Words About Music
Atlanta rapper Big Boi scarcely needs an introduction, but here goes nothing. Antwan André Patton is most well known as half of one of hip-hop’s most exciting, legendary acts, Outkast. He always served as a nice foil to the expressive, weird, one-of-a-kind Andre 3000 by keeping things grounded. His wordy, down-to-earth flow should never be doubted, as he’s put together some of the genre’s best verses, whether it’s his lightning-speed riffing on “Ms. Jackson” or the way he matches Andre’s energy on “B.O.B.”
Since Outkast imploded in the mid-2000s, though, Big Boi has made numerous attempts to be the duo’s breakout star. In 2010, he dropped his first proper solo album, “Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty,” a fantastic record that solidified his legacy. He followed it up in late 2012 with the poppy, overwrought “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors,” an album that I enjoyed when it initially came out but in hindsight is merely okay. “BOOMIVERSE” is Big Boi’s highly anticipated third album, and first in 4.5 years. I am intentionally excluding the unnecessary Big Grams project he dropped with Phantogram in 2015, because it’s simply not a very good record.
On “BOOMIVERSE,” Mr. Patton delivers a series of crowdpleasers that intentionally tries to reach out and grab fans of all his disparate styles. You’ve got your pop rap, your bangers, and everything in between on this project, and while it’s not the most consistent rap album of 2017, there’s a lot about it worth enjoying. Let’s dissect, shall we?
The album kicks off with what is essentially an intro. “Da Next Day” features a hot verse from Big Boi on top of an Organized Noize beat, with a short spoken word outro at the end from Big Rube. I love the strings that compose this track’s beat, and I think Big Boi’s flow sounds as impressive as ever. There’s not much to say about it because it’s so short, but it nicely sets the tone for the album, and works as a captivating introduction to an album that I can only hope is up to par.
Gold is struck on the next track, “Kill Jill,” which was one of the album’s first singles. This ATL trap banger features guest appearances from Killer Mike and Jeezy, as well as a sample from Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Killer Mike comes through like an emperor on his verse, and Jeezy gives us an excellent hook. This is Southern rap at its apex, and overall it’s a complete success.
As “Kill Jill” fades out, we’re hit with some standard synth-funk drums. It actually reminds me of Everything Everything’s “Get to Heaven,” weirdly enough. Thus presents the album’s first major issue: sequencing. I don’t know who decided that following up the extra-banger that is “Kill Jill” with the overly poppy, Adam Levine-featuring “Mic Jack” was a good idea, but that person should probably be fired. I’m not super into the production on this one, and Levine’s saccharine, sultry chorus doesn’t fit Big Boi’s style. I don’t know why Big Boi thinks that this sound suits him, because it doesn’t, and it leaves me feeling mixed on how this record is going to turn out as a complete listen.
Bad sequencing strikes again as we’re hit with yet another Southern rap banger, “In the South,” which features a sample of the late Texas rapper Pimp C and a verse from the still-very-much-alive Gucci Mane, who’s been doling out guest verses like they’re pieces of gum. This is another song I enjoy, as it features Big Boi really killing his own lane in the best sense of the word. The beat is, once again, phenomenal, and Pimp C’s instantly recognizable voice rings like a phantasm of truth on this hook.
More goodness hits us on “Order of Operations,” which features an iconic hook from Eric Bellinger. I like the way Big Boi uses this song to reflect on fiscal responsibility, talking about how he started making a lot of his money when he was young, and how he was brought up by family members who instilled in him important lessons about how money should be spent. This isn’t the best or most memorable track on the album, but it has grown on me quite a bit since I first heard it, and I think it justifies itself.
One of my favorite songs is “All Night,” which hits at the halfway point of the album, kicking off with an impeccable piano refrain. In many ways, this track reminds me of D.R.A.M., specifically songs like “Cash Machine” and “Broccoli.” I love the production on this track, and I also can’t help but point out the irony that this is a song about respect and love fro women that was co-produced by Dr. Luke, the musician who infamously faced numerous accusations of abuse from vocalist Kesha. Regardless, this is Big Boi at his pop-inspired best. Still, I can’t help but long for more consistency on this record, as so far, no two songs have sounded alike.
