Andre 3000 does not live within the constraints of rap music. He has in fact transcended the genre altogether. Leaving behind his rap roots, he has decided to create and release a wind-based instrument album after a 17-year hiatus. The album, “New Blue Sun” spans eight tracks with an hour and a half runtime.
The album is totally instrumental, which is shocking considering it comes from a wordsmith like Andre 3000. It features several different wind instruments, including some native flutes and other digital wind instruments.
It’s certainly not the album Andre 3000 fans expected given his track record. Andre 3000 was a part of the rap duo Outkast from 1992 to 2006. Hailing from Atlanta, Outkast amassed a huge following during their time together. Andre 3000 and other Outkast member, Big Boi, won six Grammys and sold 20 million records during the band’s existence.
They also famously put the South on the map in the rap game during a time when the rivalry between the West and the East Coast was at its peak. At the 1995 Source Awards as Andre 3000 was accepting the award for Best New Rap Group, he iconically exclaimed to the crowd: “The South’s got something to say.”
Nearly 30 years after that moment, Andre 3000 blesses the rap world with his first-ever solo project. Except he doesn’t rap a single bar on the entire thing. The first track expresses his sympathy for the fans expecting a rap album, it’s titled “I swear, I Really Wanted to Make A ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time.” This is about how long every track name is on the album. Sometimes it feels like Andre is telling his listeners an entire story with the titles.
The album consists of a seamless fusion of serene synths, guitar, chimes, drums and of course Andre’s flute and other various wind instruments. Each track is relaxing but also challenging for the listener. It makes me think of some of Brian Eno or Aphex Twin’s first ambient works; a beautiful display of understanding what the music is doing, but also allowing the music to go where it pleases.
That’s not to say that Andre isn’t being experimental. It’s some of the first flute jazz-influenced ambient music I’ve encountered. You can feel Andre learning the instrument as each minute of each song goes by. Maybe sounding unsure of himself in some areas, and then really finding his groove through each long track.
In an interview with GQ, he explained how the album is totally improvised, which is surprising considering how well-crafted each track is. Usually, a track opens with some sort of synth or guitar which then allows Andre to find his groove on his flute. There is plenty of time on each track for Andre to do so. The songs vary in runtimes, with most exceeding the ten-minute mark as the final track serenades listeners for over 17 minutes.
I would argue that this isn’t simply an artist dipping their toes in another genre. This is Andre 3000 fully immersing himself in a single instrument and allowing his free-flowing artistic expression to take hold of his movements. Like he said on track one, “This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time.”
This isn’t study music. Work like this must be appreciated because it’s extremely rare for an artist to completely reject the capitalist construct that is set up for them. Selling records is not the concern here.
We live in a world where artists are motivated more by getting their songs to be a viral TikTok sound rather than letting the art take hold of them. Andre 3000 is not concerned with TikTok. He is not concerned with selling records. He is certainly not interested in fame, and he does not live in the constraints of any genre.