The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | André 3000 of Outkast breaks 17-year dry spell with instrumental album

Andre+3000+performs+at+the+Best+Buy+Theater+in+Times+Square+New+York+in+2014.+Courtesy+of+David+Shankbone%2FWikimedia+Commons
Andre 3000 performs at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square New York in 2014. Courtesy of David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

André 3000 emerged from the shadows last week to announce the sudden drop of an instrumental album, “New Blue Sun.” The record, which was released on Friday, is his first in 17 years.

The beloved artist, whose full name is André Benjamin, announced the album on Instagram last week. In an interview with NPR, he revealed the unexpected detail that there would be “no bars.”

Benjamin, who is often praised by fans as one of the greatest emcees of all time, gained a following in the late nineties as half of the iconic Atlanta rap duo Outkast, putting out classic songs like “Ms. Jackson” and “So Fresh, So Clean.” 

Now, nearly two decades after Outkast’s final album “Idlewild,” Benjamin has a much different life. Besides the rare occurrence of a feature on other artists’ works or the occasional video of him playing his flute surfacing online, he’s essentially vanished from the media. 

No one really knew what André 3000 was up to — until now.

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    With a runtime of an hour and 27 minutes packaged into eight tracks, “New Blue Sun” shows that Benjamin’s passion for music is now directed toward wind instruments rather than rap. 

    He said in an interview with GQ that rapping feels almost inauthentic for him now and that creating flute music was the most honest thing he could create.

    After diving into the music, it’s clear that three stacks has the whole “no bars” thing figured out.

    This music is something you could meditate to. You could fall asleep to it. It would also fit really well as the soundtrack of a nature documentary.

    While that could sound like a backhanded compliment, it is everything but that. “New Blue Sun” is a transcendental and calming record. It seems to be influenced by nature, as each of these songs has the ability to teleport the listener to a different environment in the wilderness, whether it be a rainforest during a muggy summer day or a mountain range on a stormy night.

    Co-produced by Carlos Niño, this record features an array of instrumentation that gives the music a very natural feeling. Niño is credited with using gongs, chimes, cymbals, bells and even plants to do this. 

    Benjamin’s contributions tend to be the leading voice of the instrumentation on various flutes and digital wind instruments. He’s also notably credited on “Panther toning” on the third track of the album.

    The album also boasts unique track titles bound to spark conversation. 

    The opening song, I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time,” phenomenally sets the tone for the following seven tracks. The first three minutes are a subtle rise up until Benjamin’s digital wind instrument beautifully emerges for its first appearance.

    The third song, That Night in Hawaii When I Turned Into a Panther and Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t Was Wild,” is a very immersive listening experience. 

    Benjamin’s contrabass flute improvisations mixed with repeated bass drum hits in the background of the track create and maintain a feeling of unease throughout the song. 

    Simultaneously, Niño’s contributions on percussion create natural sounds of ruffling leaves and blowing wind. The combination puts the listener into a jungle when it’s pitch black at night. The added panther toning polishes that off.

    One last highlight of this album is the 17-minute outro track, “Dreams Once Buried Beneath the Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens.” In the previously mentioned GQ interview, Benjamin said he gave the song this title because it sounds like an “enchanted garden” — and it does.

    Possibly more than any other song on this album, this song achieves deep tranquility; it feels like a true escape from reality.

    At the 11-minute mark, the melody starts to gradually rise for two minutes when we reach the true epitome of “New Blue Sun” at the 13:30 timestamp. At this point, it feels that all of the instruments are contributing to a greater, profound purpose. 

    After those two minutes of poetry in musical form, the new blue sun starts setting, as the song fades into silence.

    Gradual fades, both to and from silence, are a touch added to every song on this album. This way, when listening to the album from beginning to end, listeners may barely notice one song move into the next; it feels like one collective stream of music.

    This shows how much attention to detail Benjamin had when creating this record, and that is why the music thrives. You can feel the passion for this music when listening.

    Benjamin could’ve done what many other rappers have done when they’ve felt uninspired: Keep making more rap albums for money. 

    That was more than an option for him, considering that Outkast’s 2003 record, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” is the best-selling rap album ever.

    This album is an embodiment of where André 3000, a man who rose to stardom before he was 20 years old, is at with his life right now. Outkast’s music was showy, flashy and braggadocious — likely how Benjamin felt at that time. But now, he seems to have mellowed out into a peaceful soul desiring a normal life while doing what makes him happiest: creating.

    “New Blue Sun” is a beautifully composed musical representation of who André 3000 is. It’s special music. 

     

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    Jack Larson, Assistant buzz Editor
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