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BBC – Music – Review of Big Boi

Written by on October 27, 2020

Big Boi’s solo debut proper, 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, saw the Outkast rapper establish himself as a critically acclaimed artist free from the shadow of André 3000. Follow-up LP Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours arrives with big expectations: can it live up to them?

The Thickets is a promising beginning. It’s mid-pace meat-and-potatoes hip hop, possessing a soulful backdrop and a Sleepy Brown chorus. Yet seeds of doubt are sown. “Yo, it seems just like yesterday, where did the time go? / I’m giving you the best that I got,” he spits, sounding oddly desperate. And the “new s***” he promises turns out to be synthy, revivalist 80s indie.

Even when labelled as the grounded traditionalist beside André 3000’s experimental maverick, Big Boi’s never been a typical straight man. So his genre-hopping isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But hearing him say, “We like to role-play / Throw on some Coldplay,” on CPU nevertheless might set alarm bells ringing.

CPU is one of three that dream-pop duo Phantogram feature on, with Sarah Barthel’s sweet and effortless vocals employed to best effect on Lines. That number also finds Big Boi delivering some energised raps, and represents a highlight of the set.

Too often, though, his vocals jar against those of contributors. Shoes for Running, quite improbably, features both Wavves and B.o.B. beside Big Boi, and everything becomes rather cluttered.

In the A, with T.I. and Ludacris, is smutty dirt-hop, while Tremendous Damage favours a sloppy pop-RnB approach. That these different songs call the same album home is indicative of Vicious Lies’ eclectic design. Or, to be less polite, its messiness. Mama Told Me, with Kelly Rowland, is more in keeping with “vintage” Big Boi, but it’s a fairly vacuous cut.

Throughout Vicious Lies, Big Boi seems content to play the role of disinterested curator, letting a wealth of guests govern an end product that should, really, be shaped by him alone. It deserves some plaudits – it’s certainly not what most will have expected after Sir Lucious Left Foot, and it does find the rapper exploring new things. But it feels rushed, like it needed more time for its many ingredients to blend.

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