Hip Hop is an art form that has to grow, evolve and change over time. Which is an ironic concept, since lots of times; Hip Hop and its artists haven’t always been so willing to change musically and sonically. But one group throughout Hip Hop’s history that has been the complete opposite of that sentiment is undoubtedly Outkast.
The shift in musical styles between their 1994 debut Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik and what many consider their last proper release with Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is more of a quantum leap. And in recent years, as Andre 3000 has withdrawn a bit from the public eye and the music industry, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton has had to shoulder the creative and sonic burden, but has done so willingly, releasing the critically acclaimed Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty in 2010. And now Daddy Fatt Saxx follows his solo debut up with a sonically sophisticated, color-splashed mural for the ears with Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.
Once again, listeners will be able to tell that Big Boi feels it his responsibility to take up the mantle and continue Outkast’s legacy of music experimentation and genre manipulation. On Vicious Lies… there definitely exist the standard, southern-styled ATL anthems, like the triumphant “The Thickets” with a resurgent Sleepy Brown, the booming, wall-rattling, chest-thumping bass and stomp of “In The A” with T.I. and Ludacris, and the syrupy-sweet bass and Red Light District feel of the panty-dropper “She Said OK” featuring Theophilus London.
But the real story of Mr. Patton’s sophomore solo offering is the sharp and stark musical U-Turn that it takes, with the majority of the project featuring notable and quality contributions from collaborators Little Dragon and Phantogram. Big Boi seems to take a calculated risk by incorporating elements of new millennium indie rock and 80’s-inspired electro-pop. Most notable are the songs “Objectum Sexuality” and “Shoes for Running”, where he and fellow ATL rapper B.o.B. trade verses over the state of society while Phantogram happily sings a dire and alarmingly bleak chorus. “Higher Res” is also a curious but intriguing contribution featuring Jai Paul and Little Dragon, very much in the vein of an early Prince record with it’s staccato-styled timing and off-beat/on-beat 808 drum pattern.
But Big Boi makes sure not to stray too far by incorporating a slew of winning emcee guest spots, like he and Killer Mike’s cutting lyricism and paired with Little Dragon lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s light, airy and aching vocals on “Thom Pettie” and, U.G.K and Big K.R.I.T. on “Gossip” and A$AP Rocky on “Lines”, one of the albums’ most outstanding tracks.
The biggest misstep here is probably Big trying to step in the booth and vocalize, which makes “Raspberries” a chore to listen to. He definitely wants to stick to emceeing in that regard. But overall, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is an album that falls in the same ballsy, adventurous and daring musical category of past Hip Hop albums like the aforementioned Speakerboxxx, Common’s Electric Circus, and even Aquemini by blatantly challenging listeners to open their minds, and will introduce new ones to both the Outkast catalog. It won’t connect with everyone, Big Boi successfully and skillfully takes a ton of musical risks, which fewer and fewer mainstream emcees seem to be willing to do these days.