The second half of “BOOMIVERSE” kicks off with some more synth-funk inspired production, with “Get Wit It,” featuring West Coast gangsta Snoop Dogg. In terms of songs in this style on this album, I certainly prefer it to “Mic Jack,” but I’m still not sure if Big Boi’s hook sits well with me or not. It has a melody and swagger to it that sort of reminds me of YG’s recent album “Still Brazy,” but it isn’t quite as memorable as any of the tracks on that album. However, I must commend Snoop for coming through with a coherent verse on this track. Snoop’s verses these days are super hit-or-miss, but I think he comes through with a charismatic, characteristically smooth verse on this track.
The varying versatility hits us again on the instantly R&B-inspired “Overthunk,” which also features Eric Bellinger. I enjoy the hook on this track, but I think the song itself outshines Big Boi’s verse, which seems to be a recurring project here. It doesn’t feel like a hip-hop album by the rapper Big Boi, it feels like a compilation of songs which all happen to feature verses from Big Boi. There’s a sense of focus on versatility and numerous vocal guests, which at least makes this album feel not so monotonous, but it also feels like a lack of focus. These songs also feel sort of incomplete, too, as well as formulaic.
The next song, “Chocolate,” opens up with a fat, meaty synth bass, and features Big Boi rapping over a techno/house-inspired beat, which doesn’t really work in the album’s context or at all, really. It just sort of feels like Big Boi is throwing all his ideas at the wall, hoping some of them will stick. Some of them certainly do, but this isn’t one of them. Thankfully, it’s a pretty short song, and it’s followed by one of the album’s best moody bangers, “Made Man,” which sees the return of Killer Mike to the fold.
“Made Man” is the sort of track I want to hear Big Boi make, with its gritty, tough exterior. The beat is also fantastic, as is Renegade El Rey’s hook. It’s so great to hear Killer Mike on this production, as well, considering I’m so used to hearing him on El-P’s weird beats. Kurupt, who is also featured on this track, goes pretty hard on the song as well.
As the album comes to an end, we get another sticky hook in “Freakanomics,” which is generally an okay song. It’s not the album’s worst pop rap track, but it’s still more of what I don’t want to hear Big Boi doing. It’s a grower, sure, but it’s not nearly as successful as the more hip-hop-inflected songs on the album. However, it’s got a pretty good melody to it, and its beat feels progressive and weird. It also ends with a pretty hilarious skit centered around a version of “Family Feud” which takes place in the ‘hood.
Killer Mike makes his final return on the album’s awesome closing track, “Follow Deez,” which also features a hook and verse from Curren$y. At least Big Boi took care of his bookends, but I still can’t help but feel that this album is almost hilariously inconsistent with the way it jumps from one track with one sound to another track with a completely different sound. On this album we get pop, synth-funk, techno, hip-hop, and R&B, but not necessarily in an order that makes sense, nor is every track on a qualitatively equal playing field.
Overall, I think that “BOOMIVERSE” is more successful than the unmentionable Big Grams project as well as the overlong, similarly inconsistent “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.” Still, Big Boi has to settle into a sound and see it through to its logical conclusion if he wants to convince me that he can capture the glory of his mid-90s to late-00s output. Hell, he can experiment with different styles if he wants to, but it’d be nice if he attempted to create some sort of flow with his albums. And, for the love of the Based God, please end it with these fade-outs at the end of tracks. Maybe it’s just a personal pet peeve, but it makes the song, and the album as a whole, feel lazy and incomplete.
“BOOMIVERSE” doesn’t sound like an album that took Big Boi nearly 5 years to make. It sounds like a series of half-baked (and occasionally fantastic) songs that were thrown together haphazardly far too long after the 2014 Outkast reunion to do anyone any good. In general, I feel mixed on this album, but I am leaning toward a positive reaction simply because there are some really likable tracks on this album, some amazing production, and more dope rhymes and hooks from one of Atlanta’s greatest hip-hop artists of all time.
SCORE — 6.00 out of 10
FAVORITE TRACKS — Kill Jill, In the South, Order of Operations, All Night, Get Wit It, Made Man, Follow Deez