André 3000 to headline 2024 Atlanta Jazz Festival with 'New Blue Sun' performance

André 3000

André 3000 will perform his ambient jazz album, “New Blue Sun,” at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 27.

Dervon Dixon / Dervon Dixon

This year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival features one of hip-hop’s greatest rappers as a headliner — André 3000.

The Atlanta native and icon took a step back from the hip-hop duo OutKast nearly two decades ago. Since then, he has created a new path for himself, playing wind instruments. 

In the early 1990s, high schoolers André Benjamin and Antwan Patton joined forces and became OutKast. The two, who went by André 3000 and Big Boi, changed the landscape of hip-hop and helped put music from the city of Atlanta on the map. 

“Me and Big Boi used to pray literally every night ‘Lord, really, really, we just want to be good rappers,’” André told GQ Magazine in a 2023 interview. “That was our prayer. It was called a rapper’s prayer.” 

The duo prayed, and they were answered. 

OutKast reached a pinnacle of success in the music industry, both in their artistry and mainstream popularity. 

Last year, the group’s sixth album, “Speakerboxxx/TheLoveBelow,” was named the best-selling rap album of all time by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Since his OutKast days, André has appeared on various guest features, including Beyoncé’s “Party” in 2011 and Drake’s ”The Real Her” in 2014.

But his appearances as a rapper have been thin on the ground. 

“I can’t put anything else out in the world if I’m not excited about it because how can I expect you to be excited about it? How can I expect you to think, ‘Oh, this is raw?’” he told GQ.

And he’s since opened up in various interviews about his mental health and how it’s contributed to a new version of himself. 

“As far as anxiety and that kind of thing, yes, I have been diagnosed with that,” André told NPR’s Rodney Carmichael in a 2023 interview. “I just use it as an instrument, just like it uses me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these, what they call ‘ailments’ and all this kind of stuff.”   

Around 2018, he began reemerging. 

Strangers on the streets of New York started catching André playing various flutes and posting about their sightings on social media. He also released some work with wind instruments on SoundCloud around the same time.

Then, last November, he debuted his new creative path through his first ambient jazz album, “New Blue Sun.”

According to Decatur-based music journalist Maurice Garland, it was natural for André to grow in other areas. 

“I think he kind of just got to the point where he might have felt, ‘Okay, I think I’ve pushed every boundary that I can personally, in this particular genre of music, let me step outside of this completely, and create in another space,’” Garland said. 

But Garland says that not all André’s fans are keeping up with his new endeavor. “It’s a little too soon to tell if there’s a new audience being built,” he said. 

Some fans are down for the ride, though. Clarissa Brooks went to school in Atlanta and grew up listening to OutKast. She attended one of André’s recent concerts, where he premiered his new music live.

“I very much had that feeling of like, ‘Yeah, I didn’t have this as something I was looking forward to,’” Brooks said. “But now that it’s here, I’m excited to listen to it and to interact with it.”

More people will have a chance to hear André and decide for themselves at the Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Camille Russel Love, the festival’s director, said she believes André holds a special place in the Atlanta community, so booking him made sense. 

“I thought, you know, God, how wonderful would it be, if we could get him to perform for Atlanta audiences,” she said. “The festival is free, and what that would mean is that anybody could see him, everybody could see him.”

André 3000 will perform his latest project, “New Blue Sun,” live at Piedmont Park on the festival’s final day, May 27.