By John Lynch, Daily Arts Writer
Published December 11, 2012
It’s very possible that Antwan Patton — a.k.a. Big Boi, one half of the separated rap supergroup, OutKast — will never have another No. 1 hit. Thanks to the fleeting interest of Patton’s genius (yet frustratingly enigmatic) partner, André 3000, the world may never again hear the dominant duo that produced game changing, chart-topping songs like “Ms. Jackson” and “The Way You Move.”
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
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One listen through his second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, however, proves that Big Boi can still revolutionize the rap game without André or a hit single. Rather than shoot for the top of the charts with his songs — which, nowadays, seems to require a Rihanna hook, a 2 Chainz feature and several will.i.am adlibs on a track — Big Boi has quietly forged a cohesive and singular rap album through unexpected collaboration and bold experimentation.
With a guest list that ranges from rappers like Kid Cudi and T.I. to indie bands like Phantogram and Little Dragon, VLADR is a sonic melting pot of voices, verses and upbeat, electronic production. The album is a textured, colorful platform that wonderfully complements Big Boi’s vibrant, southern-drawl flow — which has been consistently on point since the first minutes of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in ’94.
On the poignant track, “She Hates Me,” Cudi fits in seamlessly and puts forth one of the best hooks of his career as Big Boi gives a personal, poetic view of an unconventional baby mama drama. The B.o.B. and Wavves featured song, “Shoes For Running,” works surprisingly well and (ironically) recalls OutKast’s single, “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad),” with its political content and lightning-paced, guitar-led beat.
The track that best exemplifies VLADR’s captivating collaborative spirit is “Thom Pettie,” which perfectly juxtaposes the gentle vocals of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano with a grimy, Dirty South beat and vicious rapping from Big Boi and his fellow Atlantan, Killer Mike. Similarly, the fittingly titled “In The A,” features Atlanta rappers T.I. and Ludacris trading ruthless verses with Big Boi over a menacing trap beat.
Phantogram, an electro-pop duo from New York, has a major influence on VLADR’s sound, and their three featured songs are the album’s standout tracks. The fantastic production on “Objectum Sexuality” and “CPU” is similar to that of Phantogram’s recent EP, Nightlife, with a darker sound and harder hip-hop drums. Phantogram singer Sarah Barthel’s vocals work impressively well on all three tracks, especially over the enthralling, alternating beats of the A$AP Rocky featured single, “Lines.”
After being consistently progressive and compelling through the first 11 tracks, VLADR nearly falls off its rails in the last three. On “Raspberries” and “Descending,” it seems like Big Boi was falling asleep in the booth while recording his vocals, which turn out to be gibberish essentially, and the off-key hook on “Tremendous Damage” is by far the weakest moment on the album.
André 3000 is not on Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. This is not an OutKast album. This is simply the hard work and dedication of one man who played Pippen to André’s Jordan for years. This is that man’s second victory lap in two years. I’m sorry, Ms. Jackson. Big Boi’s for real.