It's hard not to greet the arrival of a Big Boi solo album with pangs of regret. The project itself serves as a depressing reminder that hip hop supergroup Outkast is still on hiatus, seven years removed from Speakerboxx/The Love Below (yes, I am going to pretend that Idlewild never happened). More than anything, we wish Andre would stop drifting about, dabbling in all manner of artistic pursuits, and get his ass back in the studio.
The silver lining behind Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son Of Chico Dusty however is that Big Boi is given an opportunity to remind us once again that he is the real deal. After his spectacular performance on Speakerboxx, we shouldn't be surprised by this fact, but for some reason we continue not to take him seriously as a soloist.
That may be about to change now. Three years in the making and full of stories about major label drama (collaborations with Andre were blocked from inclusion on the album by Jive Records after Big Boi spilt from the label over creative differences), Sir Lucious Left Foot arrives as an excellent collection of eclectic, well-constructed and deeply satisfying tracks.
Big Boi seems to have never met a musical influence he wasn't compelled to incorporate; from funk to vintage 70's soul to rock, classical and even show tunes. For someone so unassuming, he proves to be fearless and full of imagination when it comes to exploring different sounds. He also proves to be an expert composer, blending all of these competing sounds into funky and intoxicating brew. He presides over the entire affair, featuring 12 different producers and 16 guest appearances, with supreme confidence and a deft ear. Rather than sounding like an experimental mish mash, this record comes off as tight -- all of it anchored by General Patton's nimble flow and his insistence on infusing everything with an unmistakable dirty south crunk music aesthetic.
Impressively, Big Boi manages to get the most out of his standout guest list roster. It must be hard not to get caught up in the stankiness once you enter the world of Daddy Fat Sax (I love that moniker), because there are no gratuitous appearances here and no one mails in a performance. Long-time collaborator Sleepy Brown infuses the album with his usual brand of lush R&B on "Turns Me On", but he is actually outdone by a subdued and infectious chorus offered by Jamie Foxx on "Hustle Blood".
T.I. and Khujo help spice up the proceedings on "Tangerine", a filthy celebration of strippers that bounces over a pulsating drum track reminiscent of Kanye West's "Love Come Down". Andre 3000 does manage to land a production credit. On "You Ain't No DJ" he reinterprets an 80's electro beat, chopping it up and adding effects that might make Afrika Bambaataa jealous. Bangin' doesn't begin to describe it. Even George Clinton himself chimes in, sounding spry alongside Too Short (and apparently still high as hell) on "Fo Yo Sorrows".
I could go on, but you get the point. I like this record a lot. It's admirable how Big Boi has put his head down and gone to work in the absence of his more famous partner and with little in the way of commercial expectations. There is more than enough great material here for him to finally earn his overdue props and to tide us over until the next Outkast album arrives.