Venturing outside the box of bass, snares, and raps can be a scary journey for an MC. For most rappers, the attempt is usually stained with the financial benefit of crossing over to a new audience, leaving the loyal, core fans feeling confused and forgotten. Like most things in conventional Hip-Hop, this does not apply to Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. When you’re one half of OutKast, a group whose formula is to switch it up with every release since its debut album, something is wrong if your fans are not confused.
Melding Funk, Jazz, Rock, Blues, and a host of other random sounds into a collective Hip-Hop identity that has sold millions of records worldwide, while keeping its artistic integrity might seem impossible for most groups. But for Big Boi, this is a walk in the park. For his second solo album, Vicious lies and Dangerous Rumors, Daddy Fat Sacks continues to push the envelope into Indie Rock and Electronic territory, creating another realm in OutKast’s endless sound palette.
Big Boi starts “Ascending” as soft acoustics fade in, while he calmly introduces himself and welcomes the listener to the album with music you might hear at the beginning of a yoga class. Which is appropriate since he is about to bend and twist Hip-Hop into forms that are rarely made possible. Through “The Thickets”, he rides over a Jodeci sample, bass, and snares to create a smooth number with Sleepy Brown’s silky voice riding shotgun. Indie Pop band Phantogram lends some vocals and production to the Electronic-pulsing “Objectum Sexuality”, and “CPU”, where Big Boi installs his player chip next to Sara Barthel’s soft voice-box.
“When she with me/she feel free, like her days off/B__s in her hand, but that b*tch don’t never say cough…(cough)/Unless we playing doctor/With no stethoscope, just heels and those knockers!”
Leave it to Big Boi make a song that would seem like a collage of sonic contradictions on paper, and turn it into an entertaining pulsing anthem that hipsters and Hip-Hoppers can both enjoy.
General Patton also finds time to give his beloved ATL another anthem by recruiting his fellow ATLiens, T.I. and Ludacris, on “In the A”. Equipped with bouncing marching bands, A-town stomps, and a spit-fire flow, Big Boi puts on for his city with bars like:
“Non-violent tho, No violence, just styling ho/ From the birth place of MLK/ where everything ain’t OK, but KKK/…I’m on Malcolm then Martin/Come get some, be a Target/Standing in the kitchen with AK/AKA THE SHAAAAWTY”
Five tracks into the album, Big Boi also starts to show some rare moments of vulnerability through his Southern player demeanor. On “She Hate Me” Kid Cudi takes on hook duty, as Big Boi explains how his music industry lifestyle is taking a toll on his relationship with his children’s mother. The Son of Chico Dusty also shares the pain of coping with the “Tremendous Damage” of losing his father while holding onto his faith. Steady acoustics and spacey Little Dragon echoes on “Descending” sets a somber mood perfectly as Big Boi pelts out his anguish of loss by partially singing and crying. The song’s emotional mood is so apparent that only a few are words needed to get the message, but Big Boi is not the one to dwell on despair.
“Shoes for Running” proves that Sir Luscious Left-Foot is not fearful of death, and that B.o.B’s recent mainstream breakthrough has not rusted his pen game. Over another a sample from indie rock group, Wavves, Bobby Ray rips into a scheme rich verse.
“My n*ggas will draw when sh*t get sketchy/It’s a masterpiece, a work of art, a gallery, no photoshop/picture says a million words/so I just let my photo talk/even in your local talk/n*ggas say you know he boss/every time my name is brought up/better know it’s mobile talk…”
Not all of Big Boi’s unpredictable collaborations are rewarding, though. “Thom Pettie” finds Little Dragon having a bad Weeknd, and “Raspberries” has Big Boi stretching his voice flat to try compete with Scar in a duet. These duds are quickly forgotten once UGK is reunited with Big Boi and Big K.R.I.T on “Gossip”. The Pimp C/Big KRIT comparisons are finally shattered once Krizzle shows off his bouncy, Southern spit next to Pimp’s laidback drawl. As great as the song is, the missing Andre 3000 verse keeps it from being another “International Playa Anthem”, but it is still deserving of plenty of play.
While other Hip-Hop artists collaborate with popular alternative bands in a cheap attempt to reach different audience, Big Boi proves these to only be “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors” when applied to him. As an avid fan of Indie Pop, Rock, and Electronic, Big Boi pulls from his favorite genres in order to make a cohesive mesh that continues OutKast’s mission to challenge the listener on what Hip-Hop can be.