Flutes Take Center Stage in Hip-Hop: A Surprising Resurgence

by Madonna

In an unexpected turn of events, the flute has become a prominent feature in the realm of hip-hop, making its mark on some of the genre’s most notable tracks. Recently, the news of André 3000’s upcoming album of instrumental flute jams has sparked interest and raised eyebrows, reflecting a growing trend that flutist Jake Fridkis, principal flute with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, sees as a well-established phenomenon.

The flute’s resurgence in hip-hop is not a recent development; it has subtly woven itself into the fabric of several iconic tracks over the past decade. Artists like Future, DaBaby, 21 Savage, Young Thug, A$AP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, and Gucci Mane, to name a few, have incorporated the instrument, either live or through sampling, into their music. Lizzo, in particular, has taken this connection to new heights, not only incorporating the flute into her records but also playing it herself, as showcased in her rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Stairway to Heaven” on the Rockstar album.


Gareth McLearnon, artist-in-residence of the Wm. S. Haynes Flute Co., one of the world’s leading flute makers, notes that the flute’s versatility across different musical styles contributes to its resurgence. The company has experienced a 30 percent increase in sales over the last three years, with prominent flute players like Lizzo playing a role in this growth.


The unexpected marriage of hip-hop and the flute continues a tradition that began nearly 60 years ago when flute solos found their way into iconic tracks like the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” The flute’s journey continued through various genres, including art rock, prog, disco, Southern-fried rock, early yacht rock, and pop, with notable solos in songs like Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” Traffic’s “John Barleycorn (Must Die),” and Chicago’s “Colour My World.”


Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, a trailblazer in incorporating the flute into rock music, reflects on his journey with the instrument and its unexpected popularity. Anderson’s switch to the flute came after hearing Eric Clapton, realizing he wanted to play something different from the electric guitar. Despite initial skepticism, the flute’s ethereal quality captivated audiences, making it a lasting and unique feature in rock music.

As the years progressed, flute samples began infiltrating hip-hop, with notable instances in tracks like Snoop Dogg’s “Tha Shiznit,” Beastie Boys’ “Flute Loop,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Keep It Rollin’,” and Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’.” The reasons for the flute’s prominence in hip-hop remain a bit mysterious, with Anderson suggesting it may be due to the instrument’s association with classical music and refined musicality.

Jake Fridkis, a classically trained flutist, offers a different perspective, emphasizing the flute’s proximity to the human voice, providing a shimmer that complements the harder-hitting nature of hip-hop tracks. His own journey into hip-hop began with an instrumental version of a Jay-Z track, leading to collaborations with notable artists and producers.

In a genre often associated with powerful beats and electronic sounds, the flute’s unexpected resurgence showcases its adaptability and timeless appeal. As André 3000 prepares to release an album dedicated to instrumental flute jams, it seems the flute’s journey in hip-hop is far from over, proving that in the ever-evolving landscape of music, unexpected instruments can take center stage and captivate audiences in new and exciting ways.


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