Culture & Entertainment

How André 3000's 'New Blue Sun' Reminded Me Of The Healing Power Of Black Ambient Music

If there’s one thing that I can say about the state of my mind, it’s that I’m overstimulated.

The world around us is, in essence, the loudest it's ever been, with distractions coming in all directions. From our phones to the news, social media, and the stress of everyday life, you’d almost wish for an “off” button. However, since life doesn’t come with a volume dial, it’s left me in a state of mental paralysis where even listening to music can be overwhelming.

As someone who loves listening to music, lately, it’s felt like a chore for my ears to take in all the lyrics, beats, and trending sounds played on a loop. Maybe it’s a sign of “aging out” of certain genres, but it has me longing for music that rescues me from the chaos of the world and restores a sense of calm back into my rotation.

And ambient music has become that savior.

Ambient music (also known as New Age) is a genre that centers atmosphere, mood, and tone over conventional musical structures and melodies. This amorphous and shapeless music style is often referred to as "background music" because it establishes an immersive and sonically rigid environment rather than being the primary focal point of the listener's attention. However, its ability to allow audiences to zone in or out at any moment is worth noting.

Many fans of ambient music retreat to this unique genre because of its prolonged tones or chords that produce minimalistic melodies that are repetitive yet unpredictable. And one artist in particular has reignited the genre in a whole new way.

Enter, André 3000. And his 'New Blue Sun.'

In November of last year, André 3000, one-half of rap duo Outkast, released his first album in 17 years, New Blue Sun. The project, which is a stark departure from his usual lyricism, is set by the New Age, ambient genre and showcases no words, no rapping: just the sound of his flute sidekick and gentle percussion.

"Maybe I haven't found a music that's inspiring enough for me to want to write raps to. Maybe I gotta find a new way to rap," he told CBS News. "Maybe I exhausted a thing… and sometimes you have to kind of try something else."

While fans — and even André — have grown accustomed to his infectious lyrics that guide the listeners into a trance of curiosity and eager expectation, being a vessel to this scared wind instrument is what’s come naturally to the “Prototype” rapper, and thus, became the compass to creating new music.

"I've gotten so used to it,” he says, referring to his flute. “I kind of have a muscle memory of holding it. So when I don't have it, like I'm trying to find something to do with my hands when I end up putting them in my pockets, you know, but because I'm used to kind of like fiddling around.”

He continued, "I don't even know what notes I'm playing. So everything, every move for me is new, which is kind of crazy, but it feels great to do it because when you find things, you're like, 'Oh, it's like a reward for searching.'"

As a first-time listener to New Blue Sun and ambient music as a whole, one may not know what to expect. André opens up his album with a song lengthily titled, “I swear, I Really Wanted To Make a ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time.” The 12-minute soundscape is airy, breathy, and celestial, in a way that is approachable for those new to the genre.

As the project continues, you may even catch your mind floating along with each melody, not knowing when one song ends and another begins — a common trait that’s shared among songs within the ambient category.

Ambient music, at times, feels psychedelic, yet jazzy and spiritual; with frequencies that paint colorful strokes with each note. The beauty of this genre is that it allows listeners to engage without getting answers to the questions they are seeking. Wordless music provides a special space to trace off and wander without thinking we’ll arrive at some conclusions by the end of a three-minute song.

It leaves room for pauses, zoning out, and coming back to the moment — and sometimes, that’s all our minds need in these hectic times.

The world is stressful as it is, but ambient music provides a lifeboat for moments when you want to drift away. It can be your background or your meditation, for processing or daydreaming.

So, if you’ve always wanted music that meets you where you are, ambient music just might be the perfect place to land.

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Featured image by Getty Images




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