There exists a select school of musicians alive today whose proven artistry and long-lived influence are so pronounced and well-respected that even the most experimental detour from their expected direction becomes the work of creative intrigue and further additions to their respected collections. André 3000 is undeniably one of those artists, and his Mother’s Day release, Look Ma No Hands, is one of those unexpected but very much welcomed experimental deliveries.
Before we dive in too much, it’s important to remember that throughout André’s solo career, his countless collaborations, and first and foremost, the Outkast era, André has always been someone much bigger than a rapper or even a hip-hop artist. His music has long been informed by soul, R&B, jazz, rock, pop, and every other stylistic definition. While his influence has been so grand on all of music, that it’s difficult to define any movement without acknowledging his affect. So, as experimental and unexpected as Look Ma No Hands may seem, it is still very much within the range of his boundless wheelhouse.
The two-part project, heavily derived from André’s particularly jazzy influences as well as James Blake’s who provides the keys for the 17-minute instrumental titular track, is an emotional ride worthy of the day for which it is dedicated. Open, honest, and raw are both tracks, giving way at times to André’s heartfelt, soul-driven lyricism and vocals, and at others to his equally emotion-evoking jazz saxophone.
A lot of attention has come to the mini project, and with good reason. It’s increasingly rare to be gifted a taste of André’s immense talent, and with the bold creative direction of this one, a lot of people are wondering what, other than an emotional dedication, it all signifies. Will there be more of this stylistic approach in the future? Is this simply a one-off kind of experimental blip?
With the steady rise of jazz and neo-soul in the modern sphere of popular music, the release has been met with particularly open arms, and if André wants anything further to do with jazz’s big steps into the modern limelight, it’s clear that he would have no trouble converting a lot of his massive fan base into die-hard jazz and soul listeners.
Whatever the future may hold for André 3000, for James Blake, for jazz and neo-soul, let us first remember that this day is foremost about appreciating our roots. We can worry about music tomorrow. Today is about mothers.