Andre 3000 plays Atlanta Jazz Festival on his 49th birthday

Andre 3000 plays flute onstage at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 27, 2024.

Credit: John Stephens

Credit: John Stephens

Andre 3000 plays flute onstage at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 27, 2024.

The anticipation to see OutKast member Andre 3000 play the Atlanta Jazz Festival was high all Memorial Day Weekend at Piedmont Park.

At 7:03 p.m. Monday, when the enigmatic rapper/actor Andre 3000 started performing at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, it wasn’t “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh, So Clean” or other massive OutKast hit records the crowd witnessed live.

Instead, on his 49th birthday, Andre gifted the audience a vibed-out show of ambient sounds, similar to what fans heard on “New Blue Sun,” the nine-time Grammy winner’s debut solo album of meditative woodwind-driven instrumentals released in November.

During the show, Andre rotated between his collection of flutes and horns, even briefly hopping behind the xylophone.

“It’s really an expression of freedom,” he said of his live musical show.

Andre 3000 kneels onstage while playing flute at the 2024 Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 27, 2024.

Credit: Courtesy photo/John Stephens

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Credit: Courtesy photo/John Stephens

Andre and his bandmates, including percussionist Carlos Nino, keyboardists Surya Botofasina and Nate Mercereau, and drummer Deantoni Parks, took the stage from behind seven vertical mirrors. Sporting thick facial hair, blue-framed sunglasses, a long sleeve duck hunting shirt over striped overalls, and headphones arched over his red toboggan, the eccentric rapper-turned-flautist’s appearance was almost reminiscent of 1970s-era James Brown.

His band played a snippet of the “New Blue Sun” song, “I swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album But This is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time,” before improvising the rest of the show.

The effect was a smorgasbord of new age sounds, full of gongs, rumbling bass drums, cymbal crashes, animal growls, bamboo leaves rubbing, congas and wind chimes.

“We’re completely making everything up as we go along,” Andre 3000 said in his thick Southern accent from the stage. “We never know what the night is going to sound like, but it’s refreshing for us.”

Andre’s performance was briefly a trending topic on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, during and after the show.

Over the weekend, Andre 3000 took time to reunite with members of the Dungeon Family at the Dungeon, the storied southwest Atlanta brick house where Rico Wade’s mother allowed the hip-hop and soul music collective to record music in her basement.

Now owned by Big Boi, the Dungeon is where OutKast first recorded songs as a duo.

During a bittersweet moment as he performed Monday, Andre paused to pay homage to Wade, who died in April. Andre told the crowd Wade’s constructive feedback is what helped him develop his skills as a hip-hop emcee and musician.

“Rico [Wade] raised me,” Andre 3000 said. “He made sure my raps were tight. I wouldn’t have the confidence to do any of this had it not been for the Dungeon Family.”

Several fans attended Andre 3000′s set wearing OutKast graphic t-shirts and group paraphernalia.

OutKast fans attend Andre 3000's live performance at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 27, 2024, in Piedmont Park.

Credit: Christopher Daniel

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Credit: Christopher Daniel

Snellville resident Dion Aldridge wore a baseball jersey with “Atliens,” the title of the pair’s double-platinum sophomore album, across the chest. A self-proclaimed “OutKast fan since day one,” Aldridge made Andre’s free Atlanta Jazz Festival show a family outing, attending with his wife and young daughter.

“I’m glad Andre is out here doing this and giving back to his fans,” Aldridge said. “We’re just making a day out of it.”

Renee Bentley wore a black t-shirt from the group’s 2000 album “Stankonia.” She said she was excited to experience his artistic evolution from rapper to musician.

“I like how he’s changed his genre to reflect the changes in his life,” Bentley said. “I’m here to see what that looks like.”

Some of OutKast’s younger fans were excited to see Andre 3000 in concert for the first time.

Kimoni Jiggetts, 20, said he became a fan while growing up hearing his dad play the group’s music in their house. Jiggetts added he’s impressed by Andre 3000 challenging himself creatively beyond his comfort zone.

“He’s an inspiration and someone who’s known for doing his own thing,” Jiggetts said. “He explores, and I appreciate anyone who takes pride in their creative process.”

Amari Carpenter, 20, appreciated seeing Andre 3000 as an example for achieving international success. “He’s an Atlanta legend,” Carpenter said. “As a native of Atlanta, this makes me super excited.”

Toronto native Aaron Gwynn showed off the OutKast logo tattooed on his left hand. He said he appreciated Andre 3000′s rap fans attending to see him perform experimental jazz music.

Toronto native Aaron Gwynn shows off the OutKast logo tattooed on his left hand before Andre 3000 performs at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 27, 2024.

Credit: Christopher Daniel

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Credit: Christopher Daniel

“He’s using beautiful art to express himself in a different way,” Gwynn said. “He’s the only artist here who can swerve in another direction, and people will follow him.

Nashville native Marcus Jones said Andre′s tenure in hip-hop has earned him the ability to try something new.

“Every artist evolves,” Jones said. “He’s been in the game since ‘94, and I congratulate him for trying something different.”