A couple of weeks ago, one of the greatest rhythmic Shakespearian sonnet rhetoricians announced plans to release a solo album. After a much-hated hiatus from the legendary group OutKast, André 3000 is back. André has released some verses here and there over the last 20 years, however, this announcement was much different – we were in for a full André 3000 solo album. Talk about heart palpitations, omg. Bro, the rap purist in me did cartwheels; I couldn’t believe this was happening.
When mentioned with the other GOATs, the only knock on André’s musical legacy thus far has been his lack of a solo album. It’s public opinion, and not a personal knock in my opinion, the work he put in from 1994 to 2010-ish put him in unicorn status — OutKast’s discography is way more valuable than all the stolen gold in Fort Knox. BUT! Here is where the ride gets tricky, because this is a huge (non-BBL) but: Andrè explained that this new release would not be a rap album, instead New Blue Sun is an album of him entirely playing the flute. Yes, really. No bars, no bass, no drums, no hook, no melody — Nathan, Nathaniel, nada.
Upon hearing this news, after regaining consciousness and asking God why He’s forsaken me, I had a lot of questions. A flute album? Flute codeword for? …I don’t know, man. This is the same brother who told me, “My mind warps and bends, floats the wind, count to ten, meet the twin Andrè Ben, welcome to the lion’s den, original skin, many men comprehend, I extend myself so you go out and tell a friend”.
You don’t have no raps, dawg? You? Man…
Then Andrè gave GQ his reasoning for the lack of raps:
“I’ve worked with some of the newest, freshest, youngest, and old-school producers. I get beats all the time. I try to write all the time,” Andrè told the magazine. “Even now people think, oh, man, he’s just sitting on raps, or he’s just holding these raps hostage. I ain’t got no raps like that. It actually feels… sometimes it feels inauthentic for me to rap because I don’t have anything to talk about in that way. I’m 48 years old. And not to say that age is a thing that dictates what you rap about, but in a way it does. And things that happen in my life, like, what are you talking about? ‘I got to go get a colonoscopy.’ What are you rapping about? ‘My eyesight is going bad.’ You can find cool ways to say it, but…”
Couldn’t believe what I was reading. One of the most creative and original rhythmic orators of all time claiming he has nothing to rap about, because of age? André, yes, I do want to hear you rap about your colonoscopy. I indeed want to imagine the verbiage you would confabulate about such a horrid experience. In fact, I want to hear all the middle-aged 3000 bars. I want to know how your eye doctor appointments went. Have you had a tough time shopping for car insurance? Absolutely I want you to rhyme about how you couldn’t find anything on your shopping list at Trader Joe’s. I think that’s cool Dre, because me too.
What’s the dating scene like for a 48-year-old musical genius who travels the world playing flute in suspenders and a beanie? I bet those stories are intoxicating. And while I have to respect his stance (and I do), I was just a little disappointed as a fan. I figure he raised me from a young man with invaluable wisdom, I’m just looking for the same life counsel as a grown man. Respectfully.
One of my other GOATs, Lil Wayne, got wind of Andrè’s comments and called it, “depressing.” Again, I am completely okay (not) with André’s decision to not rap (okay).
This is where I’d like to point out that there are a bunch of middle-aged rappers having a second wind in music right now. Nasir Jones is in his third act. I’ve heard grumblings of people saying the albums he’s released with Hit-Boy rival some of his earlier work. Nas, my favorite rapper, is 50 years young. He has been giving grown-man bars about maturing and developing, while still being reflective of his past perspective that some in rap music have never seen, as hip-hop never got the chance to age. At least not looking this good, not smelling this nice, not being a venture capitalist, billionaire, and Black? The boy Nas is as sharp as he’s ever been, with no signs of slowing down.
Rap alien Black Thought, aka Tariq Trotter, is still owning every track he steps to at 52 years young. He released his first solo project at 40 while still being an active member of the legendary Roots crew. Black Thought has more raps than you have hairs on your head, and his peak is not receding.
Killer Mike, 48 years young, released — in my opinion — the album of the year in 2023. The self-titled Michael is a flag from the Westside of Atlanta planted in the middle of Earth. Mike is an OutKast protege whose career ultimately took off (with help from El-P and their group Run The Jewels) in his late thirties. Mike leaves no stone unturned, giving his adult perspective while also explaining his fuckups as a yute. Feels like more a compassionate uncle rather than an old head preaching at you.
Ricky Ross, 47 years young, has been keeping us abreast of a life of luxury while elucidating the importance of the Black firedollar. Rosay got a late start in his thirties with his debut album Port of Miami, which has stood more than the test of time. Ross still has some young content due to the nature of his music, but he sprinkles a lifeline about success and perseverance in there every now and again.
Benny, Conway, Westside, Boldly, Ransom, J Cole, Weezy, Skyzoo, hell even Busta Rhymes released an album last week — all rappers in their late thirties or forties still dedicated to making music, and I admire them for it. Also, key point, so do audiences of all ages. The thing is, hip-hop doesn’t have to be just a young man’s game. Much like LeBron dominating the NBA at 38, the audience you cultivated in your early twenties is still around, looking for seasoning in a way only Andrè could provide. There should be a country for old rappers, with a pension, corner office, and lifelong adulation as the blueprint.
I was on a field trip in sixth grade when I first heard “Elevators” by OutKast, riding a school bus I sneaked my discman on. At the time, I was listening to The Big Tymers’ “How U Luv That.” (Classic, should’ve went triple.) The kid next me had this funny looking disc with what looked like a genie and a gangster on the cover. After a while, we switched albums. When I finally heard ATLiens it’s like… I can’t explain it, but I started seeing life differently. It was as if that album found me, rather than me finding it. I had a vision. It kind of felt like being a raven of Odin or Brandon Stark, I was everywhere and nowhere all at once. The world was crumbling around me, but i was safe and all I could hear was;
“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
But until they close the curtain, it’s him and I, aquemini”
After I wrote those last sentences out I realized the immense pressure André 3000 must feel. Because, no matter what he raps, he’s always gonna be held to the standard of his earlier work.
Wow, my bad Drè.
Again, to André, I’d like to say I understand. I appreciate everything you have done for me. Your verse on “Life of The Party” about your mom spoke to my soul after my dad passed. I listened to it for hours at a time, wishing I could just say something to him one last time. It really helped me cope, so for that, and so many other reasons, I want nothing but success, happiness, and a life of opulence for you. Truly heartwarming to see a dude from Atlanta traveling the world, playing a flute. The Black Boy Joy is overwhelming. That’s fire, and New Blue Sun is a whole vibe. In true ATLlien fashion, the song titles are trippy. I put the album on to do some meditating/study and I zone out. With all that being said… if ever you do want to rap, I’ll be here, pleighboi.