We might need a little more hip-hop and a little less hipster.
Two years after strutting into the hip-hop cafeteria with their first single “Player’s Ball,” OutKast took to the boards on ATLiens, and, from there, it was off to the cosmos. After taking greater command of their sound, the duo ventured into jambalaya territory, putting together a dish of complementary sounds via the way of nasty, Clinton inspired-funk, electronic music, avant-garde jazz, gospel, a lot of soul and, sometimes, secretly, at its most inner soccer mom, Norah Jones. And along that 15-year, Grammy Award-studded strut, we all thought André 3K would be where Big Boi is currently perched. We imagined General Patton in Suburbans, not playing to the ear of suburbanites.
But his latest contribution to the world of music, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, is a fine continuation of what he established with Sir Lucious Left Foot ― southern playboys like to “throw on some Coldplay,” too ― albeit without the hard edges of its predecessor.
With “Apple of My Eye” he establishes the type of radio-friendly swagger that saw “Hey Ya” and “Rosa Parks” get played to the point of heartbreak, with “Hey Ya” spawning some pretty stank covers. In terms of playability, Big Boi might turn off some of his most ardent hip-hop fans, as hip-hop seems to only have a cameo role on the album. OutKast cohort André 3000 made that formula work on The Love Below, but Boi couldn’t execute that quite as well, here.
Vicious fails where Lucious succeeded, as there isn’t enough of Big Boi’s trademark Southern hospitality in the mix. Even in the album highlight “CPU,” Indie pop duo Phantogram occupy as much space as the Georgia-born emcee. The ratio works on “CPU,” but crashes and burns, right in your eardrum, on “Tremendous Damage”―an apt title. While Sir Lucious featured Khujo Goodie, Too $hort, Gucci Mane, and yes, Yelawolf, Vicious only offers an inspired cut from longtime collaborator Killer Mike (“In the A” is as good a track as Big Boi has ever done, but its sonic richness drowns out what would have been a great T.I./Ludacris collab). “Lines” is a standout track, but A$AP Rocky’s turn seems out of place.
All in all, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors seems to be an album in search of accolades and critical acclaim, but it might end up backfiring. Sir Lucious was heralded for its independence, deft genre-bending, forward-thinking traditionalism and what always made Big Boi the beacon he was (and still is, regardless) – soul. Vicious Lies is almost anti-Big Boi, in that it seems concerned with ideas that might already be getting played-out. That’s not to say Big Boi is wrong for delving into this particular territory. He’s been working toward it, even if no one else realized, since the day he overtook the boards on the genre-transcending ATLiens.