Big Boi, one half of the rap duo OutKast — the less boisterous, more prolific, non-corporate-sponsored one — released his second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, on Tuesday. Looking down the track list one can see Big Boi has taken on a lot — it’s an ambitious project. He’s set out to unite the sounds of current indie alternative with southern rap. He has tracks featuring Little Dragon and Killer Mike, Phantogram and UGK. The songs that result are genre-bending and complex.
The conversations taking place between these very different artists are smooth, for the most part. Big Boi keeps his cool as a host, and makes a very cohesive album out of a lot of quirky and disparate elements.
The beats on the album are unique, funky, dark, and driving. Big Boi’s rapping is as intricate and immaculate as ever. He spits in a variety of flows over a variety of beats. He’s written some electro dance pop, dub-like electrosludge, sweeping harmonious ballads, electrocheese pop with an 80s synth harpsichord (“Mama Told Me (feat. Kelly Roland).” The album features an uncharacteristic amount of electronics for the man. OutKast has always been about hard-hitting beats and space alien bleeps and boops, but their songs rarely strayed far from their characteristic southern funk and soul feel. On Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, Big Boi stretches out and tries some heavy dance beats and indie ballads. Everything he tries works. It all sounds fresh.
Sometimes the transitions are a little piecemeal and patchwork. For example, in the song “Lines (feat. A$AP Rocky and Phantogram)", the transition out of A$AP Rocky’s verse into Phantogram’s chorus seems very sharp, very cut and paste. The parts of the song refuse to blend. Both of the parts are very good, but it almost sounds like a DJ has two turn tables, one with a Phantogram record and the other with a Big Boi record, and he’s cutting back and forth between them. This is not the case with all the indie rock/rap blends. The song that follows, “Shoes For Running (feat. Waaves and B.o.B.)” is very good, very seamless.
Even after 20 years in the game, Big Boi is still taking musical risks and pushing his sound. The man is not satisfied to sit back on the well-worn hip hop formulas that will produce reliable content for oldhead fans. This is the sign of a great artist. In an age where most artists have only a good two or three album run before they hit their rut, and few rappers nearing 40 are still making innovative music, I think this album is a great achievement.
The music is interesting and exciting, and while the album has its hiccups, Big Boi does a good job at smoothing these over. The man had a vision for the sound, and had a hand in crafting every part of the songs. He makes songwriting seem effortless and fun. The songs feel like they were fun to make. Big Boi’s love of the craft is present throughout.
During the OutKast days, Andre 3000 always seemed to be the true visionary of the two. He was always in the spotlight; he was the loudest, and most talked about. Big Boi rode on silently in his shadow, the perfectly technical and suave compliment to Andre’s quirkiness. Yet, Big Boi continues to release fantastic records, while Andre has settled into a comfortable Gillette posterchild role. Only in going solo has Big Boi gotten the acknowledgement he deserves. It really makes you rethink who the musical force behind OutKast really was.
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors will definitely cool out fans’ impassioned demands for another Outkast album.
Score: 8.5 golden wire Cadillac rims out of 10.