One of the most difficult things for a hip-hop artist to do is reinvent themselves. Some of the greatest emcees have become nothing more than a faded memory after their glory days are over, and if they’re lucky, they may get a shout out in a verse from the newest “up and comer.” However, one emcee has built a career off of reinventing his music, leaving him in a class with very few other musicians, and even fewer from the hip-hop realm. Big Boi, aka Daddy Fat Sax, aka Sir Lucious Left Foot, aka one half of the legendary OutKast, is that emcee.
Since his hiatus from Outkast, Big Boi has released two full lengths, the first of which, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, was released in 2010 via Def Jam. That album was an amazing solo drop for an emcee that had spent the last 16 years as one half of one of the greatest hip-hop duos to ever walk God’s green Earth. The album was a starting over point for Big Boi, and growing pains aside, the record had its gems. The only problem with Sir Lucious Left Foot… was that it was exactly what you would expect Big Boi to release: a neo-soul take on hip hop mixed with Southern undertones. It hit all the notes you’d expect from a Big Boi solo album, but that was the problem.
Big Boi had always so exceedingly surpassed my expectations with Outkast up until that point that, at the time of its release, I somewhat overlooked the album, as did the general public. However, with the release of last month’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, it seems that Big Boi has re-embraced that Louis and Clark attitude. He’s blazing new paths, braving new musical directions, and really just doing things you wouldn’t have seen coming.
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors will appeal to many different types of music lovers and features Big Boi’s knack for innovation, which is unparallelled at this time in hip hop. While artists like Snoop Dogg are calling themselves Snoop Lion and doing reggae, Big Boi is pioneering what 22nd century hip hop will sound like. Yeah, that’s right — I said “will.” If you have heard this album, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.
Hip hop mixed with dance grooves and electro/indie rock vocals? Dub hall intros that meld into raw underground hooks? Southern anthems and, for the first time in Big Boi’s career, hip-hop ballads? Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is as colorful as a chameleon and as broad as a lecture on quantum physics while still appealing to classic hip-hop lovers such as myself. Big Boi manages to expand his sonic palette while embracing his past in a way that sounds completely fresh and unique to anything anyone else is doing right now.
One of the first stand outs of the album is “Apple of My Eye.” The song has a infectious indie rock guitar groove that makes the song pulse and twist through its progressions only to lead listeners into a neo-soul horn break. It breaks new ground for Big Boi, and it’s an exciting start to an album that has a lot of surprises yet to come.
The next song that really caught my ear was a Southern anthem called “In the A.” It’s probably just my affinity for all things Southern, but this song gets me “crunk.” It definitely has that late-90s/early-2000s Southern hip-hop feel but with new-school production. Overall, it’s an exciting song for people who were missing “good” Southern hip hop.
One of my personal favorite songs on the album, “She Hates Me,” is an example of just how much Big Boi has grown since releasing his first LP. For an emcee that made a name off of his version of “truth” rap, Big Boi has never really gotten personal like he does on “She Hates Me.” It’s great to see another layer of an artist that I’ve been following for 10+ years. Just when I think I know everything about what Big Boi could put out, he goes and surprises me with an emotional, deep, and very personal song like this. It’s light years away from his previous material yet seems to fit like a glove.
My favorite song on the album is “Tom Pettie.” Big Boi has really hit his stride in the realm of hip hop with this song, which features a strange, slick, Gorillaz-like groove. The production is a mix of wonderfully lush organic material and solid electro instrumentation. The female vocal hook is sexy and immediately evokes a need to shake your extremities. It’s really my definition of the perfect hip-hop song.
Next is the first single off Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, “Mama Told Me,” which is a celebration of indie pop and electro shuffle. It’s probably the song most similar to those on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, and it was a great introduction to the return of Big Boi. Plus Kelly Rowland’s vocals aren’t half bad.
“Lines” lyrical content couldn’t fit the mood of this album any better. Telling the story of Big Boi’s rise, his subsequent fall “after Outkast,” and his rebirth with his solo career, it’s a poetic autobiography that brings tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.
“Shoes for Running” is another crazy concept song for Big Boi. With psych-rockers Wavves providing the music and vocals and B.O.B adding a verse, the song certainly stands out amongst an already stand-out lineup. I could easily see this type of hip hop blowing up sooner rather than later.
“Raspberries” is a strange, meandering song that I really didn’t get until the very end, at which point you hear Big Boi say “nigga, nigga, nigga, (smacking sound) nigga, NIGGA, ahhhh… one more ahhhh… on the mushroom tea talkin bout, eeeee iiii eeespouse, you would swear he was saying some words,” which leads me to believe that some of Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (or at least this song) was influenced by psychedelics. Hip hop has always embraced the marijuana culture, and it seems now that, much like the Beatles, Big Boi is taking the next step and expanding his mind, which in my opinion, can only make his music that much better.
“Tremendous Damage,” my second favorite song on the album, is another emotional high point for Big Boi on Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. The song is almost like one big apology to former Outkast emcee, Andre 3000. For the first time since the duo’s hiatus, fans get a little look into some of the problems that were going on at the time of the split.
I mean, Outkast was one of the biggest groups in the history of hip hop until one day Andre decided he didn’t want to tour. The duo stopped recording albums, and fans were left with very little explanation as to why this was the case. “Tremendous Damage” is the start of a reconciliation, and the song gives fans a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes story of where it all went wrong. It’s an extremely heavy song for a fan like me, and it stands out on an album full of great songs.
There has been a lot of talk about a possible Outkast reunion either this year or sometime next year, but after Big Boi remixed the Frank Ocean song “Pink Matter,” on which Andre absolutely kills two verses, Andre was quoted as saying, “I never want to mislead our audience – I worried that some would think these were OutKast collaborations… These songs are not OutKast collaborations. I discussed this rationale with Big, Frank and T.I. and everyone agreed. That is why I was surprised to read about these remixes.” Not entirely dispelling the rumors but definitely quieting them to a hush.
Even given this soul-crushing announcement by Andre, I can still feel the electricity in the air, and who can blame me? The impact of finally hearing one of these guys address the other in their music was one of my most rewarding musical moments of 2012. Then, when Andre responded with his verse on “Sorry” from T.I.’s new album, Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head, I almost fell to pieces in anticipation of not only a solo album from ‘Dre, but also that much-needed Outkast reunion.
Hopefully, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors puts us one step closer to new Outkast music and Andre 3000’s first solo work, but it’s much more than just a stepping stone to future releases. Big Boi has truly come into his own with this record. He has hit a stride musically that very few emcees could hit and has found a way to reinvent himself, going from being one half of the greatest hip-hop duos that ever lived to being one of the best solo emcees in the industry today.
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