Let’s put the Tretorn on the other foot…
How would you feel if you were an artist, but you displayed a side of your creativity so well that you became pigeonholed into it forever? No really, picture it.
You fall in love with art and fashion design as a kid. It’s your passion. But as you grow older, you begin to do something else – in this case, rap – and you’re really good at it. So, you start rapping with your high school buddy, and your chemistry and reputation makes others talk – so much so that the two of you land a meeting with an up-and-coming producer on Headland and Delowe and watch “the start of something good.” (That’s a nod to Outkast’s ’96 “Elevators” track for those who don’t know).
You, your buddy, and the producer make an amazing album called Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. It’s so good, you take home the 1995 Source Awards’ Best New Artist title while being unapologetically you: two guys from East Point, Atlanta, doing what you can to be heard.
Although your win prompts a series of boos across Madison Square Garden’s Paramont Theater, it prompts you to tell the world “the South got somethin’ to say!” And then you sit back and watch as that statement breaks down barriers.
You (and your high school homie) go on to sell millions of albums, but no one realizes you’ve been giving them your real passion, for free: original drawings and paintings reprinted as cover art for your CDs.
Then, it’s nearly 10 years after your debut album, and you and your childhood friend have transitioned into adulthood, both releasing solo albums (through a joint venture you know as Speakerboxxx/The Love Below). That album sells 10 million copies and wins you three Grammy’s: one for Best Urban Performance; one for Best Rap Album; and one for Album of the Year). Everyone celebrates your success: breaking down another barrier by becoming the first rap group to take home the award for Album of the Year.
With all of your success, no one notices that you and your friend are breaking up in front of their eyes; yet, you soldier on for the fans. As a duo, the two of you release a movie and and an accompanying soundtrack by the same name, Idlewild. On the soundtrack’s lead single (“Mighty O”), you rap exactly how you feel, but no one’s really listening to all that.
“Bored, kind of like a knight with a sword/Without dragons to battle so I’m running from my shadow.”
That was 11 years ago.
Now, you and your partner-in-rhyme remain
broken up on hiatus.
In the time that’s passed, you’ve released a menswear line called Benjamin Bixby and dropped a cartoon series called Class of 3000. But, despite praise for both projects, both folded within a few years, presumably from lack of support. So while you found yourself yearning to be recognized for your creative passions away from music, the people just wanted you to give them what they wanted: more music.
But you just wanted them to understand one thing – it wasn’t happening. (You even jumped on a T.I. track in 2012 called “Sorry” to apologize not only to your fans but to your homie by saying, “I’m sorry I’m awkward and I’m sorry for f-ckin up the tour.”
You even used the track to explain why you wrote off rap.
“I hated all the attention so I ran from it/F-ck it if we did, but I hope we ain’t lose no fans from it/I’m a grown ass kid, you know I ain’t never care about no damn money.”
Earlier this year (February to be exact), you began a new venture as Creative Director of Tretorn, a Swedish sneaker company that’s focused on celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Nylite kicks. The brand has been around for some time, but they’re hoping your vision and name will catapult it into something more. You agreed to release a statement about the new partnership, and in it you said, “Tretorn’s Nylites are a true classic that have been a staple in my shoe rotation since I was a kid. It’s great to celebrate the brand’s heritage for their 50th anniversary campaign.”
So here you are, once again, rejoicing in a new venture, but instead of supporting you, praising, and listening to the words coming out of your mouth, fans (and press) are sitting around saying, We’re happy about this, Andre, but what about the music?
Wouldn’t you have something to say?