Be Imaginative: The André Effect

Attribute Three, Be Imaginative, tells us to dream big and think outside the box, which also leaves room for us to try new things.  Recently, I jumped back into singing, songwriting, and performing after a brief hiatus.  I needed a break.  I was so disillusioned with trying to make it as an independent artist: the constant posting on social media, fishing for gigs and/or performance activities, endless networking, and schmoozing.  It was exhausting.  

I was also going through a creative shift.  I’m a church girl…born and bred, but I’m a fan of many different genres of music, especially R&B and Neo-Soul.   Well, here I was, finally ready to jump back on the music train, but I was terrified of singing and writing anything other than gospel.  I wrote down some goals for myself in August of last year, and one of them was to perform somewhere other than church before the year was out.  Not even a month later, an opportunity for an R&B writer’s round came up, and I reluctantly reached out to the organizer.  Of course, just because I was banking on not being chosen, the organizer immediately responded and told me I was up for the show in December – just four months after setting my intention.  Great.  In addition to not having performed anywhere other than church in almost three years, all of the songs I had were new and completely different from anything my audiences had ever heard me write.  I was terrified, but I got inspiration from an unlikely place–André 3000.  

If you’re from Georgia and of a certain age, you probably know who Outkast is.  If not, they are arguably the best Hip Hop duo ever, and André 3000 is one-half of the group.  He’s always been known for his clever lyrics and eccentric style.  His fan base, which I was definitely a part of in my teens and 20’s, had been waiting on an album from him for almost 20 years, so when it was announced in late 2023 that we would finally get one, fans were elated.  What we didn’t expect, however, was the album we got.  

André, now 50 years old, recorded an album of flute music.  That’s right–flute music.  People were shocked. If you know anything about Hip Hop culture, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that people were seriously concerned about what this would do to his legacy as a rapper.  André didn’t seem to care, though.  He expressed, in a few interviews, that he really did try to write raps for this album, but because of where he was spiritually and personally, he was called to do something different and mindshifting. And the flute album was the culmination of his new and different perspective and creativity.  

What does this have to do with you and me?  Well, I figured if an artist as talented and decorated as André 3000 could step out of his comfort zone, risking his reputation and legacy to honor his evolution as a person and an artist, then surely I could take the same risk and honor my own evolution.  I’m sure he was probably nervous about doing this new venture, but I admire that he did it anyway.  He didn’t let the pressure of others’ expectations sway him from doing what felt right to him and exploring his creative curiosity.  That, in itself, made me throw caution to the wind and decide to just go for it.  I am so glad I did. The show went great, but even if it hadn’t, the sense of accomplishment that I felt from stepping out of my comfort zone was worth it.

Within 24 hours of releasing his new album, it had 3 million streams. In its first week of sales, it beat out other highly regarded rappers. But I’m not sure these numbers even matter because I think people were more impressed with the amount of courage and self-confidence it took for André 3000 to release this different type of art into the world.  That’s the lesson we can all learn from this and, hopefully, take into this new year. 

It doesn’t matter what you’re known for or what you’re comfortable doing.  If you’re feeling the urge to try something new, trust that urge and do it–even if you’re scared or nervous, or have some trepidation.  Do it because you’re never too old or too settled to try new things.  Do it because it’s part of your true, authentic self. Happy New Year, GSDers!