After Viral Outkast Video, Nu Deco Concerts Celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop
If you’re a fan of both Outkast and orchestral instruments, the end of 2023 really delivered.
Back in November, André 3000 surprised the world by releasing his first solo album, New Blue Sun, an 87-minute-long experimental flute album that topped Billboard‘s New Age Albums chart and ended his 17-year musical hiatus. Though the album was well-received, it’s safe to say it wasn’t exactly what fans had in mind for André 3000’s return.
“It’s the first time one of these suites has been shared by the source creator,” Nu Deco cofounder and composer Sam Hyken tells New Times. “When you have that, so to speak, stamp of approval on an artistic level, it’s extraordinarily gratifying.”
Shortly after the Outkast clip made the rounds, a clip of the ensemble’s collaboration with Masego and Devin Morrison went viral in its own right, garnering 6.5 million views to date on Nu Deco’s Instagram page. And at 451,000 views, the collaboration has outpaced the Outkast suite on YouTube by more than 100,000 views.
As a result, much like its hometown in recent years, Nu Deco Ensemble is attracting lots of outside interest. [embedded content] The orchestra’s Instagram followers have ballooned to 180,000 in the past four months, up from just shy of 29,000 back in September. According to Derek Wallace, vice president of advancement and operations, Nu Deco’s YouTube subscribers have almost doubled as a result of the two clips, growing from roughly 29,000 to more than 53,000.
Instagram comment sections are typically where joy goes to die, but Hyken says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. He’s even seen reaction videos cropping up on TikTok. “Watching people talk about your orchestra in real-time, it’s very special,” he adds.
The IRL results of that online attention will be made tangible at a string of shows at the Citadel February 9-11. Scheduled long before the ensemble’s videos spread on social media, the seven-show series, dubbed “Nu Deco Lounge: 50 Years of Hip Hop,” will mark the genre’s landmark anniversary with orchestral performances of music by Timbaland, Dr. Dre, and, of course, Outkast. Hyken says the organization had initially planned four shows — two on Friday and two on Saturday — but it added a Saturday matinee and two Sunday concerts owing to popular demand stemming from the viral clips.
Hyken cofounded Nu Deco Ensemble with conductor Jacomo Bairos in 2015, and they’ve collaborated with artists of varying degrees of visibility across the spectrum of genres. Two past collaborators, singer-songwriter Jacob Collier and indie-pop duo Lucius, were last seen on the Grammy stage backing Joni Mitchell alongside Brandi Carlile and Allison Russell.
Hyken says it’s common for fans of the ensemble’s collaborators to go out of their way to see their concerts even if they’re unfamiliar with Nu Deco, as their collaborations are typically one-weekend-only affairs. Following the success of the Outkast and Masego videos, the organization says people purchased tickets to the hip-hop shows from 30 states, including Florida.
“The fact that this is a concert we’re doing completely on our own [with] no guest collaborator — just Nu Deco Ensemble — and still, you’re getting that demand from people for this concert, it’s really exciting,” says Hyken. He adds the experience will pay tribute to other aspects of hip-hop culture with a photography exhibition, breakdancing, and sets by DJs Agent Fade and D.Luxe.
The shows will also provide an increasingly rare chance to see Nu Deco in a smaller setting. The ensemble has worked its way up from the intimate Light Box in Wynwood to the expansive Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, New World Center, and Miami Beach Bandshell, but its Citadel shows are limited to a capacity of about 200.
Hyken says playing intimate hometown shows while attracting attention to Miami’s cultural output aligns perfectly with Nu Deco’s goals. “Although we’re serving our community here in Miami, we want to take our mission outside of Miami, too, and really represent Miami,” he explains. “Not only are we serving our community here, but we’re bringing people to our community and bringing people all together within the fellowship of music. So, the fact that they’re coming from all over the country just makes it even sweeter for us. Just feels amazing.”
Nu Deco Ensemble.7 and 9:30 p.m., Friday, February 9; 4, 7, and 9:30 p.m., Saturday, February 10; and 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, February 11; at the Citadel, 8300 NE Second Ave., Miami; nu-deco.org. Tickets cost $50.