After three years of label wrangling, Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty has finally arrived, and the results are a mixed but ultimately rewarding collaboration between the Outkast MC and a barrage of high-end talent contributors both on the knobs and the mic.
Perhaps Jive Records – who notoriously passed on the album, calling it too “arty” – were expecting a party album, a parallel response to Hey Ya, but it appears that Antwan “Big Boi” Patton had grander visions. Def Jam were all too eager to give him the platform, and the results lead one to believe it’s very likely that the union between the label and Big Boi’s own Purple Ribbon imprint may yield some future fruits.
Big Boi’s tightly wound flow style, lyrical bravado and quick-wit humor are present in abundance throughout Lucious, as are an army of guest vocalists, rappers and producers that serve to supplement the material rather than upstage the star (as opposed to, say, Drake’s debut). Daddy Fat Sax delivers the full-color bombastics right off, with lush production courtesy of Mr. DJ and a skittery-hook chorus loop made for cruising. The variety of production never upstages the product, with Big Boi’s meticulous attention to detail in presentation and flow (as well as the ever-present skit) adding crucial sonic lubrication between architectural framework.
With gravitationally atmospheric keys, Turns Me On begs for a full Outkast treatment, reminding us of the complimentary polarities between Antwan and Andre, and what the latter could bring to such a track. Big Boi applies less effort to achieving genre-bending musical styles than his partner in Outkast, but has always held an aficionado flare for building steam-train production and impeccable sound around his flow, be it through funk, electro-beats, hardcore rap or ’80s R&B. Rather than the vanity product that Andre 3000’s album became, Patton seems determined to cast new light on disregarded root-gems within the rap movement.
Most of the guests on Lucious nestle in with seamless flow, with a few exceptions. Vonnegut’s weak delivery on the hook throws Follow Us off a very promising track. It’s unintended irony that the song issues a warning to copycats/half-assers. The novelty of Tangerine, featuring Khujo Goodie and T.I., wears off by the second chorus, despite a succulent flow over a shaking tambourine and clap-stomp drums that make you want to get involved in the percussion. Most criminally, the creeping funk of Fo Yo Sorrows doesn’t live up to the legend that George Clinton brings by default in his appearance.
Andre3000 was reportedly contractually barred from rapping on the album, but he lends his production talents to You Ain’t No DJ with underwhelming newcomer Yelawolf, who’s apparently all too willing to endure critical comparisons to Eminem. Dude makes very little effort to develop his own technique, unless a copy/paste mix of Lil Wayne and Mr. Mathers’ delivery counts, and his presence is so completely distracting and grating that the track is inevitably ruined.
Skits will always be a point of division for rap fans – some revel in their overtly ridiculous segue potential, while others find them an obnoxious, amateurish glaze on most any project. Big Boi clearly falls into the former category, littering the album with flow-disrupting skits that border on utterly grating (Janelle Monae deserves better than teabag referencing at the onset of her track).
Gucci Mane’s flavor lifts Southern Hip-Hop standout Shine Blockas to classic heights, just as the understated, ethereal Organized Noize beat does on The Train Part II. Jamie Foxx appears on the obligatory seduction jam (Hustle Blood), while Scott Storch’s touch on Shutterbug is slick and dirty, an album-standout nod to L.A. electro-tech from 20 years ago, with a layered & focused modern execution. But to relegate Janelle Monae’s guest appearance to a repetitive, pretty vocal showcase is a damn shame, given that the girl can hustle & flow like few other females in the game, with more class and soul than any other.
In all, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty is a solid album with a number of contributing misfires amidst the bells and whistles. The melting pot of guests create a wildly flavorful concoction with few points of filler (outside those goddamned skits, of course). The potency varies, but after a powerful midsection and a strong finish the urge to start the album over once it finishes is hard to ignore.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.