Does André 3000’s ‘New Blue Sun’ Signal a New Dawn for Musical Expression?

Known as one-half of Outkast, one of the best-selling rap groups of all time, André 3000 released the ambient, instrumental album 'New Blue Sun' in 2023. The record topped Grammy-winning drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. (left) and hip-hop artist Mr. Al Pete's (right) lists of best albums of the year | Courtesy of the artists
Listen to Mr. Al Pete and Ulysses Owens Jr. talk about New Blue Sun with WJCT arts and culture editor Matt Shaw

Fans of both Outkast and André 3000 have been begging for new music from the duo’s idiosyncratic cofounder. And in late November with New Blue Sun – his first album of new music in 17 years – André 3000 delivered. Sort of. 

Though it’s probably not exactly what we’d all been pining for, André 3000’s flute-forward, ambient, instrumental album is experimental and engaging, and in many ways transcendent. Longtime fans of Outkast know that the rapper-producer-turned-pop star’s experimental streak knows no bounds. And with New Blue Sun, André 3K’s sonic shift has drawn comparisons to spiritual jazz innovators like Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, as well as ambient electronic musicians of the more modern era. 

With all that in mind, New Blue Sun was one of the most talked about albums of 2023 and it was also, maybe surprisingly, one of the most listened to, charting shortly after its release and becoming arguably the most-interesting albums to land on the Billboard charts in years. 

Did we need this album more than we knew? Is it jazz? And what does it say about the state of music moving forward? What about the state of music moving forward? Jacksonville Music Experience contributors — the Grammy-winning drummer and educator Ulysses Owens Jr. and hip-hop artist, DJ and media mogul Mr. Al Pete — shared their thoughts with WJCT arts and culture editor Matt Shaw. They talk about André 3000’s continued impact on popular music and artistic innovation, the importance of creating a body of work and why they picked New Blue Sun as one of the best albums of 2023. Hit play at the top of the page to listen to the segment.

You can hear tracks from New Blue Sun on the Independent 89.9 HD4, WJCT’s new-music discovery station. Mr. Al Pete hosts The Neighborhood, Saturday nights at 9 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9.

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