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Monday, December 10, 2012

Big Boi's Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors: A First Listen

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM


Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is the title. Why? Does Big Boi even have any enemies? Has anyone ever beefed with him...ever? Who is he referring to, disgruntled Idlewild ticket-buyers? Or is he increasingly in denial that Outkast -- his meal ticket artistically and commercially -- is over? It's not hard to feel for him. Luckily his last album, Sir Lucious Leftfoot, wasn't just great music on the Outkast level, but a creative resurgence. Still, I'm worried about this one, which has come with far less advance hype.


It's an intro. Just now occurring to me I've never had to "liveblog" one of those before. Not much happens!

"The Thickets"

And we're off. That lip-licking voice, those skip-rope-y meters, the beat souled out, with a delightfully extra-sleepy Sleepy Brown on the hook. All familiar hallmarks of Classic Outkast, which seems to be the satellite radio format Big Boi aspires to these days. Nice synth breakdown -- remember, this guy knows song structures, and ever the P-Funk fan, takes a drawling joy in rhyming "beaucoup" with "noodle."

"Apple of My Eye"

Someone alert Solomon Burke -- this is greasy, organ-led Allmans-cum-Black-Keys rock 'n' soul. But it's several shades less colorful than "Hey Ya!," with which it shares a beat. Pitchfork gave this album a 6.1 today, and this song exemplifies a 6.1 if I've ever heard one: inoffensively inoffensive.

"Objectum Sexuality"

"I rub my stick on your chick like a violin" -- okay, so this is where Big Boi becomes our era's LL Cool J, a fantastic rapper despite little to say, primarily concerned with getting your girl to c'mere. Compared to Rick Ross or Drake, I'll fucking take it. But I have no idea what Phantogram is doing here; that's on some Common-feat.-Stereolab shit. (I don't actually know who Phantogram is, I just know their part sounds like Stereolab.)

"In the A"

A darker, longer take on the last album's martial "General Patton," with bigger guests. Pretty bracing, and when's the last time you could describe something from the Dungeon Family as intense? The clashing strings could even be Odd Future. A jovial Ludacris and an enjoying-his-free-time T.I. -- have these three never really shared a billing before? It's about Atlanta, but I'll buy you a drink if you giggled at the title like I did.

"She Hates Me"

The beat sounds exactly like the Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize??" and given the guest list here, I wouldn't be surprised to see Wayne Coyne in the writing credits. He's on the Ke$ha album, after all. This album's a weird paradox so far; it's very simplistic and yet kind of a mishmash. When Mr. Patton complains that everyone's dickriding his flow, it doesn't sound like a boast, it sounds like an invitation to unfollow. Bonus boredom: guitar solo fade out.


Phantogram again -- do these guys share an agent or something? "And it's you that's on my computer screen/ Because it's you that's on my mind" is neither a promising standalone idea nor a good idea for a rap song. Guys, rappers don't use computers, and when they do it's not to meet women. Didn't you listen to "Ayo Technology"? Didn't you see DMX's technophobic rant? Meanwhile, shitty song.

"Thom Pettie"

Titles: getting worse. Beats: uneven. This one's the best on the record though, a crawling, wormy synth line with hilariously over-reverberating 808s. Big Boi's still worth hearing as a rapper even in this empty mode, twisting "pen-cil" to rhyme with "pret-zel." The screwed-down hook is almost inaudible. Little Dragon's on this and the last DJ Shadow album, making them this generation's Everything but the Girl, the blandest well-connected "tasteful hook" adders around. For comparison, check out their peers Chairlift blowing the roof off on that last Das Racist album.

"Mama Told Me"

Big Boi's not gonna have a hit single in this climate, but like Ghostface's "Back Like That," this is a wholehearted stab at one, with Kelly Rowland of all people providing a familiar, gorgeous melody, some funky Roger Troutman action in back, and a slap-bass inflected take on the "When Doves Cry" Linndrum intro as a backdrop. One of the better tracks. Maybe going full Santana on a pop album would've focused him?


The best of the Phantogram tracks appears to sample one of those Tom Morello toggle-switch solos scratching back and forth for a great track until... Phantogram comes in. The beat drops out, the dreamy, multitracked dramatic vocals make no sense. Always fun to hear him rapping about alligators, but like so many tracks here, you'll begin to think he really needs Lucinda Williams-style waits between albums to ensure nothing's undercooked. And the ever-ubiquitous A$AP Rocky is kind of proving to be the Phantogram of rap. I hope after this review I never have to type the word "Phantogram" ever again.

"Shoes for Running"

Wavves sings the hook and it fucking blows. It's impossible to charter the power exchange at this point; are these bands moving up, so en vogue that our established boy really needs them? Or is Big Boi slumming it, rudderless, eternally optimistic about searching for a new sound but exposed to random outfits that don't cohere into an aesthetic? The reliance on guests to steer the ship when virtually none of them are actually doing it is a familiar tale in rap -- just look at D12. But it's becoming less and less difficult to see why Andre 3000 was too "busy" to contribute to these weak, inexplicable songs. Oh god, there's a children's choir for no reason.


Strange, clappy beat and aimless hook from someone named Mouche and Scar (?) plants us firmly back in "Electric Circus" territory. Does he really think these tracks are as essential as "Shine Blockas" or "Follow Us," much less "B.O.B."? Or is he just so relaxed that he's falling off the couch?

"Tremendous Damage"

These songs are so. Fucking. Slow. Ironically, Big Boi's singing voice is really nice! Husky and carrying the tune, which is his "Rooster," about his Dad in Vietnam and questioning religion. If only he carried the whole thing; don't need this overproduced Bosko chorus about being "strong like a soldier." If only the tune wasn't a five-minute piano ballad.


Okay, this is getting beyond the pale. Stay off the sizzurp, Big Boi. This is like the 15-minute song on the last Yo La Tengo album, but one-third the length and three times as boring. Go away Little Dragon.

"Higher Res"

808s, artful polyrhythms, messy sonics, zzzzzzzz. this psychedelic experience is truly turning into a bad trip. This is aiming for the surround-sound binaural explosions of Primal Scream's Vanishing Point, but it's almost unlistenable. The Idlewild album kept it together a lot better than this. The movie probably did too.


Finally a good song! And surprise, it's a fucking normal rap song. With UGK and Big K.R.I.T., guests that make sense. Really, I'm not the guy to argue for conservatism in rap so you can imagine how annoyed I am at having to tell our hero to shut down all his wacky ideas. And no matter how innocuous and slick he, his flows, or his boasts remain, we're at the close of a 17-track album and this is maybe the fourth good song. Disappointing.

"She Said OK"

In keeping with the rest of this record, which slowly revealed itself to be the worst of Big Boi's career, this is a song with nice things, and then horrible things compromising them. This is a pretty little phase-shifting funk beat. Then this joyless stiff of a chorus comes in: "Let me see your titties/ She said OK/ Let me see your pussy/ She said OK." Is this a Snoop record or Big Boi? :(


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