Routine visits to Dr. Mannino’s dentristy office in Farmington Hills treat you to the best pieces of musical trash. Waiting for your tri-monthly scraping, rinsing and fluoride, you’re likely to hear the absolute cream of smooth jazz radio. The real shock won’t come from the occasional gum bleeding or gag reflex, but rather the realization that the song playing for the last four minutes was “I Like The Way You Move,” sans lyrics, set to sultry sax and paired with the most polite rhythm section on the dial.
Sir Luscious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty
It’s safe to say that just about every cut on Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty demolishes the taste of anything safe, dull or “smooth.” Beyond that, it establishes Boi as a powerhouse craftsman and rapper, with or without the help of a certain Possum Aloysius Jenkins. It’s an album loaded with ideas, hooks and prime performances from everyone involved. From ATL all-stars Organized Noize to George Clinton, the cameos and production sit top shelf. And out of it all, Big Boi stands tall. His finesse, flow and charm take Left Foot to the heights of the most entertaining rap albums of the past decade.
In OutKast, Boi played underdog to Andre’s genre-crossing charm, especially after Speakerboxx/The Love Below’s Grammy and chart demolition derby. And for his skill, Boi’s flow is frequently understated. He seldom has any quotable phrases. His cadence is unpredictable, and half his lines are content to spill into hooks before they finish. Left Foot changes nothing about his style, but it displays Boi in top form. From giddy come-ons to vicious self-aggrandizing, his lines are stronger than ever – from his athletic internal rhymes in double-time to his left-space shout-outs. On Left Foot, he rounds up his talent and splays hip hop’s guts all over – with or without pop appeal.
The most mystifying part of Left Foot’s history is that it almost never happened. Arista refused to release it in 2008, calling it, of all things, the classic piece-of-art-no-radio-hits mistake. After a four year delay and label swap, Left Foot made its way to pressing. But not before Def Jam refused Andre 3000, fellow Outkaster-actor-singer-rapper-wardrobe designer, an appearance on the album. As a result, we miss out on tight cuts like “Lookin’ for Ya” and “Royal Flush.” But it’s safe to say the popular forms of this album that will circulate online and in the liquor stores of Atlanta will be complete with both of those gems and a few others. Without them, Left Foot and Boi do just fine.
After the brief and potent Zapp-funk intro of “Feel Me,” “Daddy Fat Sax” kicks off hard with rumbling bass, blown-out keyboards and Boi rapping something ferocious. From there, cut after cut soars. “General Patton” takes the page of Stankonia’s “Snappin’ and Trappin’,” riding a church choir, marching band riff and punishing snare taps before razing it to the ground. Stripper-pole anthem “Tangerine” ’s jungle beats and hazy guitar slide into a sleazy chorus with a synth lick that sounds like a Koji Kondo assist. And for the conclusion? An understated and all-too brief piano accompaniment that is rhythmic, unexpected and gorgeous, even. Moments like this abound on Left Foot – every idea, layer and verse excite. Hell, even the skits are lovable.
When the spotlight leaves Mr. Big, Left Foot occasionally loses its footing. “Follow Us” strides fine before a wonky chorus sung by rock poppers Vonnegutt hits it in the solar plexus. Jamie Foxx and Janelle Monáe showpieces “Hustle Blood” and “Be Still” are fine spots for both stars and Boi, but back-to-back, they stumble Left Foot’s sequence. Moments like these are minor complaints, but they do bare the disarray of an album suspended by extended gestation.
But a lack of focus is, if anything, impossible to knock here. Track after track, Boi brings more than just great rapping and production. He succeeds in building inventive, whole songs, which impress and entertain in equal measure.
“Shine Blockas” is one of many standouts on the album. It’s a cousin to UGK’s glorious “International Playas Anthem,” another graduate of the southern school of ride-a-huge-sample-out-’til-it-sounds-even-huger. With the sweep of the Blue Notes’ burning quiet-storm classic “I Miss You” and the impeccable Gucci Mane in tow, Big Boi flies high and away with style. It feels like a soaring epitaph for southern rap and Teddy Pendergrass both. The album and the song are Boi’s time to … well, you know. Shine. Can’t wait for the smooth jazz rendition.