Big Boi was the dependably solid half of Outkast, while his musical partner was the mad scientist that gave their impeccable discography a delightfully odd bent.
Antwan Andrè Patton was the street smart ATLien with an elastic flow that kept the seminal duo grounded in the world of rap while Andre 3000 got progressively weirder, sang more and started play guitar.
Then, Three Stacks went to do a little acting, and Sir Lucious Left Foot started pumping out solo albums, and should’ve always been clear became obvious — Big Boi is a profoundly weird dude in the tradition of George Clinton’s funk mythology.
This worked out to brilliant effect in Big Boi’s long-gestating solo debut, but yielded uneven results on Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors , which was in part hampered by being a super bloated album.
Go back and listen, there were definitely some good ideas scattered around that album.
Big Boi’s newest offering, Boomiverse, has a hit ratio much more in line with Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, and is frequently a bizarre delight, even if its not quite that album’s equal.
Big Boi is as nimble on the mic as ever, his guest list features Southern rap royalty like Killer Mike, Scar, Pimp C, Curren$y and an expertly deployed Gucci Mane, and there are some truly awesome tracks.
“In the South” is an absolute essential if you’re a fan of a certain type of Dirty South rap. Gucci Mane raps the way a cat stretches over an icy beat with a hook scoffed by Pimp C. It’s perfect and highlights everything a Big Boi track could possibly do well.
But once again Big Boi is slightly undercut by his dedication to experimentation and willingness to throw things at the wall, which while admirable can sort of derail things.
It means some clunker ideas (Adam Levine feature) co-mingling with awesome ideas (A Big Rube narration over dramatically swelling strings) on Boomiverse.
It also means more dabbling in electronic sounds, which is sometimes fun, but just doesn’t sound as exciting as the warm, analogue-sounding noise on a track like “All Night”, which mines the same dixieland vein as the criminally underrated Speakerboxxx deepcut, “Bowtie”.
Big Boi managing to drawl and double-time over the same piano beat is one of this world’s purest joys. “All Night” grabs you by the ear and demands to be on every cookout playlist you make this summer.
But the next six tracks never really hit that high again. There’s some interesting textures, a good bit of introspection and quality rapping, but “All Night” and “In the South” are the two best songs, and they’re on the same half of Boomiverse, which also happens to be the half of the album with “Kill Jill” which is the elevated to the position of best weird song by some inspired huffing and puffing by the big bad Killer Mike.
One Side 2, “Overthought” is a worthwhile if unspectacular meditation on how anxiety is habit-forming and Snoop see whose verse can sound the most like auditory butter, which is pretty damn fun.
This is a good album with flashes of greatness, and songs as good or odd as “Kill Jill” and “In the South” are worth enduring a thousand less-than-wonderful crossover attempts like “Mic Jack”.