Big Boi releases first solo album

Jake Alden

Photo used under the fair use doctrine.
“She Hates Me” is, on its own, reason enough to buy Big Boi’s new solo album. The sixth track off the OutKast member’s new album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors may not be released as a single, but it has a catchy hook, phenomenal backup vocals by Kid Cudi, and its lyrics and beat harkens back to the OutKast classic “Ms. Jackson.”
It’s not, however, the only reason southern hip-hop fans should be excited about Rumors. Not by a long shot.
The album opens with a stylish intro with relaxing beats and a speech from Big Boi introducing himself and welcoming the listener to the album. This first track helps set the tone for some of the upcoming raps, and it flows nicely into “The Thickets.”
Rumors is an album you can start at the beginning and listen to all the way through; the majority of the raps mesh, transition easily, and are more impressive as part of a whole than they are alone. There are some strong songs that can stand on their own, but listening to the album start to finish is a full-fledged emotional experience, and most of the sensations you’ll be feeling are good ones.
The new tracks stem from a vast range of influences and offer a wide bandwidth of hip hop flavors. Big Boi has entered exploratory territory with his raps, and most of the time the experiments pay off. The album offers everything from the piano bar-esque “Tremendous Damage” to the New Orleans imported “Apple of my Eye,” and some of the less experimental tunes still offer a wide sampling of the classic rap spectrum. The funkier, psychedelic hip hop creation “Thom Pettie” contrasts nicely with the upbeat ‘90s vibes of “Shoes for Running” and the tried-and-true urban beats of “In the A.”
Some of the really divergent songs fall flat, however. The techno background and electronic rhythms of “CPU” don’t jam well with Big Boi’s rapping; they’re just a confusing element that distracts from the rest of the song. “Raspberries” is just a little too bouncy and pop-influenced to feel comfortable alongside the other tracks. None of these speed bumps derail the album, but they’ll be off-kilter just enough to give you some pause.
For the most part, the CD keeps an even keel; the raps are almost all good, with a few great ones that make an impression. What’s odd is that none of Rumors’ highest caliber tunes are among its singles.
It’s not that “Mama told Me” and “Gossip,” two of Big Boi’s latest singles, are legitimately bad raps. They’re above average and they’re fun to listen to, but they don’t really stand well on their own or climb outside of the box, and they’re certainly not the best that the album has to offer its listeners. They jive well with the rest of its sets, but “In the A” or “Apple of My Eye” are much better songs to listen to outside the complete tracklist.
“She Said OK,” the other single, is another matter entirely. The lyrics aren’t subtle or stylish, the beats are mediocre at best, and it’s not a song you can play in polite company or listen to in a serious light. While it’s not a deal-breaker, it is a fairly disappointing finish to the deluxe edition of Rumors; “Tremendous Damage” would serve as a much better finale on the basic package.
Ultimately, OutKast and hip hop fans looking for something original and fresh ought to give Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors a taste. The deluxe edition doesn’t have much to offer outside of “Gossip,” but the vanilla album is a creative exploration in hip hop that will have listeners pressing the play button again to hear more.
 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=220UgBbsiYA&rel=0&hd=1&showinfo=0]

By Jake Alden