Good news first: after decades in the musical wilderness, OutKast‘s André 3000 is releasing his first solo album, New Blue Sun, this Friday (Nov. 17). The eagerly anticipated collection from the reclusive rapper — whose last full album was the 2003 OutKast double LP, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below — however, features “no bars” according to the 48-year-old MC who, aside from the occasional feature, has been mostly off the rap radar for nearly 20 years.
In an interview with NPR’s Rodney Carmichael, André confessed that his obsession with the main instrument on the instrumental jazz album, the flute, has long caused some concern among his friends in Atlanta. “I laugh at it because my homies in Atlanta, we’ll talk and they’ll be like, ‘Man, you know n—as think you crazy to f–k around with this flute,” he said, confessing to being “in on the joke” about his curious musical tendencies.
The album, described as a “stunning 87-minute mind-bender, minimalist and experimental, tribal and transcendent,” will likely confuse many fans of such iconic hits as André’s “Hey Ya!” and Grammy-winning OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson,” “Roses,” So Fresh, So Clean” and “Player’s Ball,” which were cooked up with 3000’s former rap partner, Big Boi.
In a statement about the album, André assured frustrated fans wishing to hear his one-of-a-kind vocals that, sorry, there is no Prince-like vault of unheard music waiting to be released. “There’s this misconception that I just won’t do it,” André said of releasing a rap record. “I think people feel like I’m sitting around on rap albums, or sitting around and I’m just not putting them out in that way. And no it’s not like that… In my mind, I really would like to make a rap album. So maybe that happens one day, but I got to find a way to say what I want to say in an interesting way that’s appealing to me at this age.”
New Blue Sun, then, features none of André’s intricate, river-flowing rhymes, or as NPR put it, “no bars, no beats, no sub-bass.” In fact, 3000 doesn’t sing on the record at all, but he does tear it up on his trusty flutes. In fact, he plays a number of flutes as well as digital wind instruments, and instead of his signature motor-mouthed poetry the album’s first track kind of apologizes for the lack of language with the me culpa title, “I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time.”
The origin story of the album begins with André bumping into experimental jazz great Carlos Niño at the hip L.A. grocery store Erewhon, followed by the rapper showing up at Niño’s place with is flute and jamming in the basement. The jam sessions introduced 3000 to the group of performers who appear on the album, including keyboardist Surya Botofasina and guitarist Nate Mercereau, as well as musicians Deantoni Parks, Diego Gaeta, Matthewdavid, V.C.R, Diego Gaeta, Jesse Peterson, and Mia Doi Todd.
Not planning to make an album, they started the sessions a year ago, with all the songs improvised in real time, and though it is not what fans expected after all this time, the project is described as an album that “exposes his unrefined soul — and the delicate nature of his creative process — in ways the Gemini wordsmith’s fine-tuned verses tend to conceal.”
“Even in our height of what people know of what I’ve done before, I was always like a slow writer. I’m not a freestyler. I don’t be freestyling. I just wasn’t blessed with that,” André said. “Even during the earlier times, Big Boi, he just kind of got down, like, he’s so fast and efficient with what he does. And it’ll take me a minute to throw them down. So I’ve always kind of been analyzing it or figuring out how I wanted to approach it.”
For some reason at this time writing those kind of verses are just harder for André and there’s just nothing he’s written that he feels comfortable sharing. “That’s why New Blue Sun was something that I realized, whoa, I really want people to hear it,” said 3000, who estimates that he owns 30-40 flutes. “I really want to share it. That’s my only gauge. I have to like it as a person, as an artist myself, because if I don’t like it I can’t expect nobody else to like it.”
If you’ve been paying attention over the past decade, you probably spotted André in random Instagram videos wandering through the world with his trusty flue, which turned into a kind of Where’s Waldo? game for his fans. “I didn’t like that because they just kept getting little nicks of me, just kind of messing around, you know,” he said of the surreptitious videos. “So I just felt like I’d really like to play but it was really for me. I would just walk for hours and I’m a walker. I love to walk. So I would just walk and play for hours. I did that for years and it got to a point where, okay, I want to share. And so going into New Blue Sun, it was kind of like trying to figure out, well, how do I share it?”
He did, however, run the new tracks by some of his younger contemporaries, with Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean getting an early listen to the album, with Tyler opining about one song, “It sounds like you’re chasing a butterfly through a garden and I figured it out. It helped me to figure out how to do this,” in reference to the Odd Future founder’s collection of travel suitcases he could not figure out how to properly display on a wall in his home until hearing André’s new music.
And to be clear, André didn’t know this was where his life would take him, either. So if his fans look sideways at the album — whose song titles include references to everything from the Dalai Lama, John Wayne Gace, Beyoncé and that time 3000 turned into a panther in Hawaii while on an ayahusaca trip — he gets it.
“If I was on the outside, I would feel the same way. So, for me, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said of the album that will have a “no bars” warning on the packaging, which inspired the former MC to go long on the song titles in order to give “as much information” as possible to the instrumentals. “But that’s the cool and scary thing about it. And I think as an artist, you kind of got to put yourself out there to be prepared to respond. I’m a responding person. That’s what I am. I’m responding to what’s given to me. It’s responding to my contemporaries. It’s responding to what I love. It’s responding to what I don’t like. It’s responding to all of that.”
Check out the New Blue Sun tracklist below:
- “I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A “Rap” Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time”
- “The Slang Word P(*)ssy Rolls Off The Tongue With Far Better Ease Than The Proper Word Vagina . Do You Agree?”
- “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”
- “BuyPoloDisorder’s Daughter Wears A 3000™ Button Down Embroidered”
- “Ninety Three ‘Til Infinity And Beyoncé”
- “Ghandi, Dalai Lama, Your Lord & Savior J.C. / Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, And John Wayne Gacy”
- “Ants To You, Gods To Who ?”
- “Dreams Once Buried Beneath The Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens”
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