Monday, November 2, 2015

Big Boi - Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors Track-by-Track Review

When I’m bored I write track-by-track reviews with no context. This time it's Big Boi's attempted journey into Indie Rap with Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors. Each track is rated .5-5, then tallied and divided by the number of tracks, giving a percentage and a letter grade. That letter isn't entirely indicative of my thoughts on the album as it only takes into account tracks and not the album as a whole.

1. Ascending

Looking back I always enjoyed Outkast’s one minute intros. They set the stage in a non-obstrusive way with calming instrumentation (apart from Speakerboxxx’s intro, which was insane) and church-like melodies. ‘Ascending’ comparatively isn’t anything special, Big Boi’s verbal introduction seems forced and unnecessary. Overall though nothing much to critique, nothing much to ride home about. No Rate

2. The Thickets
(Ft. Sleepy Brown)

Vicious Lies starts slow. Not sonically, things are rather rushed in fact, but merely boring, which is not good. The first official track seems directionless, a synopsis that spans a wide range of topics without caring too much about itself. Even Big Boi’s flow doesn’t impress and there’s too many parts during it that just lull, including Sleepy Brown’s chorus that seems so atypical of Kast throw-aways. 1.5

3. Apple Of My Eye

Things get a bit better here, despite the bookending of a loud crunch into an apple that makes my skin crawl, a sound I didn’t realize I hated so much until constantly hearing it here. Besides that, the beat here is much better, more jumpy, excited, and joyful, like one of Janelle Monae’s diddy’s. Even Jake, the artist singing the chorus, sounds like a more mellow, male version of Monae. Thankfully when Big Boi gets hype things get great, like the second half of the track, where horns accompany a dance breakdown much like ‘Rosa Parks’ or ‘Morris Brown.’ Even with this zany breakdown closing it out the track remains rather subdued, just not as explosive as Big Boi’s previous efforts. 2

4. Objectum Sexuality
(Ft. Phantogram)

Much, much better. My favorite track off Vicious Lies and easily one of my favorite post-Outkast Big Boi tracks. Surprisingly though a large part of that love comes from Phantogram’s stylistic incorporation, with bouncing electronics and a phenomenally jubilant chorus that you can’t help but vibe too. Unfortunately though Big Boi’s verses have become stale and unvaried, emphasizing an easy flow to glide along to. But the beat, the chorus, the bridge, carry this track without question. A classic Outkast tradition, a mid-to-late track breakdown occurs that flips things to keep it interesting before returning to the chorus, which itself switches and builds in glorious fashion. Excellent track that prepared me for Big Grams, their latest EP from the duo. 4.5

5. In The A
(Ft. T.I. & Ludacris)

2000’s Southern banger, without a doubt. The addition of T.I. and Ludacris really emphasizes this, as it sounds picked out of the era of Got Purp Vol.2 and memorable tracks like ‘Kyrptonite.’ Each rapper goes hard, a statement given their aging careers, and the low end burrows deep and doesn’t let up. The choice of chorus sample was strange, using a line from Big Boi’s own ‘Shutterbugg’ from just 2 years prior, but it came out fine and I like the idea of centering the entire song around it. The song does go a bit long, overstaying its welcome as the beat never evolves, but it doesn’t negate the feeling of hearing three Southern legends attempt to out-spit each other. 2.5

6. She Hates Me
(Ft. Kid Cudi)

There’s a handful of songs here where the featured artists plays a more prominent role in the creation of the track than Big Boi himself. And I’m not saying they put more work into it, or dominate the majority of the track, moreso that Big Boi crafted the beat, sound, and style to mimic that of the feature, giving some songs a strange vibe where it doesn’t sound like a Big Boi/Kast track. This is a prime example, as ‘She Hates Me,’ at least sonically and with Cudi, feels more fitted for MOTMII with his drowsy crooning over failed relationships. Big Boi’s verses and flow might be some of the worst on the album here too, which doesn’t help its cause. 1.5

7. CPU
(Ft. Phantogram)

‘CPU,’ the second of three pairings with Phantogram here, feels most primed for their palate, with thumping ElectroPop dominating the background in accordance with the glossy, slightly computerized singing. Unfortunately, as with the last track, VL&DR begins to break in terms of lyrical cohesion, lacking any semblance track by track, heightened by more bland Big Boi perusing. “We like to roleplay, throw on some Coldplay” still holds the crown as one of Daddy Fat Sax’s worst lines of all-time. Thankfully there is some variety in the sound here, with the beat offering a lot to chew on, from paralyzing drum synthesizers to harmonic breakdowns giving things a natural vibe towards the end. 2.5

