''What this picture needs, Audrey, is for you to get rid of the white guy.'' That's our self-deprecating friend Dave Matthews, talking with ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's deputy photography director as he squeezes in between Pink, and Andre 3000 and Big Boi, the two members of OutKast. Dave's simply trying to answer a musical question no one on the cover shoot has asked: What's wrong with this peanut-butter-and-honky sandwich?
If you go by contemporary radio standards, everything's amiss with our chosen cover combo: Matthews, Pink, And OutKast may have the most anticipated releases of the fall in rock, pop, and hip-hop, respectively, but it's virtually inconceivable that a major-market commercial radio programmer would play all three on the same format.
But nowadays, every man is a drive-time DJ, if not king. Thanks to the ''rip, mix, burn'' revolution, every blank CD-R represents a new chance to create the perfect playlist (see page 41), free from the demographics and discriminations of the marketplace. So take a smidgen of Some Devil, Matthews' just-released (and first) solo album, which sets the Dave Matthews Band's signature sound aside for something both more contemplative and electric-guitar-oriented; add a pinch of Pink's Try This (due nov. 11), wherein the onetime R&B diva deigns to rock out, far more than on 2001's multiplatinum M!ssundaztood; and sprinkle in some of OutKast's new Speakerboxx/The Love Below, the genre-busting double CD that trumps even their Grammy Album of the Year-nominated Stankonia (2000) by gluing together a pair of wildly accomplished Dre and Big Boi solo discs. Then stir, and stick it to Hot Ninety-Whatever!
Wait, did we say take? We didn't intend it that way, kids, since after all these years, home taping finally is killing the music biz. One of our assignments for putting Andre, Dave, Big Boi, and Pink together for a roundtable Q&A was to find out, among other things, whether leading lights like these believe that the out-of-the-gate success of a legit download service like iTunes Music Store is a sign that the music industry can be saved. Or, failing that, maybe we could at least determine which member of this ensemble is most likely to alternate John Denver's ''Annie's Song'' and the extraterrestrial jazz of Sun Ra on a mix CD.
As we join them after the shoot, which took place in Manhattan on a hot, late-August day, Matthews is loosening himself up with a little Glenlivet, which could explain his forthrightness on the subject of radio and concert-promotion behemoth Clear Channel. While Pink indulges in cigarettes and a bit of wine, the OutKast guys are just getting high on Magic Marker fumes, using the time to sign hundreds of CD booklets their label has handed them, even as they vent about the state of hip-hop. A day of clowning for the camera has made friends of virtual strangers. How else to explain the questionable hygiene and child-care tips?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY [To Pink] Have you told them what you did on your summer vacation?