André 3000 Redefines Artistry with Flute-Centric Album, “New Blue Sun”

by Madonna

In 2017, the emergence of flute rap, a genre fusing rap lyrics with the gentle tones of the flute, intrigued music enthusiasts. Ardal Powell, an authority on the flute, attributed the instrument’s enduring appeal to its proximity to the human voice. Fast forward to today, André 3000, the iconic rapper from Outkast, has embarked on a unique musical journey with his latest album, “New Blue Sun,” a departure from traditional rap.

André’s reputation as one of the greatest rappers has been cemented since the 1990s, where he seamlessly merged street life narratives with profound wisdom. However, a hiatus followed Outkast’s 2006 album, with André citing a lack of inspiration in his middle-aged life. Now, breaking his silence after 17 years, André presents an unexpected masterpiece that delves into a different musical realm.


“New Blue Sun” marks a departure from rap, featuring André’s newfound fascination with the flute. The album, devoid of traditional rap elements, showcases André’s experimentation with reedless woodwinds he collected globally. André describes playing the flute as a refreshing alternative to the digital age, sparking creativity that had waned in the rap realm.


While the absence of rap on “New Blue Sun” may disappoint long-time fans, the album offers a captivating soundscape. André collaborates with accomplished improvisatory musicians, led by percussionist Carlos Niño. The instrumental diversity, including drums, keys, and guitars, creates an eclectic fusion.


The opening track, “I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time,” humorously acknowledges the departure from André’s familiar territory. Initially perceived as kitsch jazz or spa music, the album unfolds as a complex, nuanced creation.

Upon initial listen, the flute playing may seem rudimentary, occasionally overshadowed by synthesizers and irregular percussion. However, the album’s magic becomes apparent with deeper exploration. Tracks like “That Night in Hawaii When I Turned Into a Panther…” and “BuyPoloDisorder’s Daughter…” reveal a nuanced, atmospheric beauty.

Listening to “New Blue Sun” defies categorization; it is neither rap nor conventional jazz. Instead, it offers an immersive experience, akin to observing a changing scene through a wide window. The album’s unique sounds, reminiscent of bubbles crowding and dissipating, create an original and mesmerizing auditory journey.

André’s flute playing, although humble, refuses to fade into the background. His role is more akin to someone engaging in introspective conversation on a hike than a virtuosic soloist. The album demands attention, challenging the prevalent trend of using music as mere background noise.

In an NPR interview, André emphasized that playing the flute isn’t a “set-out meditation.” Similarly, experiencing “New Blue Sun” requires active engagement. In a musical landscape saturated with disposable background noise, this album stands as a testament to the rewards of attentive listening.

André’s flute melodies, as he explained in the same interview, convey thoughts that elude verbal expression. The album, he suggests, is a form of “sub-talk,” where listeners interpret ideas in their unique ways. Attempting to decipher hidden messages within the album misses the point; “New Blue Sun” thrives on the unspoken narrative woven by its evolving sounds.

In essence, André 3000’s “New Blue Sun” is not merely music to hear but a story to listen to—an intricate, inarticulable narrative crafted by a musician redefining his artistry in the absence of words.


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