8. Thom Petite
(Ft. Little Dragon & Killer Mike)

Outkast always had a way with transforming peoples names into verbs. From Rosa Parks to the imaginary Ms.Jackson to Thom Pettie with this latest one, a raucous banger with a low end that growls ferociously. Killer Mike provides one of the best verses on the album with his trademark snarling, his hyper-pronounciation and declaration a welcomed change to Big Boi’s slurring. Being one of VL&DR’s’ hardest tracks it’s nice to hear Little Dragon croon all over the chorus, breathing a new entity into the piece that allows this elegant dance between beauty and the beast to unfold. The moaning is a bit much though, especially throughout the song. Regardless, a pairing with leader and learner always leads to successful songs (‘The Whole World,’ ‘Flip Flop Rock,’ ‘In Your Dreams’) with this one being no different. 2.5

9. Mama Told Me
(Ft. Kelly Roland)

Yet another time here where I question Janelle Monae’s absence. She might’ve been busy but Kelly Roland seems like such an odd choice to star in a song in 2012. She does fine as a simplistic R&B/Pop singer but provides nothing spectacular, much like music akin to hers in the early 2000’s. And as previously mentioned this comes off as a Kelly Roland R&B track, with a bit of modernized production that bounces about. It’s just so, so bland, especially Roland’s solo towards the end which travels on the edge of mundanity. While there’s nothing sensational in Big Boi’s verses, they provide a speedy punch otherwise not found here, which retains some merit that the song has. 1.5

10. Lines
(Ft. A$AP Rocky & Phantogram)

While this does sound sparingly like some lighter tracks off A$AP Rocky’s debut Long.Live.A$AP, it fits better here on Big Boi’s electric attempt. It’s a vibrant track that haunts with disjointed backing vocals from Phantogram, either through their lead singer Sarah Barthel or sample scratching. Both emcees, one from the old school, one from the new, both throw in some well executed verses, with Rocky paying multiple homage’s to Big Boi and Kast in general. A mellowing SynthPop conclusion elegantly wraps up the song in its eclectic measures. 3

11. Shoes For Running
(Ft. B.o.B. & Wavves)

Yes, children singing choruses is a weakness of mine so I’m almost bound to like 'Shoes For Running,’ and I do. While some songs shoe-in that childlike edge, this one is doused in it, slathering itself in a nostalgic joy that’ll make any 90’s kid smile with its pompous celebratory nature. Big Boi’s first verse is absolutely killer, with a rapid flow over bright bouncing synths, while B.o.B. comes in to provide a verse and some accompanied singing at the end, that turns into a nice, innocent children’s rhyme. The hollering chorus from Wavves completes this track as a nice measure to respect one’s life by living it to its fullest. 3.5

12. Raspberries
(Ft. Mouche & Scar)

Vicious Lies winds down on some odd R&B, the first of which is ‘Raspberries’ which bounces and struts to a two-step diddy with Big Boi singing alongside two Dungeon Family affiliates. His forced vocals may be unhinged and squeaky, but the joy he’s clearly having whilst doing it makes Big Boi’s high-pitched appearance a welcome one. Where the song dips a bit though is in its verses, which fail to make an impact, even by the standards of switching up the track severely to allow Patton to grizzle rhyme slowly. The beat though is delicate, tasty, and delightful, with cascading synths joining hollowed out drums. 2.5

13. Tremendous Damage
(Ft. Bosko)

Huge risk here, putting Soulful R&B first before Big Boi’s typical Southern style Hip-Hop. It allows for a more reflective stance, something you can tell Big Boi wanted to get across and couldn’t with Vicious Lies’ stylistic approach. It’s alright but doesn’t excel due to a corniness that’s perpetually in the air the second Bosko pierces onto the track. His wind down flow unfortunately opens up space to see Big Boi’s sometimes one-dimensional rhyming, a facet he typically covers with tremendous flow and slang. Being that it’s one of the longer songs here too, it drags on for far too long, although the forced outro wraps things up nicely with a cacophony of synths and drums swelling in unison. 1.5

14. Descending
(Ft. Little Dragon)

This one fairs much better. While the other doesn’t try anything new and comes off as cheesy multiple times, ‘Descending,’ largely through the airy beat and gorgeous vocals from Little Dragon, make it a worthy closer to the album. It’s a melodramatic finale that bears resemblance to Idlewild, with acoustics parading around slow-moving drums. And while Big Boi does attempt more drawled out singing, this time, with its excessive use, it succeeds due to the emotional attachment it instills. The song centers around the death of Patton’s father, a heavy handed subject given a dense background to work off of. Big Boi’s low end singing, in conjunction with Little Dragon’s high pitched notes, allows for nice perplexity for the album to end off on. 2.5

31.5-70 // 45% // C

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