Causing some consternation amongst those who understandably have Big Boi pegged as the unflinchingly funkier and relatively less freaky half of Outkast, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours, his second solo album, is a glorious mess that misses as much as it hits, but manages to do both endearingly.
It’s common knowledge that when Antwan Patton goes for the jugular he could recite the phone book and slay most MCs, so it comes as little surprise orthodox tracks featuring Southern contemporaries, such as Gossip with UGK and Big K.R.I.T. and In the A with T.I. and Ludacris, do the business. Whereas an entire album of such predictable and pugilistic fare would have had the purists frothing, Patton’s scope is happily wider, even though his aim is sometimes wide, too.
American indie duo Phantogram and Sweden’s magnificent musical lightning rods Little Dragon play a large part in the hazy pop shapes that make up nearly half the album, with odd but predominantly entertaining results. There is some genuine chemistry evident in Big Boi’s work with both acts, which allows songs like Lines to really sizzle, although Phantogram’s sometimes flaky presence, and the lyrics about how “we like role play, put on some Coldplay” in CPU, suggest some barriers should be placed on Patton’s gregarious groovemanship.
Unfortunately, contractual disputes with a former record company stopped Little Dragon appearing on the co-written Mama Told Me; Kelly Rowland is adequate as a last-minute replacement for their singer, Yukimi Nagano, but the original version, which was widely circulated on the internet by producers the Flush, is considerably more esoteric and engaging.
The Scandinavian four-piece also feature on one of the album’s highlights, Thom Pettie, as well as the shimmering “Prince on a down day” ballad Descending and the tangled maze of awkward pop that is Higher Res. On the flip side, there are the collaborations that go nowhere or fail to ignite (Shoes for Running with B.O.B. and Wavves and She Said OK featuring Theophilius London and Tre Luce, in particular), alongside the inevitable lack of cohesion that comes with such an inclusive and symbiotic project.
As Patton says, “I keep it player, while some choose to play it safe”, and therein lies the rub, because in eschewing safety he has forsaken equilibrium. However, when he gets together with long-time colluder Sleepy Brown on The Thickets, or flies completely solo on the highly contagious Apple of My Eye, Big Boi remains at the very top of the game.
VICIOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMOURS, Big Boi (Def Jam/Universal).