In an exclusive interview with NPR Music’s Rodney Carmichael published this morning, musician André 3000 announced his debut solo album New Blue Sun, which the former member of OutKast will release this Friday, Nov. 17th!
In a conversation that explores this new album — its art includes a label warning that the album contains “no bars” — André reveals the mind-opening journey that led him to his current instrument of choice, the flute, and how it has allowed him to push his one-of-a-kind creative energy into new places.
It’s the first full-length André has released in 17 years, since OutKast’s sixth studio album Idlewild. And it’s part of an artistic evolution that has taken him from MC to multi-hyphenate icon.
“I didn’t know I’d be rapping,” he tells NPR. “I didn’t know I’d start producing. I didn’t know I’d start singing. I didn’t know my style would go a certain way. I didn’t know I’d put a wig on. Like, I didn’t know none of this. So, I’m on the ride with y’all.”
While the element of surprise has always been a strength of Andre’s repertoire, he acknowledges fans may be caught off guard by his latest departure. So he tackles the elephant in the room with the first song title: “I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time.”
“I don’t want to troll people. I don’t want people to think, Oh, this André 3000 album is coming! And you play it and like, ‘Oh man, no verses.’ So even actually on the packaging, you’ll see it says, ‘Warning: no bars.’ It’s letting you know what it is off the top.”
Though his feelings for rap haven’t diminished, he says it’s simply not where he is creatively.
“I love rap music because it was a part of my youth. So I would love to be out here with everybody rapping, because it’s almost like fun and being on the playground. I would love to be out here playing with everybody, but it’s just not happening for me. This is the realest thing that’s coming right now. Not to say that I would never do it again, but those are not the things that are coming right now. And I have to present what’s given to me at the time.”
In this hour-plus conversation with Carmichael, André is equally transparent and tangible, whether laughing about Tyler, the Creator’s funny response to his music, detailing the wild ayahuasca trip that had him purring like a panther in Hawaii or sharing the reason why he gets so many requests to play flute at funerals now.
Read selected quotes below. You can hear the entire interview and read an edited transcript of the conversation at NPR.org
Highlights from the interview:
Rodney Carmichael: I don’t know if fans always remember to take into account when we make these selfish demands for more music from artists that we love. In the last decade, you’ve lost both your mom and your dad and, more recently, your stepdad — who I know you’ve said was really an anchoring person in your life. That’s a lot of grief for anybody to hold, especially back to back. How did managing all of that changed you or impacted you as a person?
André 3000: Yes, it’s a lot … in the order that it happened. But it’s life too, man. The worst thing about it is you don’t expect it. It wasn’t anything that I could prepare for. But yeah, I’m happy to know that my parents and my stepfather are in their next phase of what’s happening, you know. At the time, it felt a lot. It was a lot. It was really, really heavy for me, but you get through it and you keep living. They exchange energy with you, so you kind of feel a boost in your back at the same time as if, you know, when they pass, they give it to you. So I can say, death makes you think about living. Death makes you push, you know.
[on the story behind the song titled “That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control. Shit Was Wild.”]
Rodney Carmichael: Now, I ain’t gonna lie, this sounds like a straight-up ayahuasca trip or something like that.
André 3000: I was actually in Hawaii and it was my second night of the first time I’d ever taken ayahuasca. We did it like a three-night kind of phase. The first night was inviting and beautiful and the most powerful love and connection with all things I’ve ever felt in my life. The second night was different and everybody knows that aya will do you that way. The second night my stomach was hurting, my mouth contorted like a panther and I actually turned into a panther. And I was doing like, GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. That kind of thing.
It was doing this thing called toning. Toning is another way of purging. And toning is where you make these vibrational noises that you can’t control. It started playing me like an instrument.