x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Big Boi breaks out of the mould

Genre-hopping aside, Big Boi has remained faithful to hip-hop with his undying allegiance to complex lyricism in his second solo album.

Big Boi collaborates with a wide range of artists on his latest album. Amy Sussman / AP Photo
Big Boi collaborates with a wide range of artists on his latest album. Amy Sussman / AP Photo

Big Boi

Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours

(Def Jam)

****

Big Boi, né Antwan Andre Patton, has long been pinned as the more modest foil to his former Outkast sidekick Andre 3000's eccentricity. This view couldn't be further from the truth; his 2010 solo debut Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dustyshowed just how experimentally progressive he could be when left to his own devices.

The rapper adds to his eclectic catalogue and reveals his closet hipster side on his sophomore opus Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, a genre-bending sonic odyssey that combines futuristic electro-funk soundscapes with indie-rock sensibilities. The cross-pollination of genres on the project is made possible by its impressively wide-ranging roster of features, as each guest brings their signature sound into Big Boi's world as opposed to him changing to accommodate theirs.

The indie vocals of Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano and Phantogram's Sarah Barthel feature heavily on this record - five times between them to be exact - giving the long-time Big Boi collaborator Sleepy Brown a run for his money. Nagano shines on the deliciously tongue-in-cheek Thom Pettie, and Barthel's airy voice lends an effeminate touch to the digital love song CPU. The singers' vocals work well with Big Boi's style, creating a fresh rework of the classic female vocals on a rap song formula (à la Total and Biggie, Aaliyah and DMX).

The rapper shape-shifts and breaks moulds throughout this vibrantly diverse album. He ventures into psychedelic territory on the haunting Descending, tackles emotional subject matter on Tremendous Damage, sings on the quirky blues joint Raspberries alongside Scar and Mouche, and pays homage to Prince with the synth-heavy Mama Told Me featuring Kelly Rowland.

The only inkling of Dirty South rap on this record appears on In the A, a bombastic homage to the rapper's home state of Georgia featuring strong guest verses from his fellow southern rappers TI and Ludacris.

Genre-hopping aside, Big Boi has remained faithful to hip-hop with his undying allegiance to complex lyricism. His propensity for wordplay is in top form, warranting multiple listens to highlight his syllabic wit.

Big Boi doesn't simply blur genre lines on his latest release; he paints them with different colours, causing them to veer in unexpected directions all at once. This anarchic approach results in a wildly entertaining body of work that is sure to be one of the most complex and refreshing rap albums of the year.