One look at the cover of Big Boi’s new album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors invites comparisons (from sneakerheads, anyway) to the Air Jordan VIII Aqua’s. And as ludicrous (no cameo intended) as it sounds, one could say that beautifully chaotic mix of genres on the album echo the baroque-inspired design of the shoes. You see, the Jordans dropped at the all-star game in 1993 when fashion apparently followed no rules whatsoever. For better or for worse music in 1993 wasn’t as subjugated to distinct genre definitions either a la The Judgement Day OST. Something else happened that year as well, Outkast released their first single “Player’s Ball.” The track features live instrumentation, a tradition Big Boi continues with Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.
Enough about the past, though, because this album presses forward and explores new terrain. With collaborations on nearly every track, Big Boi molds his music around the influences of his cohorts. Phantogram and Little Dragon lend instrumentation and their talented vocalists to hooks that blend rap with pop. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors has a much more electronic feel to it, with a plethora of synthesizers. The brassy street thump of past Big Boi releases is still present, it’s just more centralized.
“In the A (ft Ludacris & T.I.)” serves as an example of why Big Boi is credited with bringing the “hood” edge to Outkast.
In stark contrast is the preceding song “Objectum Sexuality” which features indie outfit Phantogram. The beat the duo produced successfully blends a bassy low-bit synth, heavy drums and chopped vocals. Lyrically, Big Boi weaves together a comedic web of random sexual encounters.
“When she with me, she feel free, like her days off /Balls in her hand, but that bitch don’t ever say cough /’Less we playin’ doctor/ With no stethoscope, just heels and those knockers, yeah”
The highlight of the track is lead singer Sarah Barthel’s angelic vocals. The juxtaposingly introspective hook which she sings effortlessly showcases the depth of the album. As she states “It’s all you want these days cause you feel nothing inside. You know there’s nothing wrong, but you’ve been wondering why.” to which Big Boi replies “Because “see time and time again I gotta turn back around and tell ’em / my cerebellum, get way more deeper than these other fellas.”
While I’m sure Big Boi will be accussed of having too many guest spots on the record, it’s the addition of Phantogram, Wavves and Little Dragon that gives it a feel different from previous Dungeon Family releases. Indeed, it’s what sets it apart from most of the hip-hop releases this year. Like Phantogram, Little Dragon lends a huge supporting role with both production and the talents of their lovely female singer. Interestingly enough, the Swedish band were originally involved in the lively “Mama Told Me So.” Due to label issues, they were begrudgingly replaced by Kelly Rowland. Luckily the original still exists and was leaked by the man himself. He even performed the track with Little Dragon on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel. Of the band’s three “official” features, the most striking is the appropriately titled “Descending.” The 63 BPM outro softly puts a cap on the record. The melodic guitar and layered synth effects are paired with the honey-voiced Yukimi Nagano’s crooning. A deep bass drum, slow shaker and delightfully EQed snare/clap keep time to Nagano’s dreamy “If you don’t know me by now.” Big Boi enters stage left at the climax of the track and puts a fitting summation to the record, “If ya’ll don’t know me by now, ain’t never gonna know me.”