Big Boi

April 10, 2010 at 5:40 pm (1)

There’s some label trouble with Big Boi’s new album, Sir Luscious Left Foot Saves The Day: Big Boi said in an interview that it was just him wanting to get all of the elements of the project in line, and, judging by the incredible range of guest stars on the album released so far, his story checks out. Just the slow and steady cultivation of a pop behemoth, an artist seen in the public eye, which is the most interesting thing about the album’s release. Compare this to the more recent example of Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreaks being slowly leaked, just exploding from listening parties to leaked copies the days after, and it’s clear how albums are made these days: In the public eye.

With a completely transparent process, the entire process becomes part of the enjoyment: and compared to Kanye West just beginning to share too much of himself and his music on TV, Big Boi has taken the lesson of multiple leaks, in between mixing and mastering, and given a remarkably conservative album: his neo-classic confidence compared to Kanye West’s genre smashing catharsis. With a range of leaks (that may or may not make it onto the album) either sampling literally from the past (“Royal Flush” and “Shine Blockas“) or made with synthesizers and vocoders from the past (“Fo Yo Sorrows” and “Shutterbug“), the album stakes up an aesthetic of playful manipulation moreso than any other hip hop album lately: it’s no accident that it’s also one of the funnest around.

Compared to Kanye West’s sorrow or Lil Wayne’s intoxication, Big Boi’s slickness comes across as a confidence that prevents him from making mistakes. Instead of reaching out, he firmly steps into a cool of the past, and just makes elation seem effortless. Take the soul from Shine Blockas, the

His relationship to auto-tune is also pretty interesting. Instead of vividly rejecting it (like Jay-Z’s Death of Auto-tune), he rejects also the easy but shimmering computerized auto-tune of Lil Wayne and modern hip pop, and actually uses a talkbox like Peter Frampton, or slides in a chopped and screwed line in repeat. Whenever someone in love with Lil Wayne responds to your criticism of his work as relying on cheap effects with the usual “you just don’t like auto-tune because it’s different”, you can point to Big Boi’s latest albums as embracing that roboticism, but at the very least using different kinds of effects on each song.

And on the one song not involving a distinct and memorable manipulation of a human voice, George Clinton comes in on the track, singing about blowing second hand smoke aggressively to people who don’t want him to, so every song has someone trying desperately hard to being human but failing.

It’s all pretty interesting stuff: some hip hop that sums up the current state of hip hop and is completely cool with the new toys it suddenly has access to by becoming mainstreaming. “Selling out” and losing the critically conscious Andre 3000 has only made Big Boi’s productions become the technological theatrics they’ve always been striving for as he embraces funk and soul and R&B instead of new intellectual ideas with each new song.

Turns out Outkast just needed some time apart.

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