Artist: Big Boi
Album: Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
True to Outkast form, Big Boi appears not to give a f*ck about being liked or understood on Vicious Lies and Dangeous Rumors. He keeps it funky, weird, and heartfelt with repeated references to his father’s passing, Tom Petty (yes, the old white dude with the raspy voice and sunken in face), and the all-encompassing encroachment of the information age on our lives.
Big Boi stands alone on only two tracks on this sophomore solo album and one of them is the one-minute intro, where he immediately clarifies that he is one half of Outkast. Big names like T.I., Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, A$AP Rocky, Kid Cudi, and B.o.B. will undoubtedly help album sales, but those expecting to hear anything resembling today’s popular hip-hop will be disappointed. Daddy Fat Sax and friends keep it pretty grimy except for the first single, “Mama Told Me,” which features Kelly Rowland. A live performance Friday on Jimmy Fallon confirmed Big Boi is in top form and this fun, poppy throwback will likely enjoy some mainstream success.
The majority of VLADR was produced by Chris Carmouche, who started as an intern at Stankonia Studios and won a Grammy for his work on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below within a few years. Subsequent nominations for 2010 work with Big Boi and Janelle Monae solidified his position as a force to be reckoned with, and he shines brightly under the guidance of the other-worldly Big Boi. His most prominent on the album is probably “Thom Pettie,” which is funny, interesting, and heavy on the bass. It will start a conversation and the kids will love to go around saying it, despite having no idea what it means. What makes the most sense about this track is Killer Mike absolutely smashing his verse. “CPU” is a fun, weird, chunky cut about concepts we’ve all pondered – interacting with people online who we don’t actually know in real life, and being enslaved by the information age. Lyrics like “I know it doesn’t seem too conventional but it’ll do until I get you in the physical” and a dramatic vocal from a woman (presumably the one on the other end of the exchange) will leave you thinking.
Other notable tracks include “Raspberries,” a production by Arthur McArthur (Drake, Big Sean, Rick Ross, Tyga, Game) that is somewhat nonsensical lyrically, but a homerun in terms of production. Bangers “Apple of My Eye” and “In the A” provide the head-bobbing psychedelic funk we’ve come to expect from Outkast, with the former arousing “Hey Ya”-style dance inspiration. “In the A” includes fellow ATLiens T.I. and Ludacris and makes up for a somewhat weak hook with hard hitting production and verses (although we’ve heard better from Luda). “Shoes for Running” is a political indie collabo featuring B.o.B. and Wavves, citing “the end is coming, I would race ya, but there’s no running, it’ll chase ya….death will hunt you down.” It’s more fun than you might think, and you won’t be able to stop listening to it. Bosko Kante, who has worked with E-40 for ten years, helps brings heart and enlightenment on the touching “Tremendous Damage.” The feel of the track aligns with the weighty title, but delivers a hook that feels like a delicious release when belted out loud behind closed doors.
We are confused and occasionally offended by his off-the-wall choices (not the least of which is the absence of Andre 3000), but the day we have Sir Lucious Left Foot all figured out is the day we’re no longer having fun.