What Happened to That Boi?

Big Boi’s Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors is the kind of album that makes you hate reviewing albums. If you told me a dozen years ago that I’d grow up to slander my favorite half of Outkast, I’d have soon as run you over with a Coupe Deville and devoured strawberry lemonade, patty melts and popcorn shrimp in celebration. It would have been a sumptuous evening at the Cheesecake Factory.

No good can come from saying that I never want to listen to the new Big Boi album again. Who am I to tell you that his musical choices were mostly wrong? My musical highlight was a virtuosic recorder rendition of “Hot Crossed Buns” in the third grade. He made ATliens and Aquemini. He has earned the right to make worse decisions than a sorority girl who just downed a pint of Jaegermeister after breaking up with her boyfriend.

“If I started a vicious lie and dangerous rumor that the inspiration for this record was a Zip file of the Pitchfork 2009 Singles List, it would be totally believable.”

My issue with Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors is that three-quarters of it sounds designed to offer solace to said sorority girl. This isn’t inherently bad. Thetas need soundtracks too, but a Sir Lucious Left Foot synth-pop jaunt won’t supplant Ke$ha or Mumford & Sons or “Pop That.” There are certain roles that are expected of us in society. Louis C.K. is meant to be the existential schlub. The Dalai Lama is required to wear saffron robes and dispense obvious but sage advice. And Big Boi is contracted to keep it funky.

That was the pact. If André 3000 was the astral futurist, Big Boi was the grounded philosopher, the thinking mack, rooted inextricably with the swampy Dirty South soil. André was the one with the pop touch and Big Boi kept it 100, the anchor to remind him that Beatles bobs and Jungle beats could only get so much burn in barbershops and strip clubs.  Or as the he said on “Aquemini,” he was the one down with the streets, “where his folks at.” And then the curtain closed.

In the aftermath of Outkast’s sabbatical with options, André moved to Hollywood, acted in movies about the ABA, appeared as the face of Movember, and slayed the occasional cameo. Big Boi drew the unenviable task of keeping the torch lit. So he released an excellent 2010 solo record and played for festival crowds whose introduction to Outkast came with “Ms. Jackson.” He encountered an array of new sounds, artists and colors of glow stick. Flash forward to him getting busted last year returning home from a cruise ship with a packet of E pills and his pal, Molly.

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