New Blue Sun: From Witty Words to Woodwinds in Andre 3000’s New Instrumental LP

Image courtesy of Daniel Benavides (licensed by CC under 4.0)

My experience with Andre 3000 has been one of blind reverence. I always appreciated his stronghold on the game and his awe-inspiring flows. However, I did not fully understand that his perception of life played a role in his lyrical mastery.

As I delved deeper into his work, I couldn’t help but wonder: was that personal aspect even present on the surface? Maybe not in his OutKast heyday. But, as he shifted the tone of his music in more recent years, his tracks have begun to take on an entirely more intimate feel…

Andre 3000 is one of the most critically acclaimed rappers of all time. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, he is a staple in the expansion of southern hip-hop, and his influence extends beyond measure. Andre eventually felt it was time to hang up the mic and disband his uber-famous rap duo, OutKast (with equally legendary MC Big Boi). From then on, 3000 has been relatively quiet, dropping a few features every year or so, but nothing major like an LP (album). Recently,  a completely new direction has brought him out of the darkness and into the spotlight.

In a recent interview with GQ Magazine, the veteran rapper talked about the aimlessness that he had felt towards the end of his career with OutKast. 3000 says, “It happened so fast… sometimes I don’t even remember what cities we performed in.” 

In OutKasts’s quick rise to fame, 3000 was left questioning what he had done with his life; his young adulthood felt shallow and happened all too fast. A dramatic influx in popularity can often quickly die down, causing these good experiences to end prematurely, and artists are forced to make tough decisions that equally pull at the fans and themselves. After OutKast’s 2006 movie soundtrack for the film Idlewild, Outkast decided to officially disband, despite their rather short run from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s.

Nevertheless, 3000 has come back stronger than ever, with his latest project, New Blue Sun. Andre 3000 is an avid admirer of woodwind and classical instrumental music, and his motivations going into this project were similar to those of a retired veteran who yearns for solitude rather than chasing the fortunes he once made by more trivial methods. 

New Blue Sun is a collection of free-spirited, sonic soundscapes, all consisting of either electronic or analog woodwind instruments. 3000 said that the album was almost entirely made up on the spot — all one-takes for each instrument. This vibe is the perfect encapsulation of a post-career gift to the world. The album is not flashy whatsoever, representing the quiet stardom Andre wants to impart to the world.

New Blue Sun has an amorphous structure that is used to mimic the daily goings of Andre 3000’s life. The inaugural track, and most subsequent tracks, have titles that mimic a midwest emo style of track naming. 

The intro track is titled, “I Swear, I Really Wanted To Make a ‘Rap’ Album but This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time.” A mouthful of words, it almost seems Andre is trying to write the lyrics in the title. The piece is a journey in minimalism, as a core melody is established, and flourishing elements are added and removed, creating a sublime landscape that reflects a deep and human feeling. I know that is a large assertion, but it is rather difficult to describe these very minute, yet grandiose pieces that are truly ethereal. Take “Ninety-Three ‘Til Infinity and Beyoncé,” for example. The relatively short track starts with a romping bass surrounded by alien-like computation noises floating from one ear to another. There is a heavy use of electronic soundscapes on New Blue Sun, and this track echoes like a spacial waterfall. Some water-like sounds feel isolated and heavily reverbed, fading in and out along with some beautiful saxophone arrangements. 

There is a certain haphazard, continuous beauty found among these undulating melodies, and it is indescribable. In a lowly mixed flute – in a continuous shake of a dreamcatcher – 3000 and his team of songwriters transform and transcend the possibilities of instrumental music. I am not inferring that Andre 3000 is the originator of modern minimalist music, but how he orchestrated these pieces is unlike any other sonic experience I have ever felt. I hope that Andre 3000 has found his peace spiritually, one that was seemingly lost during the younger years of his life. The exploration of New Blue Sun finds 3000 at a new beginning, and it will be beautiful to see where the veteran goes from here.

Mason Zelenko is an arts writer and “Gracecast” podcaster for The Grace Gazette.