André 3000’s unconventional new album surprises listeners

I wanted André Benjamin, better known as André 3000, to give us a rap album, I really did. And so did he, apparently, as the first track on his album “New Blue Sun” is quite literally titled “I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time.”

For the first time since he was a half of the hip-hop duo “Outkast,” André 3000 graced the world with new music. Last time we heard the Atlanta-based artist, he was apologizing to “Ms. Jackson” and shouting “Hey Ya” to the fellas and ladies. This time, there is no apologizing, no shouting, no rapping — no words at all. For his first album in 17 years, André 3000 delivered 87 minutes of himself playing the flute over a vast range of different sounds and instruments.

“New Blue Sun” is André 3000’s first ever solo studio album. It is completely experimental, testing the bounds of how much an artist can convey without words. The song titles are no exception to this experimentation either. When you hear “The Slang Word P(*)ssy Rolls Off the Tongue with Far Better Ease Than the Proper Word Vagina. Do You Agree?” you don’t necessarily think you’re about to hear a 14-minute track of flute over calming sounds that almost resemble a rainforest, but that’s what André 3000 delivers.

This album is like nothing I have ever heard before, and that’s not a criticism. The only comparison I could think to make is to a LoFi study vibes stream that plays for 14 hours on YouTube, but even that is doing “New Blue Sun” a disservice. This album has many more layers and complexities that create an immersive experience for anyone who listens.

For André 3000, “New Blue Sun” is about exploration, it’s about not isolating yourself to one thing at a time. In a promotional interview with National Public Radio (NPR), André 3000 spoke about what he hopes the younger hip hop generation will take from his new album, saying “Explore, man. Explore. That’s what it’s about… I’m seeing that whole no categories kind of thing. We’re in a world now where we have so many influences coming from so many different directions that you don’t have to be one thing. I do find it noble and I find it awesome when someone can focus on one thing. But a lot of different practices, or bringing in a lot of different things, is interesting, too. So if it calls you, test it.” 

 If you listen to “New Blue Sun,” your reaction will not be the same as the next person to listen to it. It’s the type of artwork where if you look at it in one direction, you’ll see one thing, but if you take two steps back, or look at it from a different angle, you’ll see — or hear — something completely different. Even Rodney Carmichael, who conducted NPR’s interview with André 3000, said that he heard the album in a completely different way on his second listen. 

My personal favorite from the album is “That Night In Hawaii I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t Was Wild.” Although the title is quite the mouthful, the song itself almost sounds exactly how you think it would. It’s an intense 10-minute track that might place your mind in a tropical rainforest in Hawaii.

It goes without saying that “New Blue Sun” will not be for everyone, because what album is? However, if you have 87 minutes to spare, I encourage you to take a journey and explore the vision André 3000 laid out for his audience. 

And for what it’s worth, I do agree with him about the slang word p(*)ssy. 


4/5 Stars


Featured photo courtesy of @andre3000, Instagram