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Not one to fall behind with what's new and fresh in the Hip Hop world, I was quick to pick up the debut solo album from OutKast's Big Boi when it dropped. A Summer 2010 release, the record enables the Georgian duo's more street-centred lyricist to give the world a taste of his own capabilities away from André 3000 (who seems to spend much of his time away with the movies). The elaborately-named "Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty" has Big Boi (born Antwan Patton) following what he brought on his half of OutKast's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" with the raw, Funk-based style which he gets his kicks out of.
Of all American Hip Hop releases of recent times, this is one that I've been especially excited to see get the final release as it's recording process took so long and was given a hyped-up false start when the Raekwon and André 3 Stacks-featuring "Royal Flush" came out as a single to promote the release. Since this came a good two years before the rest of the album would come out, this didn't make the final cut. "Sumthin's Gotta Give" (which featured Mary J. Blige) saw the same fate as it never really got off the ground after coming out. Since then, it seemed that people had even forgotten about this as Big Boi failed to feature on any tunes, never mind put out the rest of the album. This suddenly changed once the new, actual lead single popped off: "Shutterbugg".
The singles on the album are all killers. For me, "Shutterbugg"'s innovation out-does any modern Rap track by miles. Here Scott Storch plays with vocal samples in a grungy manner and Cutty and Big Boi come up with a bright and uplifting melodies and rhymes to offset its griminess. In doing so, naturally Soul II Soul's "Back To Life" is re-sung partway through to add draw comparisons with the newness that this cut has to what that act had when they débuted. The quality continues in "Fo Yo Sorrows" as it gets Big Boi hooking-up with none other than P-Funk's founder - George Clinton, as well as the legendary Too $hort as he brings together three generations of Funk-based artists.
I found that the release may be a little annoying to some who want a much more 'true' solo release, whereby he does a strong proportion of the vocals himself, but this isn't the case as almost each track on the whole album has someone helping him out in some way or another. It's hard to complain though as the line-up is amongst the best of recent times. It may not see OutKast reunite at any point, but you're not really likely to complain when you've got the likes of T.I., Too $hort and Jamie Foxx to look forward to on the release. In addition to this, he also looks to hook-up with some up-and-comers out of the Dirty South and so Yelawolf and B.o.B. joins him, Sleepy Brown and other regulars in the Dungeon Family.
The line-up, in regards to the production, seems to be just as strong and surprising. Here is where you will find a little something from André 3000 - which isn't quite what OutKast fans would have wanted, but makes up for his vocal absence to some degree. Other than Dré for just one tune, you also get the expected Organized Noize and Mr. DJ participation in this side of things. In addition to the Crunk artist Lil' Jon, the long time Nas-collaborator Salaam Remi and former Roots band member Scott Storch have a role in forming the backing to Big Boi's rhymes. On this side of the music they come up with more of the expecting things (if you've followed OutKast since their humble beginnings back in 1994) as Big Boi keeps things strictly underground and far away from the commercial Hip Hop scene of 2010. I felt that this gave things a feel that would enable it to be considered timeless as it ages and not fit in as something which sounded late '00s/early '10s in a decade's time. The lack of feeling pigeonholed into a certain era is due in part to the fact that Mr. Patton's recording process involves him just listening to the backing music for a couple of years before he ever puts any rhymes to it.
The album seems to have a strong structure to it. It begins with a fierce, Funk-based introductory track with Roger Troutman-esque Talk Box work on it before its followed-up by a Mr. DJ-produced, fast-paced number to give the record some sort of momentum before he projects himself into the much more regular-length Rap tracks. Once there, thing get even more exciting as time after time we're given bold displays of his musical tastes and how well he is able to work with his producers to come out with the perfect sound to put this across to the audience.
Big Boi's assistance on "Tightrope" is rightfully thanked by Janelle Monáe as the singer joins him on the trancey "Be Still". I wouldn't consider this one to be as special as their last collaboration, but enough of the other cuts make up for it. I'd consider the sixth, seventh and eighth track block trio ("General Patton", "Tangerine" and "You Ain't No DJ" respectively) to be the biggest highlight of the release. Not counting "Shutterbugg" before it, this section stands as the most solid example of the raw Southern Hip Hop sound he wishes to shove in the listeners face. Here he goes from a monstrous, Metal-edged banger, to a smooth dance piece and then a spacey and futuristic one to top it off. Once these are over, he precedes towards more conventional recordings - the first of these being one where Big gets his pimp on with the Jamie Foxx-assisted "Hustle Blood" and has Lil' Jon showing a very different side to his beats as he clams the Crunk down and lays down something calming and soulful instead.
