#6. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
My countdown, I noticed today, is short on rap. I do listen to it a fair bit, but sometimes I find rap albums are all relatively formulaic. They all do the same things, and can be difficult to distinguish from each other. There are quite a few artists who come at it with intelligence (like, The Roots), skills (Wu-Tang), or creativity (Outkast), but even good albums can sound similar. Big Boi is of course part of Outkast, and yet another Artist Going Solo who made my countdown. What did he do on this album that other rappers could not?
It took me quite a lot of thinking to realize this album. I knew I liked it a lot, and what it came down to was simple. The beats are awesome. Roughly half the song are hot rap beats (like “Daddy Fat Sax”), but the other half display a crazy creativity that is rare in rap. I know that AndrÃ© 3000 gets the credit for a lot of creativity in Outkast, and I won’t deny that, but Big Boi has always been overlooked in this department. (Big Boi is the one trying to collaborate with Kate Bush, for instance.) (Please happen.) Big Boi brings his creativity to a fairly typical hiphop world, showing a mastery that very few have.
I’ll try to go into more detail. A few albums ago, I wrote about how Corinne Bailey Rae scaled back her voice, which ended up enhancing the emotion of her album. A lot of Big Boi’s beats here are skeletal, scaled back, which in the end makes them extremely funky. You don’t have to go big to be big. The music at times is claustrophobic and tight. “You Ain’t No DJ” is tense, riding a percussive electro beat, produced by AndrÃ© 3000. A few other tracks highlight Big Boi’s really fast flow above all (like “Night Night”). Big Boi could have easily put out an album full of great tracks like these.
But he didn’t stop there. He showed off his creativity with songs like “Turns Me On,” where a skittery scat vocal loop slowly develops into one of the lushest beats of the year. “General Patton” combines horns with an opera chorus. Opera! It took me awhile to get into “General Patton,” it’s the most aggressive song on here. But once you hear it, you cannot unhear it. The drama is undeniable, and that opera loop is wild. “Fo Yo Sorrows” has all sorts of stuff you don’t hear on usual rap tracks (and some you do, like George Clinton).
Sir Lucious went through years of label politics to get released. (That’s why the 3 songs with AndrÃ© 3000 rapping on it were left off; fortunately Big Boi leaked 2 of them to the web.) There are times Big Boi can be ridiculous, like the over-the-top title, or the not-funny raunchy skits between songs. But this album is an impressive work by one of the masters of the rap genre.