Big Boi is finally back from a five year break since Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumours dropped in 2012 with his third studio album, Boomiverse, but will it be as big as the name implies?
Although you may not have heard of Big Boi directly, unless you lived under a rock in the early noughties, you’ve almost definitely heard him. As a former member of hip hop duo Outkast, famous for breakout hit Hey Ya! with Andre 3000 (who we’re still desperately clamouring for an album from!) Big Boi already has impressive credentials. His first ‘solo’ album Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty was met with well-deserved critical acclaim, his second album fared expectedly well too. With the third album finally with us, has Big Boi left us with an album worth waiting half a decade for?
Da Next Day is the opening of the album. Orchestral strings lead straight in, followed by the inimitable flow from Big Boi himself. An almost ominous bassline leads in with drums and Big Rube’s section comes right in on the tails with his deep, raspy spoken word. The song almost feels cinematic, in that it evokes a sense of anticipation, for the first song on the album. There are no two ways about it, it’s exciting.
Kill Jill shows us the ‘true’ opening of the album. Spoken word Japanese lyrics at the entry which is retained in a sample throughout despite a sudden thunderous drop into the main body of the song, where Big Boi and Killer Mike, who have collaborated to great acclaim before, rap over one another in a complex and layered format. In an effort that could make it convoluted, Jeezy joins in choruses and his own verse but it’s masterfully done, the work is near flawless. Made Man is the second of three tracks where Big Boi has brought in friend and fellow heavyweight Killer Mike. It’s the key political track of the album. References to lives lost, phone hacking, police and gun control. It’s darker and more foreboding than some of the other tracks, but that’s no bad thing; with Killer Mike, already known for his activism, on this track; you’d be right to expect it. The final track, Follow Deez is in much the same vein as this; a deeper, gangland tribute of a song that leads away from basic conflict and alludes to a more systematic issue. Once again showing that art stands up to politics and societal aspects; wherever you find it.
Mic Jack is probably the closest thing to pop you’d find on the album and it’s liable to be an instant clubland hit. Big Boi’s speed and lyrical prowess is offset by Adam Levine’s (of Maroon 5) signature falsetto. The hook is fire, and will have you moving to it, whether you want to or not. It’s an excellent song all round and doesn’t feel as though it was produced for the mass market and sales despite it’s likely success. Get Wit It and Overthunk are similar in terms of a more ‘positive’ vibe to the track and a ‘poppier’ feel. With Snoop Dogg’s influence in Get Wit It you’d expect a slightly more ‘old-school’ approach; and you’d be right. Packed with funky, low beat and disco synth (even some Westwood style klaxons at one point) Snoop’s effortless verse shows he’s still got it as well as sounding cool as ever.
In The South comes straight after Mic Jack as a real antithesis to the song it’s following. Despite the real drop in gear speed-wise from some of the other tracks on the album, the Southern blues-influenced riff with organs, sparkling keys and stunning guitar that’s layered over the pounding, sluggish bassline and back to back verses from Big Boi and Gucci Mane makes it a truly accomplished song. Again, you’ll find a steady political undercurrent in this song, as ever-present and strong as the Mississippi that runs through the states that are alluded to.
Order of Operations, All Night and Freakonomics are the trio of Big Boi’s solo work on the album with all other tracks featuring collaboration or influence from others. They’re so far removed from the already varied album that they feel experimental, with Big Boi having full creative control and they are all fine examples of a master at work. All three of the tracks are wildly different from one another and each show something new.
This reviewer’s choice for top track however, would be Chocolate – It’s borderline acid house. It’s further proof that there isn’t a genre that the man can’t tap. It’s loaded with a repetitive hi-hat and kick bassline with Troze’s massively deep vocals altered with effects to underlie the flow from Big Boi. The song is massively engineered to seem like it could almost be being re-worked by a DJ on the flow, with samples being re-layered as if on the fly and record scratches being audible. It’s perfect work.
Now I tried to find fault here, I really did, three back to back listens to find some flaw that I could exploit as a critic; and I can’t. The production couldn’t be tighter, all collaborations are just that, a meeting of equals, not a token addition for variety. All I can add is to go listen to it. NOW!
Author: Steve, Southgate Store