Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors starts off expectedly enough. The intro “Ascending” gently wafts in, as ethereal as the intros on OutKast’s ATLiens, Aquemini, and Stankonia. The first full song, the soulful but forceful “The Thickets”, could have been on the previous Big Boi record Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, or any of OutKast’s latter-day efforts. Even the next piece, “Apple of My Eye”, isn’t as much of a departure as it might seem at first. It hops and swings, unlike anything on Sir Lucious, but OutKast started dabbling in this starting a decade ago. It’s even less surprising when you find out that this is the one number on this album produced by Mr. DJ, the man behind “Ms. Jackson” and “The Whole World”.
Where you really start to wonder what kind of album you are in for is with the next piece, “Objectum Sexuality”. Where previous Big Boi and OutKast albums would have come back with a club number to balance out “Apple of My Eye”, this song pushes further out into left field. Produced by and featuring electronic indie-pop duo Phantogram (QRO album review), it sounds more like a Phantogram track that happens to feature Big Boi than the hip hop/indie pop hybrid that you might expect from the credits. It comes back to the Atlanta streets with “In the A” featuring TI and Ludacris.
Click here for photos of Big Boi from 2012 CounterPoint Festival in Atlanta, GA in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery
Click here for photos of Big Boi live at FADER Uncapped in Austin, TX on August 7th, 2012 in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery
Click here for photos of Big Boi at 2012 Camp Bisco in Mariaville, NY in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery
Click here for photos of Big Boi at 2011 Governors Ball in New York, NY in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery
Click here for photos of Big Boi at 2011 Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery
Click here for photos of Big Boi at 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, IL in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery
The next piece “She Hates Me” is a little different from what we’ve heard of Big Boi before, but that’s largely due to his uncharacteristically slow, nasally delivery on this number. Otherwise, it’s not that far from OutKast R&B. Then, there’s Phantogram again with “CPU”. Again, it sounds as if they let Big Boi sit in on their session, briefly showing up to awkwardly reference listening to Coldplay. The next song “Thom Pettie” features another electronic indie-pop group, Little Dragon (QRO album review). This track is a little more familiar though. It’s as rubbery and spacey as Phantogram’s contributions to the album, but it resembles OutKast’s “Snappin’ & Trappin’” more than indie pop, partially due to these tracks having guest verses from Killer Mike in common.
And so the album goes, alternating between hip hop, R&B, and indie pop, always keeping you on your toes. Perhaps the best synthesis of these parts is “Shoes For Running”, probably the most unexpected collaboration on the album. Featuring B.o.B. and Wavves (QRO album review), an indie fuzz-punk band, the result sounds unlike any of the contributors involved. The common denominator is producer John Hill, who produced Wavves’ upcoming album, but also has his fair share of pop, hip-hop, and R&B production credentials (Shakira, Theophilus London, M.I.A., etc.). His playful but propulsive production is a major strength of the track, but what really elevates this above the other unlikely collaborations on the album is that Big Boi brings it. Some of the stronger songs on the album are the left field numbers, but Big Boi sounds tentative at best or out of place at worst. The first verse on “Shoes For Running” features the rapid-fire but precise Big Boi we have come to know.
With all of the down-tempo collaborators, this record doesn’t have the energy and vitality of previous efforts, but it manages to break new ground. The results are mixed, but work overall, even if Big Boi isn’t always the reason why they work. More importantly, there is enough classic Big Boi to go along with the experiments that do work to carry this album and make it stand out at the end of the year.