Late on, Big Boi even finds room to fit Gucci Mane in and allows the slightly-behind-the-times rapper to get a say on this future classic by coming on for the hook and then a whole verse (where he does his usual and speaks on nothing but his jewellery in just the way that he has for years). I felt that the latter stages of the record had a lot to say just as the trio in the middle did. Here, as we draw towards the final few of the 15 within the main body of the release, we've given amongst the freshest that he has to offer. "The Train" gives off more of the ATLien in Patton and the very playful "Back Up Plan" tops it off as he comes to bring back novelty Southern Hip Hop as he knows it (unlike the dance-based material which tends to dominate this field in the late '00s/early '10s period.
The bonuses may not be extensive, but I thought that the added couple of tunes were a nice extra feature to the album and a nice incentive to go and pick it up. The two final cuts are one completely fresh one, and a cut which remixes the Gucci Mane one with Three 6 affiliate Project Pat and UGK's sole surviving member Bun B providing their own verses.
Getting your head round the music is a real effort here as there's always so much going on. It's already been mentioned in regards to "Shutterbugg", but if you take "Fo Yo Sorrows", the complexity of it with massive tempo shifts, early nineties Miami Bass being brought together with your stripped-down, throwback, head-bopping Dirty South Hip Hop music means that as a listener, you're taken on a musical journey unlike any other that you're likely to encounter on a Hip Hop release in 2010. In addition to the production, the rhymes through the release are just as much of an effort as Big Boi utilises his extensive run in the game his advantage to give an impression of his versatility and abilities to come out with a number of cuts filled to the brim with slick wordplay.
Overall, I feel as though this is another solid release from the OutKast camp. Big Boi doesn't disappoint. Even though he doesn't manage to get André 3K rapping with him at any point during it, the rapper gives us more of the kind of timeless Dirty South material which was introduced by the whole of the Dungeon Family through the nineties and into the '00s once they got more of a commercial break. I felt as though this would appeal to a wide range of listeners. Of course is likely to be bought by those who got into 'Kast late (since 2003's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"), but I feel that this is much more directed towards the fan of true, adventurous and edgy Hip Hop.
1. "Feel Me" (Intro) **Five Stars**
2. "Daddy Fat Sax" **Five Stars**
3. "Turns Me On" (feat. Sleepy Brown and Joi) **Five Stars**
4. "Follow Us" (feat. Vonnegutt) **Five Stars**
5. "Shutterbugg" (feat. Cutty) **Five Stars**
6. "General Patton" (feat. Big Rube) **Five Stars**
7. "Tangerine" (feat. T.I. and Khujo) **Five Stars**
8. "You Ain't No DJ" (feat. Yelawolf) **Five Stars**
9. "Hustle Blood" (feat. Jamie Foxx) **Four Stars**
10. "Be Still" (feat. Janelle Monáe) **Four Stars**
11. "Fo So Sorrows" (feat. George Clinton, Too $hort and Sam Chris) **Five Stars**
12. "Night Night" (feat. B.o.B. and Joi) **Five Stars**
13. "Shine Blockas" (feat. Gucci Mane) **Five Stars**
14. "The Train" (Part II - Sir Lucious Left Foot Saves the Day) (feat. Sam Chris) **Five Stars**
15. "Back Up Plan" **Five Stars**
16. "Theme Song" **Five Stars**
17. "Shine Blockas" (Remix) (feat. Gucci Mane, Bun B and Project Pat) **Five Stars**
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Feel Me (Intro)
2 Daddy Fat Sax
3 Turns Me On feat. Sleepy Brown & Joi
4 Follow Us feat. Vonnegutt
5 Shutterbugg feat. Cutty
6 General Patton
7 Tangerine feat. T.I. & Khujo Goodie
8 You Ain't No DJ feat. Yelawolf
9 Hustle Blood feat. Jamie Foxx
10 Be Still feat. Janelle MonÃ?Â?Ã?Â¡e
11 Fo Yo Sorrows feat. George Clinton, Too Short & Sam Chris
12 Night Night feat. B.o.B & Joi
13 Shine Blockas feat. Gucci Mane
14 The Train Pt. 2 (Sir Lucious Left Foot Saves The Day) feat. Sam Chris
15 Back Up Plan
16 Theme Song
17 Shine Blockas Remix feat. Gucci Mane, Bun B & Project Pat
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Shutterbug (Video)
2 ShineBlockas (Video)
3 General Patton (Video)
4 Fo Yo Sorrows (Video)
5 Follow Us (Video)