Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘New Blue Sun:’ A new look into the mind of André 3000

A review of the former Outkast rapper’s debut flute album
Wikimedia Commons

On Nov.17, rapper André 3000 released “New Blue Sun,” his debut studio album as a solo artist. An entirely flute-based project, this album marks a significant musical departure from the Atlanta-born rapper’s hip-hop origins.

André 3000 rose to fame in the mid 90s as one-half of the critically acclaimed hip-hop duo Outkast, along with fellow Atlanta native Big Boi. The duo is known for hits such as “So Fresh, So Clean,” “Ms. Jackson” and “Hey Ya!” The group went on hiatus in 2007 following Big Boi’s desire to release solo projects. André went on to take a break from rapping, only appearing as a featured artist on other artist’s songs before releasing an EP titled “Look Ma No Hands” in 2018.

After living a mostly private life since Outkast, André went viral on the internet in 2019 after a fan recorded him playing his flute at Los Angeles International Airport. Since then, he has been seen playing a wide variety of flutes at random locations, like Starbucks, yoga classes and the streets of New York City.

André 3000’s public performances with the flute eventually led to him being featured on the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” alongside David Byrne, Mitski and other prominent musicians. This inspired André 3000 to meet with jazz musician Carlos Niño and the two eventually decided to collaborate on a flute-based album which would become “New Blue Sun.”

“New Blue Sun” features an ensemble led by André 3000 playing various kinds of flutes. With a total runtime of almost an hour and a half, the album consists of  eight tracks, with the longest coming in at around 17 minutes long.

André 3000’s flute playing on the album is nowhere near groundbreaking, but it is great. André is not a master flute player, yet his playing feels personal. Throughout the album, André allows us to accompany him on his journey of discovering the nuances the instrument brings.

Although initially described as a jazz album, it is difficult to see where jazz fits into this record. The ensemble includes many jazz signature instruments and is co-produced by jazz musician Carlos Niño, the album lacks the chaos and freedom found in classical jazz, replaced by organized spiritual harmonies.

The first track on the album, “I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time,” immediately pokes fun at the fact that many fans were disappointed when André announced that his first album since Outkast would not be a rap album. In an interview with GQ, André said he made this album because “it feels inauthentic for me to rap because I don’t have anything to talk about in that way. I’m 48 years old.”

Although this project is vastly different to all of André’s previous work, the first track still functions as a warm welcome back to a beloved musician after years of time spent apart. André’s simple flute playing blends in seamlessly with the ensemble in the background. This is where the album shines, when André allows the ensemble to experiment with him.

The album’s standout track is its third, “That Night in Hawaii When I Turned into a Panther and Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t Was Wild.” Although the song’s title is extremely long, it nails the feel of the song. Listening to André’s flute playing in this song, which is at its most creative and experimental point in the album, feels like you are truly reconnecting with an old friend during a psychedelic night in Hawaii.

With this album, André is setting an important precedent as to the directions older musicians past their prime can take. Reinventing your image and sound so radically and this far into your career is not something done by many artists, even less in hip-hop. Going from having one of the most successful rap careers of all time to creating an entirely flute-based album is a feat to be proud of, regardless of technical proficiency.

“New Blue Sun” is an overall good album, just not transcendental. The album’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness, it was made by André 3000. Realistically, many would not  listen to this album if it wasn’t made by one of the greatest rappers in history, as his flute playing aligns with expectations of conventional flute-playing. Its strength lies in its function as a re-introduction to a familiar face; a personal adventure through the mind of a truly great musician.

Gustavo Atencio Flores can be reached at [email protected].


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