Andre 3000 has been breaking our hearts for some time now.
Last year, in August, he called rap a “hobby,” and said he’d be “totally fine” if Outkast never released another album together.
In October, he offered up the smallest of small slivers of hope, admitting that the only regret he would have on his deathbed is never putting out that “album that you wanted to do.” But he just as quickly extinguished the likelihood of its existence with one self-deprecating confession after another: “I never was, to me, a great producer or a great writer or a great rapper.” (Huh?) “I never totally dedicated myself to anything.” (Sure you have!) “I’ve always been a jack-of-no-trades.” (Please stop.)
And yet, 2016, the year prior to these admissions, was peppered with more than just a handful of guest appearances that would certainly (and curiously) challenge his claim of “hat[ing]” the studio. It wasn’t just Kanye West’s “30 Hours” off The Life of Pablo, but Frank Ocean’s “Solo (Reprise)” from Blonde. Not just Travis Scott’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight cut “The Ends,” but Solange’s “Junie” off A Seat At The Table. And not just A Tribe Called Quest’s “Kids…” from their final We Got It From Here… LP, but two contributions, “By Design” and “The Guide,” to Kid Cudi’s Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. (Plus, there was the verse on last year’s “Rollinem 7’s” from N.E.R.D. that Pharrell had to confront Andre’s wary trepidation with by simply saying, “I don’t give a shit.”)
All this, from a man who says: “I’m not on the pulse.”
All this from a man who, yesterday, not only proved his ability to still get inspired as a solo act, but to urgently create from said stimulation. Even if painful. Even if “off-brand.”
As many celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday (May 13), Andre honored the holiday by emerging from his relative reclusiveness to share two new tracks, neither of which feature the charismatic or expeditious bars that have warranted him a spot in “great” debates—you know, the “of all time” kind—and one of which features no vocals at all.
And while, by all other standards, from all other artists, that move would usually mark an act of defiance, a passive-aggressive “shhh” to our prodding pleas, for Andre, it’s the opposite. Yes, self-satisfying, but certainly not malicious. In fact, the songs aren’t for us at all. Odes to his deceased parents, they likely don’t even denote a return to music or a forthcoming solo project. Instead, they are unguarded and emotional homages that we’re privy to witnessing.
“Me&My (To Bury Your Parents)” is a piano ballad on which Three Stacks sings, detailing his differing relationship with each parent as he rode with them “shotgun,” and “Look Ma No Hands” is a 17-minute ever-changing jazz journey that boasts James Blake on piano and Andre himself on bass clarinet. (He plays the same instrument on the former track, too).
Sure, there isn’t any output that Andre could unveil that wouldn’t leave us salivating for excess, but now is not the time to ask. We’ll get our moment. This is his.
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