Big Boi, “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Big Boi’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors takes a sharp stylistic turn away from 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. Big Boi has always had his ears open to everything and seems to get creatively restless easily. So, he reeled in tons of collaborators and injected his southern hip hop with indie electronic sounds.

The guest work on the record is all over the map. There are more genre-standard team-ups, like A$AP Rocky, Kelly Rowland and Ludacris, and then there’s the more unexpected crossovers into indie territory with Wavves’ Nathan Williams, Phantogram and Little Dragon.

Actually, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is so heavy on collaborations that it makes the record as a whole a little schizophrenic. When he’s working with his contemporaries — on “In the A,”  he brings in T.I. and Ludacris, and he has UGK and Big K.R.I.T. on “Gossip” —  it sounds like the Big Boi we’re used to. But big chunk of the album features indie pop duo Phantogram and Swedish EDM group Little Dragon. It’s a risk, trading the funkier southern hip-hop beats for synthy, thudding EDM sounds, and it pays off more than it falls flat. That’s especially true on “Thom Pettie,” which strikes an excellent balance of styles.

Where collaborations struggle, Big Boi holds them up. He’s still one of the most technically gifted rappers out there, and he’s not letting himself coast on reputation or lean on collaborators. He’s the consistently strong element of Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. That’s weird to say, since it’s his album, but it’s easy to get caught up thinking about the contributions of everyone else.

It’s all going to be divisive. A single person might love half the record and not the other half, and fans as a group will either appreciate the experimentation or gripe about it. At least we can all agree Big Boi’s still got it.

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