Review: Big Boi - "Sir Lucious Left Foot - The Son of Chico Dusty"

Reviews

Back in 2007, after the release of Outkast’s sixth and worst studio record, Idlewild, Big Boi announced that his first proper solo album was in the works. Soon after the announcement he released what was to be the record’s lead single, “Royal Flush.” The song, for reasons we’ll get to later, was pulled from the planned album. Over the next two-and-a-half years Big Boi changed labels, releasing more singles in support of the much-talked-about Sir Lucious Left Foot along the way, until finally, in the spring of 2010, a release date popped up. Oddly, the record didn’t feature the collaborations with his Outkast partner, Andre 3000, that fans had heard about (and, in most cases, already heard). More on that later.

Sir Lucious Left Foot arrives, same as every Outkast album, on a hot day. Be it late spring, mid-summer or even late fall, Big Boi and Andre have always released their records for summer ears. And, if you’ve heard their albums, you’ll understand why. (Very little reminds me of sweaty summer days in the '90s as much as the group’s classic 1994 debut.) Lucious is not only another perfect fit for the Outkast sound, but it could be the most summer-ready release to come from the camp since their debut. More than even a Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake or early '90s West Coast hip-hop record, Lucious is a summertime classic, having the elements of not only a great pop record, but also a big screen blockbuster. The record is all-out, big and shiny, full of big-name guests, huge productions and epic hooks. The music is oddly creative while also being instantly catchy and accessible. And here we were, thinking that Andre was the weird one.

If you were to say that it sounds like Big Boi modeled his record after the two ultimate summertime hip-hop masterpieces, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, I’d say that you are right on. The funk sound of those two records isn’t necessarily present here, but the elements are. The skits that offer cohesion and a cinematic quality work in the same manner; the guests are wisely used as minor characters who function as detours along the way; the hooks are anthem-like; the compositions are very musical and flow well from track to track; and, most importantly, the lead emcee rises above everything else. There’s so much going on here, so many styles, ideas and guests, so much personality, that it's a major accomplishment that Big Boi without question remains the focus throughout.

Still, though, what is a Big Boi record without Andre 3000? These two emcees have been working closely together, growing artistically, since the early '90s. Hearing one without the other feels wrong. Their now-classic 2003 record, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, was split into two parts, a disc for each artist. Still, though, they turned up everywhere on each other’s discs. Not here. Word is that if Andre’s vocals turned up on any of the record’s songs, some sort of detail from the group’s previous contract would be called into question. And thus, all the songs featuring Andre were left on the cutting room floor. A damn shame.

That Lucious is so damn good without Andre's presence adds to Big Boi's accomplishment. Sure, he has always been a good emcee, but Andre had always been presented as the musical genius behind the band’s increasingly experimental work. The elements Big Boi mixes and the scale he’s working on here argues otherwise. This is a big, grand pop album held together by some of the best hip-hop verses we’ve heard on a mainstream label in years. There’s so much here to love, once again reminding us that the Outkast boys just simply work harder on their records than maybe anyone else in hip-hop (aside from maybe DJ Shadow).

Years in the works, with Lucious we have a new mainstream hip-hop classic. A summer classic. A varied Superalbum stuffed with potential singles and full of ambition and ideas. I’d offer a song-by-song rundown, but that would take another 1,000 words. Front to back, this is a fun, rewarding album that adds nicely to the Outkast legacy.