For almost two decades, Big Boi has blended sonic advancements with peak lyricism. Since unveiling Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in ‘94, he and OutKast partner-in-rhyme Andre 3000 constantly evolved their styles, always pushing the boundaries and beyond. In 2010, one of the year’s finest albums, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, solidified what had been blatantly obvious for sometime; though often overlooked due to the fanfare and mystique surrounding Dre: standing on his own, Big Boi remains one of the singular talents hip-hop has to offer. With his latest effort, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, the 37-year-old Dungeon Family elite again tackles fresh sonic landscapes while remaining nimble with verbal wizardry.
Much of the album blurs the lines between hip-hop and other musical genres. There are moments, however, that don’t completely surprise. It’s reminiscent of outputs Daddy Fat Sax or Kast have released at other points during their career. For starters, Sleepy Brown’s silky vocals on “The Thickets” conjure feelings of past hits, while the T.I. and Ludacris-assisted “In The A” thumps as a city anthem, with three of the Dirty’s finest. More frequently, though, Big Boi proves he’s able to remain progressive without compromising his roots.
Swedish band Little Dragon and American indie rock duo Phantogram—as well as the female vocalists from each—play a key role in coloring mood of the album. They appear, separately, on five tracks out of a total 14. “CPU,” with Phantogram, offers an electronically infused funk with lyrics grappling with technological advances and their affects on human interaction to match; an extension of Aquemini’s “Synthesizer.” Later, “Thom Pettie”—alongside Little Dragon and Killer Mike—comes across fittingly for today’s musical landscape, but also plays as a continuation of the many nonconformist collabs between Big and Bigga.
General Patton also reveals a level of emotional transparency that offers new insight into his personal life. Strengthened by a characteristically somber and melodic hook from Kid Cudi, “She Hates Me” alludes to the ups and downs of a relationship, and ends with Big Boi getting his grown man on: “Forgive me if I raise my voice, I won’t raise a hand/But one thing I will do, baby, is raise my little man.” The album’s final two songs continue this development. The pop ballad “Tremendous Damage” assumes an inspirational quality and finds Big lamenting over the death of his father; “Descending,” again with Little Dragon, shares similar sentiments.
While Andre 3000’s scarcity and eccentricity have allowed him to function within his own space, Big Boi has for years been understood by and large in the context of OutKast. As he continues to innovate and stimulate, though, thanks to another strong solo effort with Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, the ATLien leaves no doubt that even if another Kast album never happens, and even if an Andre solo effort never comes to fruition, Big Boi should have no problem adding to his legacy. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)