Thursday, September 23, 2010

Big Boi makes big waves with solo debut

Genre: Rap
Def Jam Recordings
Running Time: 57:43

On Sir Luscious Left Foot… Son of Chico Dusty, Big Boi says he’s got a back up plan for his back up plan. Why? To back up his back up plan! But first let’s back up and explain a few things about this album.

Big Boi rose to fame as a member of the rap group Outkast, serving as one half of the outfit that turned out some of the biggest hip-hop albums of the last decade, Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Now the son of Chico Dusty puts his best foot forward to establish his own identity, but will Sir Luscious prove to have two left feet? One thing’s for sure: Big Boi has produced a big time, radio ready record filled with catchy hooks and some of the smoothest flows we’ve heard in the mainstream rap genre.

But therein lies the problem. Sir Luscious Left Foot isn't quite what I would call a mainstream rap album, but it has many elements of mainstream rap that I feel drags it down. I feel like a lot of the tracks sound like they were meant to be played at a club or a party, and that type of sound doesn't appeal to me so much.

Most songs on Sir Luscious Left Foot follow a formula of having a ear-grabbing sing along R&B hook with smooth laid back rapping in the verses. The album as a whole has a very slick commercial feel to it. Nothing makes this more evident than the opening number, Daddy Fat Sax. Big Boi comes out in grand style, dropping a few verses that sound ready for BET.

If there’s ever a video made foe this song, I can see it taking place during a pool party at a fancy mansion, while scintillating honeys are getting crunk on Corona.

On “Follow Us” Big Boi lays down some great verses, then you have a chorus that sounds like something pulled straight from an Usher track. One of the best examples of this style can be found on “Turns Me On,’ sounds somewhat more Outkast inspired. Sleepy Brown lays down a mellow, relaxing chorus while Big Boi and Joi lay down some chill raps in the verses. It reminds of “I Like the Way You Move.”

Another highlight is “Be Still” with Janelle Monae, who dropped her own critically acclaimed debut album, The ArchAndroid, back in May. Monae’s smooth R&B vocals coupled with the verses Big Boi lays down brings to mind some of 2Pac's collabos with female artists, like "Run Tha Streetz" from his All Eyez on Me album. Albeit much less thuggish.

But the real stunner here is the beat in the chorus. It has got some groove! It actually reminds me of something Aphex Twin would do. Think "4" or "Fingerbib" off The Richard D. James Album.

Tangerine, featuring Atlanta bred rapper T.I., also stands out, although the lyrics are a little less than desirable. Jamie Foxx croons some sweet R&B vocals on Hustle Blood, and Gucci Mane delivers a memorable guest performance on “Shine Blockas.”

He hits a clunker with "You Ain't No DJ." Annoying beat, annoying cliched lyrics - you get the picture. I hit the skip button on this one.

Big Boi himself proves that he’s still a great emcee, consistently doing a great job with his rhyme, flow, and delivery. I feel as though his lyrics aren’t as relevant as they were in his days with Outkast, however.

On Speakerboxxx, he was rapping about things that mattered – politics, religion, being a single father, etc. Here, most of that is gone. On “For Your Sorrows,” he addresses the issue of how many young people don’t read or keep up with the news. “Call it a fiction addiction cause the truth is a heavy thing,” he declares.

Outside of that there’s not too much substance. Most of the lyrics are about money, clubbing, jewelry, and being from Atlanta. I like this album, and I think Big Boi is one of the better well known rappers today. But I think it’s clear he was going for a commercial hip-hop type of sound.

Outkast was always about trying to be different and stand apart from the mainstream trends. I think it would have been better if Big Boi would continue to carry that torch. It’s missing the Outkast zaniness and originality that was present even on Speakerboxxx.

If you have any interest in hip hop you should definitely check this out. If you’re hoping for this record to sound similar to Outkast, you may find yourself in need of your own back up plan.

Tracks to check out:
Turns Me On
Be Still
Shine Blockas

Score: 78/100

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