“This has nothing to do with record business economics or Def Jam’s bottom line. As long as I have a job, he’ll always have a record deal.” — LA Reid on Big Boi (Didn’t Jay-Z once say the same thing about Memphis Bleek. Just saying.)
Big Boi put out the best solo album he possibly could, and it sounds like the boring Big Boi parts from a few different OutKast albums all stitched together. The label didn’t want to put it out, because they knew it didn’t have very strong commercial prospects, and that’s why it’s taken this long to release. Never mind all that BS you heard about the album not being LCD enough, and the TIs trying to put Big Boi’s career on hold, because he left Jive Records for Def Jam. This is yet another case of an artist’s ego run amok. It’s hardly any different from what happened to Lauryn Hill’s career post-Miseducation.
The TIs at Jive were understandably concerned about the fact that it’s been upwards of half a decade since the last OutKast album, and even longer since an OutKast album that’s worth a shit. Idlewild barely went gold, back before there was an excuse for that sort of thing – this despite the fact that the OutKast album before it went diamond-plus. Even if you don’t count the sale of two-disc set as two albums sold, you’d be hard pressed to find an artist who fell off as hard commercially. Label mate R. Kelly has been caught doing all sorts of foul shit with underage girls on several different occasions, and his career never sunk so low.
You can see why Jive Records, where OutKast landed after Laface Records went out of business or whatever, would want to keep them on a short leash: no more experimental bullshit, at least until you come up with another album people actually like, or, preferably, never. I could see if Idlewild had been viewed by some as a great album, just over people’s heads, or ahead of its time, but fucking nobody liked that album. You’d think pride would prevent them from trying to pull some shit like that ever again.
Indeed I suspect that pride was behind Big Boi’s decision to follow up Idlewild with a Big Boi solo album, rather than a proper OutKast. He knew that even if he could talk Andre 3000 into doing another group album, it would be some ol’ bullshit. The guy obviously lost the plot immediately after they turned in Stankonia. Never mind that nifty trick he pulls where spits a reasonably well thought out verse on the remixes to the most LCD of rap songs. It’s not like he wrote those songs, and it’s not like his verses would be nearly as impressive, if the bar hadn’t already set so low. It’s the hip-hop equivalent of playing pickup basketball with retarded kids to boost one’s ego – which I’d try, if I weren’t afraid I might lose. Big Boi was pissed at Andre 3000 for succumbing to Baduism and hence ruining their career, and so he decided to seek revenge by releasing a solo album to rival the great OutKast albums, i.e. Stankonia and parts of Aquemini.
The label could of course give a rat’s ass about whether Big Boi felt adequate, and who was primarily responsible for the commercial and artistic success of OutKast. They just wanted something they could sell, as evidenced by the fact that they signed off on a Big Boi album in the first place, as opposed to what would have been the first legit OutKast album in 10 years now. (Yikes!) They must have realized that they’d be waiting forever for Andre 3000 to get with the program, and who’s got forever at a time like this? It’s not like the music business is getting any stronger. They’re gonna fuck around and run out of people who don’t realize that paying for music is merely an option. A new OutKast album in 2008 could have been their Carter III. Fuuuuck.
Then Big Boi turned in Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (seriously, fuck that title), and they realized they had a problem on their hands. Namely, the fact that it sounds like the boring Big Boi parts from a few different OutKast albums all stitched together. They agreed to release it only under the condition that the one song he did with Andre 3000 be released as the lead single, and he didn’t go for it, because he knew it all but confirmed the fact that he’s worthless (relatively speaking) without Andre 3000. It’s was like what’s gonna happen when Big Pooh tries to get a deal now that Little Brother is broken up, and they’re like, “Is there any way you could get Phonte on the phone.” Admittedly, I’d be embarrassed too, if my entire career was dependent on someone else’s genius (if I had a career). Then I’d go home and roll around for a few hours on a bed made of money and naked women, because I’m not conceited like that.
The dead giveaway is the fact that Big Boi didn’t want to release the song with Andre 3000, but then when it looked like his album might get pushed back like John Legend’s weird hairline, he went and did a song with Gucci Mane. It was never about releasing something that was his own singular creative vision, it was about beating Andre 3000. Leaving Jive Records for Def Jam wasn’t a matter of him taking his proverbial marbles and going home, it was a matter of them cutting their losses. They tried to release a Big Boi album that would sell, and they failed. LA Reid may have felt otherwise, but lest we forget, he was let go from Arista for spending too much money on older, delusional artists.