Andre 3000, the eccentric, freewheeling half of the venerable Hip-hop group OutKast, shocked the world when he announced he was dropping an album on Nov. 17. We all celebrated because most of us have been clamoring for an Andre 3000 solo project for at least two decades.
Before details of the album were released, speculation about the shape, sound and substance of an Andre 3000 project in 2023, the year of our Lord, ran amuck. The record would have to feature his signature, thought-provoking rhymes that stick to your brain like dialogue from your favorite film or the nickname of a best friend.
But when we learned that the “New Blue Sun” project would be centered on him playing the flute and not rhyming, many of us were disappointed and apprehensive.
Going in, I had fears that “New Blue Sun” would be another case of a great rapper producing less-than-ideal results with an instrument they hadn’t mastered, like Lauryn Hill playing the acoustic guitar on her “MTV Unplugged” project.
‘New Blue Sun’ is an Odyssey
When I finally mustered the courage to download “New Blue Sun” to my Apple Music library and pressed play, I did so, knowing I would need to imbibe this record and allow myself to be transported.
That’s just what I did, and boy, it is an odyssey.
Listening to this project, with its unconventional track titles, is like trekking through a dense cloud of noise that, at various points, sounds unstructured, somewhat dissonant, rhythmic, meditative, searching and somber.
The album’s eight tracks clock in at one hour and 28 minutes, making it a lengthy trip.
The 13-minute composition, “BuyPoloDisorder’s Daughter Wears a 3000® Button Down Embroidered,” pops off with flourishes from Andre’s flute, backed by these dense, ominous sounds that, around the four-minute mark, give way to airy synths replete with shakers and flecks of light.
Another favorite is “The Slang Word P(*)ssy Rolls Off the Tongue With Far Better Ease Than the Proper Word Vagina . Do You Agree?” As one of his more conventional-sounding compositions, it dreamily ambles along at its own pace, inviting you in.
Besides Andre’s flute, you hear woodwinds, electric piano, chimes and other sounds.
Experience ‘New Blue Sun’
But to be honest with you, I am still processing this record. I cannot tell you whether Andre 3000 has mastered this instrument. I also cannot determine whether it holds up to other ambient, New Age jazz records of today or from the past. Nor do I want to compare it to anything.
What I will say is that if you allow yourself to experience “New Blue Sun,” it can serve as a worthy accompaniment to studying, doing chores or simply just being a lot like that lo-fi Hip-hop channel on YouTube that you like to stream.
Plus, the album feels like a healing yet welcome departure from the cacophony of our modern world, from the screens that hijack our lives to the local news and Citizen app reports of gun violence to all the racial and political dissension in Washington and our gentrified neighborhoods.
I messaged a friend about “New Blue Sun” and expressed my wish that it serve as a gateway drug to other flute-centric and New Age Jazz records by legendary Black artists like Alice Coltrane and Bobbi Humphrey.
Ambient music deserves our presence.
In “New Blue Sun,” Andre 3000 and friends concoct a world worth retreating to, where it’s just you, these sounds, your thoughts and the God you believe in.
Having good headphones helps, too.