Some musicians are universally acclaimed for their ability to create music so far ahead of its time that its full value isn’t even discovered until years later. I can hardly think of a better representation of that statement than two musicians who have given the world so much genre and time defying music over the last two decades, everyone else seems to be playing catch up. Unafraid to explore new territory sonically, Andre 3000 and Big Boi introduced the world to some of the funkiest, most soulful and well crafted music that has ever been created as the collective duo known as Outkast. After a lengthy career that culminated with 16 Grammy nominations and six occasions where they actually won, the two split to pursue their own aspirations while remaining close enough to go on a reunion tour and set the internet ablaze with multiple rumors of a comeback album.
Andre gravitated towards acting and stayed in the music game via a few expertly crafted feature appearances on tracks with other prominent artists. Big Boi on the other hand went down a very bumpy road with his record label, Jive and ended up releasing a solo album in 2010 with Def Jam, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty. Apart from their album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, no one had much of an idea, if any, of what Big Boi was capable of creating without Three Stacks. When the album finally dropped in July, any faith that had been lost due to the duo’s civil split-up, had been restored ten-fold as soon as listeners heard Big’s voice at the very end of an incredibly layered, bass-y, funky, electronic and rhythmic track one saying, “Damn, and that wasn’t nothing but the intro…”. The song was diverse enough in itself to constitute a sparked curiosity about where the rest of the album would go. Yet, there is no way an introduction could have been crafted to prepare listeners for the countless musical directions that this album went.
The final product can only be summarized by a word not yet existent in the English language. It is funky electro-soul, old-school futuristic hip-hop; a contradiction in itself and it works beautifully. The album practically bleeds energy and weaves through concept after concept with surreal ease. So much of the production on this album would have left almost any other rapper clueless as to what to do with it and pushed them to creating stereotypical, cliched verses, but not Daddy Fat Sacks (Yea, that’s a Big Boi moniker). Big Boi has got to be one of the most interesting rappers in terms of flow and delivery; he can ride with, or against the beat with equal confidence.
As tiring as it sounds, there is a certain comfort found in eclectic mixture of beats and cadences. Big Boi is pushing so many boundaries with the combinations of sounds on this album, and man is it refreshing. A song like “Follow Us”, which starts out with a pretty standard melody eventually diverges into synthesized keys and a lively chorus by Vonnegut, shows just how experimental Big Boi can be. The way his words seem to end so sharply after the last syllable only make what he is saying hit that much harder. He is just as quick to drop some conscious commentary bars as he is to just have fun and play around with rhyme schemes and talk about sex.
This is an album that truly belongs everywhere. No instruments were spared, in fact, it’s sounds like everything that makes a sound was featured on this album. On “You Ain’t No DJ”, Big and Yelawolf traverse over a chime-y beat that sounds something like when a child uses a metal spoon to bang on the back of metal pots rapidly. There is a certain amount of respect that is deserved to Big Boi for simply being able to conduct himself so casually and formidably over the absurd, beautiful production. So, after years of uncertainty in terms of what each member of the historic duo brought to the table, I think it is safe to say that there’s a lot more to the southern gangster known as Big Boi than we ever could have imagined.