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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

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André 3000’s ‘New Blue Sun’ calms, terrifies

Former Outkast member starts career anew
Rapper André 3000 performing on stage at the Rock’n’Heim Rock Festival. His new album “New Blue Sun” is his first album in 20 years. (Wikimedia Commons)

“Even the sun goes down, heroes eventually die / Horoscopes often lie / and sometimes ‘y’ / Nothin’ is for sure, nothin’ is for certain / nothin’ lasts forever” 

André 3000 may be one of the most influential musicians to the state of music today, and fans have been waiting for his first solo record since he first arrived on the scene in the early ‘90s.

André 3000’s new album, “New Blue Sun,” released Friday and features absolutely none of what made him famous. 


After being booed while winning Best New Artist at the 1995 Source Awards, André Benjamin – also known as André 3000, Three Stacks and (at least to me) the GOAT – stood in front of the crowd, all of whom were rooting for someone else, and boldly proclaimed “the South got something to say” before walking off stage. 

From that moment on, Benjamin, as a part of the hip-hop duo Outkast, has become one of the most important, influential and best rappers of the past few decades.

The group released genre-creating classics like “Stankonia,” “ATLiens” and “Aquemini” throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s.  

Following up those albums, Outkast released the 40-track, over two hour long “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” its most financially successful record. The release was a tale of two albums, one by each performer stuffed into one package. 

After that, 2006’s “Idlewild” was a film soundtrack for a film of the same name starring the duo. A creative feat, the film and album are some of the most creative hip-hop releases the genre has seen.

But, after “Idlewild,” it was radio silence for Benjamin. His Outkast partner Big Boi went on to release solo work, but Benjamin didn’t release a solo album for almost 20 years. 

Beside random features on major name tracks, Benjamin was gone. 


A gemini, the twin, there are two sides to everything Benjamin does.

In a 2020 YouTube interview with Rick Rubin, Benjamin announced that he had no plans to release solo music. 

On Tuesday, he announced otherwise, according to NPR

Benjamin’s first solo album “New Blue Sun” is devoid of the bars he is known for. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he fell off. He just isn’t rapping anymore. 

Joined by percussionist Carlos Niño, guitarist Nate Mercereau, Surya Botofasina on keys and Deantoni Parks on drums, the record isn’t full of the heavy bangers one expects from Benjamin.

Playing all sorts of flutes and other wind instruments in an ambient jazz record, Benjamin seems to be in a trance here. 

The 12-minute intro track, “I swear, I Really Wanted to Make A ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time,” feels like the background to a yoga class or a meditation. 

Simple cafe-sounding percussion drifts in and out of the song, mimicking the listless synths and wandering flute, starting soft and moving from apparent to almost dissipated. 

Pairing a lo-fi soundscape with the epically produced tracks, Benjamin creates an aura so full of motion – the album feels like floating through a cloud. Sprinkly synths, vibrating with a peaceful tranquility, lull you to rest, sleep or to answers you’ve been searching for. 


Benjamin isn’t rapping here, but he is for sure paying homage to his rap days. Each track has a punchline in its name. 

The last track specifically calls back to his time workshopping music in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, in a basement he and his friends nicknamed “The Dungeon.”

The third track, “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 10-minute flute ballad with atemporal drum hits. To the track’s name, it doesn’t sound like a panther – until it does.

About seven-and-a-half minutes in, an intense breath, almost like a slow snarl, emerges from the mix – “Purring Tones,” one could say. Obviously, Benjamin isn’t improvising on his flute with the mindset that he is in the process of turning into a panther. But the slow evocation of the baited, intensive breath leads me back to the idea that may as well he could be. 

Where the first three tracks set the tone for the record, track four, “BuyPoloDisorder’s Daughter Wears A 3000® Button Down Embroidered,” gets the most into free jazz territory. 

Benjamin’s flute playing is all over the place, jumping between scales, long rests and strange intervals. The growing synths make the track unnerving and nightmarish like something is watching you. 

Five minutes in, the flute starts to sound like a cuckoo clock, counting the time down to some unknown event. 

The growing terror reveals an explosive synth with percussion flying throughout the track. But, when the quiet returns, so does the cuckoo, cuckoo of the clock-like flute, hinting another strike is on the way. 

Waiting and waiting until 30 seconds of the track is left, there, silence fills the rest of the playtime. Well, silence and absolute terror. 


“BuyPoloDisorder’s Daughter Wears A 3000® Button Down Embroidered” may possibly be the most visceral reaction I’ve ever had to a piece of music. 

Unfortunately, after that track, the next three compositions are underwhelming. 

“Ninety Three ‘Til Infinity And Beyoncé” is a weirdly placed three-minute fluff piece placed in the middle of moving long takes. 

Despite its dramatic,“Ghandi, Dalai Lama, Your Lord & Savior J.C. / Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, And John Wayne Gacy” is an entirely forgettable track. 

“Ants To You, Gods To Who ?” is more of the same. It has moments where all of the pieces come together, but the track as a whole doesn’t feel right. The emotional and atmospheric story just don’t cohere. 

The last song on the album, “Dreams Once Buried Beneath The Dungeon Floor Slowly Sprout Into Undying Gardens,” was the first piece of the album recorded, according to an interview with GQ.

This track feels like a thesis statement, encapsulating and explaining the album. 

At times, it is gloriously beautiful, a triumph in the ambient and lo-fi fields. The flecks of chimes and clicky percussion pair with keys so soft and round that it feels like being hugged and reborn all at once. 

In other places, it drags, letting the slow meditative trances take over. The song – and yes, the album as a whole – can become overly grandiose, reveling in its magnitude as a work of supreme patience and depth. The orchestral dirge the song hits at its climax is verbose without words, complex in its simplicity and still captivating beyond explanation. 

The album dives into Benjamin’s mind, a place that while genius often needs to be held in check. It’s why his pairing with the notoriously stable and consistent Big Boi worked. It’s why his solo works – the few that have been released – sprawl into realms probably unattainable to plebian minds like mine. 

The silence at the end of the record is deafening. 

Like peering toward the top of an ancient chapel covered in historic art, listening to “New Blue Sun” is an experience that connects you with something higher – something deeper – and leaves you full of more questions, more fear, but also, more hope, more gaiety. 

I cannot tell if I like the album or not, if it’s good or bad. But, I can feel it pulsing through me, calming me, filling me with fear, reminding me of the existence of life and all it holds and that it too will eventually fade to nothing. 

“Even the sun goes down, heroes eventually die / Horoscopes often lie / and sometimes ‘y’ / Nothin’ is for sure, nothin’ is for certain / nothin’ lasts forever”

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