Album Review: Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors – Big Boi
While most of the music world awaits the unlikely Outkast reunion in agony, Atlanta’s Big Boi continues to keep the pen to the pad- which means dropping solo records. 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot... (one of our top 5 records of 2010) was a magnificent blend of classic funk grooves, laser-focused verses, and the kind of font of inspiration it takes a lifetime to accumulate. Unfortunately, 2013’s Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors fails to pick up where its predecessor left off, and has instead caused the waters of Big Boi’s success to recede (if only just a tad).
Upon first listen, Vicious Lies does not sound like a record you would expect from Big Boi. Gone are the overt “purp” leanings of ambitious and substance-infused Southern rap, having instead been replaced by the type of jejune electronic/indie production which even aging kids with beards are weary of by now. Those of you who were waiting for the next Shutterbug, or For Yo Sorrow (which is a demographic I may have found myself in), will just have to accept the disappointment.
There is a part of me which understands what Big Boi’s rationale was when deciding the musical direction of this record. Anyone with even the slightest awareness of Big Boi’s career knows he has some of the most eclectic sensibilities in hip-hop. Those sensibilities, combined with his adventurous ear, have made him a favorite of not just conventional rap fans, but of anyone who reads Pitchfork regularly. Suddenly Big Boi found himself rubbing shoulders with musicians outside his usual sphere (i.e. Nathan Williams of Wavves), and these new exposures opened Big Boi’s mind to a multitude of different sonic avenues, which he decided to explore on this record. Such a trajectory isn’t typically unique, but it’s often dangerous for the artist trying to change his stripes, as it tends to lead to missteps... such as this record.
Do you think Big Boi and Washed Out should have anything in common, sonically? Neither do I. What about Robyn? Absolutely not, and I love Robyn. That being said, Vicious Lies... has far too many synth pads glowing in its backgrounds, and nowhere near enough tracks which will be making clubs explode in the near future. The record starts off on a strong enough note, as The Thickets contains the kind of languid-woozy feeling which is a hallmark of all of the best Southern Rap. Big Boi immediately reminds his listeners that his flow is still one of the absolute best in the game, and that he gets far more action over the course of a week than your entire senior class gets in a term.
Things stay relatively tight until the record’s fourth track, Objectum Sexuality, opens with a somewhat amateurish ambient and spoken-word intro which seems absurdly out of place. The track continues on with a minimal backbeat, and a pre-chorus build consisting of a sample of a woman speaking in French. Needless to say, the wind begins to come out of the album’s sails at precisely that point, and although it tries to regain the breeze at points it never manages to get moving again.
There are too many incongruous WTF moments on this record, including She Hates Me (which features a guest verse from the unfortunately lazy Kid Cudi), CPU (featuring Phantogram, who really makes way too many cameos on this record), and the inexcusably horrendous Shoes For Running (which boasts contributions from the aforementioned Williams and B.o.B., who should never be taken seriously). Every time Big Boi attempts to take a step forward and build some momentum on Vicious Lies... his record seems to betray him.
As I alluded to before, the best element of this record is without question Big Boi. No matter how cluttered the track, how unremarkable the sample, or how weak the composition, Big Boi brings extremely representative verses to every song on this album. Sure, the man tends to rap about a limited number of topics, but he does so with a zeal and dexterity that I actually believe is underrated.
It’s a shame that there aren’t more tracks like In The A or Raspberries on Vicious Lies. Had there been just a few more hits, this record could have at least been given a passing grade, though not an exemplary one. As it stands, the record is unsatisfactory... which is a shame. I guess you can always go back to waiting for the next Outkast record.