Both as a solo artist and with Outkast, Big Boi has proven to be an intensely dedicated craftsman--an open-minded listener rooted in Southern funk but relentlessly interested in pushing its boundaries. Yet that rep is often forgotten, or at least more closely associated with the enigmatic Andre 3000.
Big Boi's creativity is painfully obvious, however, on “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors,” the second official solo album from Outkast’s pimp half, which aspires for dynamic indie-rap but ends up wandering somewhere between the genres.
On “Lies,” he swirls in some melancholy electro-pop, only halfway guided by the funky Timberland footprints in which Big Boi usually stomps around. There’s no trunk-thump nailing these cuts to the floor like “Shutterbugg," a standout from 2010's "Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty." Rather, songs like “Apple of My Eye” lay down a swinging rhythm before curbing the groove with some lower-register guitar plucking, coming off like The xx’s version of “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
Even the guest list drips with ambition, enlisting acts like Phantogram, Little Dragon and Wavves to embellish his decidedly indie aesthetic. But that ambition usurps the execution when it comes to results. “Shoes for Running” casts Wavves and B.o.B and comes off more like an earnest twee “crossover” than a cohesive collaboration of diverse tastes. “CPU,” with Phantogram, further showcases the mismatches: A belching bass line gets lost under some dainty bells and a wispy chorus, unfortunately losing some conscious lyrics that sound like a 2012 version of “Synthesizer.”
Big Boi’s incredible technical and lyrical abilities are too often lost on fans who lap up the very rare, always mind-blowing 3 Stacks (aka Andre 3000) verse, but Big Boi's aka Daddy Fat Saxx’s raps are the most consistent and best part of “Lies.” His sticky flow shines on its most straightforward hip-hop cuts like “In the A,” a true trap banger with T.I. and Ludacris, on an album that avoids them, rapping, “From the birthplace of MLK where everything ain't okay but KKK/ I'm more Malcolm than Martin, come get some, be a target/ Standing in the kitchen with the AK, AK A, [spray sound].” He undercuts his own slickness again in experiments like getting his Cudi on (hum-singing on “Tremendous Damage”) or inviting Cudi on (“She Hates Me,” which intends to be a testament to his marriage but sounds like a Fun song).
Big Boi's high points should always be applauded, but this time he casts his net too wide on an album that contains too many holes to fulfill its ambitions.
Adam Lukach is a RedEye intern. @lucheezy
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.