benjamin will not draw in class.”, on them! After the panel, I thanked his people for an incredible experience and we checked out of the convention to spend the night partying in L.A. And Jay and I partied pretty HARD!
We woke up the for the last day of our journey and checked out of the hotel, only to find out that Dre had been staying in the same hotel the whole time, he had just checked out, and I had just missed him! His people had put me up in the hotel, so it makes sense that he would be there too, but I wish I had gotten a chance to bump in to him one more time or have a drink or breakfast with him! Maybe I’m asking too much! Haha. I did notice there was a hallway closed off the whole time I was there until Dre checked out, so I’m guessing that was Dre and his people’s private area, for their stay.
I was pretty hungover from the night before, so we went to the beach to soak up some sun and that made me feel worlds better. We spent the rest of our last day on the West Coast, driving around the Hollywood hills checking out the houses, looking for the Hollywood sign, and walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While we were driving around, we stopped to ask a man for directions to a good viewing point of the Hollywood sign and low and behold it was Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”! We snapped a picture with him in our droptop and drove off to see more sites! After site seeing around Hollywood, we started to head to the airport to catch our flight home, but realized that one of the stops we wanted to make on our trip, we never made! We wanted to swing through Compton, just to check it out, since it’s such a mecca for music! It was late and we had to catch our flight, but we drove through quickly and stopped off to have dinner at the Jack in the Box in Compton as our last hurrah! It was definitely Compton, with bullet-proof glass around the whole counter and a tiny hole to grab your food through! It was definitely an experience worth having.
We then headed to the airport and our trip, which now feels like a really wonderful dream, was over. I can’t thank eBay, Tretorn, and the universe enough for making this dream of mine come true. Andre is an awesome, humble, incredible person! We need more people like him in the world! I will cherish my weekend in Cali with Jay and Dre for the rest of my life! I’m very happy I was able to post and share the experience with all of you! I hope you all felt a little bit like you experienced it with me. Peace and love!