Big Boi's Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors: A First Listen
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is the title. Why? Does Big Boi even have any enemies? Has anyone ever beefed with him...ever? Who is he referring to, disgruntled Idlewild ticket-buyers? Or is he increasingly in denial that Outkast -- his meal ticket artistically and commercially -- is over? It's not hard to feel for him. Luckily his last album, Sir Lucious Leftfoot, wasn't just great music on the Outkast level, but a creative resurgence. Still, I'm worried about this one, which has come with far less advance hype.
It's an intro. Just now occurring to me I've never had to "liveblog" one of those before. Not much happens!
And we're off. That lip-licking voice, those skip-rope-y meters, the beat souled out, with a delightfully extra-sleepy Sleepy Brown on the hook. All familiar hallmarks of Classic Outkast, which seems to be the satellite radio format Big Boi aspires to these days. Nice synth breakdown -- remember, this guy knows song structures, and ever the P-Funk fan, takes a drawling joy in rhyming "beaucoup" with "noodle."
"Apple of My Eye"
Someone alert Solomon Burke -- this is greasy, organ-led Allmans-cum-Black-Keys rock 'n' soul. But it's several shades less colorful than "Hey Ya!," with which it shares a beat. Pitchfork gave this album a 6.1 today, and this song exemplifies a 6.1 if I've ever heard one: inoffensively inoffensive.
"I rub my stick on your chick like a violin" -- okay, so this is where Big Boi becomes our era's LL Cool J, a fantastic rapper despite little to say, primarily concerned with getting your girl to c'mere. Compared to Rick Ross or Drake, I'll fucking take it. But I have no idea what Phantogram is doing here; that's on some Common-feat.-Stereolab shit. (I don't actually know who Phantogram is, I just know their part sounds like Stereolab.)
"In the A"
A darker, longer take on the last album's martial "General Patton," with bigger guests. Pretty bracing, and when's the last time you could describe something from the Dungeon Family as intense? The clashing strings could even be Odd Future. A jovial Ludacris and an enjoying-his-free-time T.I. -- have these three never really shared a billing before? It's about Atlanta, but I'll buy you a drink if you giggled at the title like I did.
"She Hates Me"
The beat sounds exactly like the Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize??" and given the guest list here, I wouldn't be surprised to see Wayne Coyne in the writing credits. He's on the Ke$ha album, after all. This album's a weird paradox so far; it's very simplistic and yet kind of a mishmash. When Mr. Patton complains that everyone's dickriding his flow, it doesn't sound like a boast, it sounds like an invitation to unfollow. Bonus boredom: guitar solo fade out.
Phantogram again -- do these guys share an agent or something? "And it's you that's on my computer screen/ Because it's you that's on my mind" is neither a promising standalone idea nor a good idea for a rap song. Guys, rappers don't use computers, and when they do it's not to meet women. Didn't you listen to "Ayo Technology"? Didn't you see DMX's technophobic rant? Meanwhile, shitty song.
Titles: getting worse. Beats: uneven. This one's the best on the record though, a crawling, wormy synth line with hilariously over-reverberating 808s. Big Boi's still worth hearing as a rapper even in this empty mode, twisting "pen-cil" to rhyme with "pret-zel." The screwed-down hook is almost inaudible. Little Dragon's on this and the last DJ Shadow album, making them this generation's Everything but the Girl, the blandest well-connected "tasteful hook" adders around. For comparison, check out their peers Chairlift blowing the roof off on that last Das Racist album.
"Mama Told Me"
Big Boi's not gonna have a hit single in this climate, but like Ghostface's "Back Like That," this is a wholehearted stab at one, with Kelly Rowland of all people providing a familiar, gorgeous melody, some funky Roger Troutman action in back, and a slap-bass inflected take on the "When Doves Cry" Linndrum intro as a backdrop. One of the better tracks. Maybe going full Santana on a pop album would've focused him?
The best of the Phantogram tracks appears to sample one of those Tom Morello toggle-switch solos scratching back and forth for a great track until... Phantogram comes in. The beat drops out, the dreamy, multitracked dramatic vocals make no sense. Always fun to hear him rapping about alligators, but like so many tracks here, you'll begin to think he really needs Lucinda Williams-style waits between albums to ensure nothing's undercooked. And the ever-ubiquitous A$AP Rocky is kind of proving to be the Phantogram of rap. I hope after this review I never have to type the word "Phantogram" ever again.