André Benjamin, better known as, said he sees a "completely different person" when he looks back at his early career, when he rose to fame in the 1990s as half of the best-selling hip-hop group .
"Like I'm 48 now," he said in an interview with CBS News. "I think like the older you get, you kind of get this skin or this...protective layer that's like...things kind of roll off or you better because you have a better understanding of the rollercoaster in a way."
That rollercoaster has included a pivot from hip-hop to a passion for playing the flute.
"I don't sit and try to rap every day like when I was younger, and that's all I did when I was younger," he said. "I miss those times a lot, but it's like: life changes, life moves on."
André 3000 now has a collection of some 30 woodwinds. And at record producer Rick Rubin's Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, he recorded his new instrumental album, "New Blue Sun," which was released in November.
The album marks a divergence from his rap roots, with its first song humorously titled, "I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A 'Rap' Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time."
André 3000 said he understands the disappointment some fans might feel after 17 years of waiting for a new album. It is not what they are used to, or expected.
"When people ask me about a rap album, 'Man, I would love a rap album, I'm with you,'" he said. "But it's like, I want to be with you when I'm really on it."
He said he has "no idea" why he's "not on it," given that he writes down ideas and lyrics all the time.
"Maybe I haven't found a music that's inspiring enough for me to want to write raps to. Maybe I gotta find a new way to rap," he said.
"Maybe I exhausted a thing," he continued. "And sometimes you have to kind of try something else."
Many fans were surprised by the shift. With, André 3000 helped create the southern hip-hop scene, and the group became the biggest crossover rap group in history. Their 2003 album, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," became the best-selling hip-hop album of all time this September.
But as hip-hop marked its 50th anniversary this year, André 3000 turned down every invitation to celebrate.
"I wouldn't want to be — I'm doing it just because I'm trying to meet an expectation," he said. "I didn't get into OutKast for that, you know."
"We were just kids, like trying to see how far we could take it," he said.
Now, André's passion for the flute is evident. He finds it hard to be without one.
"I've gotten so used to it. I kind of have a muscle memory of holding it. So when I don't have it, like I'm trying to find something to do with my hands when I end up putting them in my pockets, you know, but because I'm used to kind of like fiddling around," he said.
He said the "humanness" of the instrument, along with its portability and immediate sound, made him fall for it, even without being a trained musician.
"I don't even know what notes I'm playing. So everything, every move for me is new, which is kind of crazy, but it feels great to do it because when you find things, you're like, 'Oh, it's like a reward for searching,'" he said.
The shift from rap icon to flute enthusiast is not just a change in musical style, but also represents to him the importance of doing things he enjoys.
"People are judging you, of course, which they should," he said. "I think the audience is important, but I don't think catering to an audience is important at all."
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