When living legends emerge from their private seclusion with news of a new project the excitement is electric. The return is a reminder; just seeing their name takes you back to why they matter, why you care. Out of all the hip-hop album releases this week—and there are many—the only artist who has his name engraved in the history books underneath the status of hip-hop legend is Atlanta’s very own Big Boi. He needs no introduction, from Savannah to Switzerland the world knows of the Son of Chico Dusty.
It’s been five years since his well-received sophomore album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, three years since reuniting with André for the long-awaited OutKast reunion tour, and two years since releasing a collaborative EP with electro-rock duo Phantogram under the moniker Big Grams. Still, it’s a bit surprising that Big Boi has emerged with BOOMIVERSE. The slick wordsmith has long proven he could stand alone as a solo artist. His legacy is solidified.
The beauty of rap, especially for an artist with Big's veteran status, is that there’s no need to retire. If you can find your way to a microphone, our ears will listen. It’s the very reason Killer Mike and El-P are thriving today, much older than when they began, but the two have never been more popular. BOOMIVERSE could very well usher in the next phase of Big Boi’s solo career, or it could simply be the passion project he’s spent the last five years crafting. Either way, my ears are ready.
What I’m expecting from BOOMIVERSE based on the track listing is an album paying homage to the bottom of the map. Of course, this is expected from Big Boi, he's been the unrivaled essence of Southern cool since OutKast emerged. If you look at the track listing, Big Rube is featured on the intro―well known for his spoken word contributions on OutKast and Dungeon Family albums. BOOMIVERSE is the first album since their beef to feature both Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. A sample of Pimp C appears on “In The South” and Killer Mike is featured on three different records.
It’s the little nuances, like reuniting with Sleepy Brown and Organized Noize, that gives this Big Boi release an air of nostalgia, of returning back to his roots after 2015's Big Grams EP. After taking a walk on the alternative side, it appears that Big Boi is headed back home for his third studio album.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. "Da Next Day" ft. Big Rube
Horns. Heavenly horns. Full of life and soul. Big Boi has a voice that you just know. Rap voices matter. He sounds smoother than dead crocodile suede on a pimp's feet. So far so good, the bass is heavy. That good Southern heavy. Nice Cadillac line already, expecting a lot those. Bars. This is good, a Southern thumper with a classical jazz influence. LIVE FOREVER FOR HIS ETERNAL POEMS. Closest Atlanta will ever get to Shakespeare. I’m enjoying this. “Sometime I get beside myself I call it soul searching.” Big RUBE! I'll never forget the poem he gives after Ant is shot in ATL, classic. His voice is a little raspier than I remember. Is he throwing shots at the new rappers? Kind of tired of OGs taking that stance but they’re entitled to their opinion. Overall I like this. I wonder if Organized produced? [Editor's Note: They did.] I hope so. It’s definitely from their lineage.
2. "Kill Jill" ft. Killer Mike & Jeezy
The Kung Fu movie vocal to start the song that I’m certain is an homage to Kill Bill. Slow build up BUT THE DRUMS JUST SUDDENLY DROPPED LIKE A PUNCH FROM THE BLINDSIDE. I feel like XXXTaco getting punched on stage. Monstrous. My bad, forgot Killer Mike was right there when it dropped. Mike Bigga’s presence is bigger than his physique but he flows with the breath control of an Olympic swimmer. The verse is cool but it's the delivery I love. I loathe how the vocal sample is clinging to the beat like lint to a black shirt. It really takes away from what Mike is saying. It’s like the two are talking over each other. Jeezy! Another one of rap's best voices. Even though it’s not a verse I would’ve loved to hear the Snowman rap. He sounds like he wanted to go in. Big Boi has been tagged in. Again, this vocal sample is killing me. Don’t know about that Cosby line Big, you got explaining to do. I will say Big’s delivery refuses to do what the kids are doing. He is invested in his signature style. If I could throw this sample in the recycling bin, I would. There’s this electronic breakdown at the end that sounds like what Star Wars characters would breakdance to. Who is this? Someone delivered a bridge and I’m unsure, he just came in the song like Bruh-man from the fifth flo.
3. "Mic Jack" ft. Adam Levine, Scar & Sleepy Brown
BOOM! Now we got some mid-tempo funk that’s rather infectious. This beat has more swing than an elementary school playground. I feel like I’m about to hear a pop band and not a Southern rap legend. It’s groovy, though. Big just came in with a line about Hollywood court. Big will sound at home on the strangest productions. This first verse isn’t bad but it seems to compliment the song rather than wow me lyrically. This hook feels a bit dated. The bounce is there, a foot-tapper, would probably mix well with Bruno Mars' last project, but I’m not… completely compelled. A breakdown, a rather interesting one. A bit of that electronic fusion to give the song a little character. The hook is sorta growing on me, I like this as ecstasy club music. I need to hear it in a complete state of inebriation. Move your feet music. I like it, I don’t love it, and definitely a song for a specific mood. Is that Scar? WOOOO SCAR SANGIN'. Nice close.
4. "In The South" ft. Gucci Mane & Pimp C
PIMP C!!! Pimp C always had a voice that told you he was going to collect money from the corner. We miss you Pimp. Cory Mo production! H-Town! Gucci’s voice. I love these keys. Gucci actually sounds more like his old self on this one. Crazy how Gucci was on Big’s first solo album and seven years later he is even more prominent now. Love the T-Rex line just because Gucci has a car worthy of a dinosaur title. Cory Mo killed this. That mid-tempo bouncy banger. Chords crazy. This is a Southern rap tune! Might go buy a classic Cadillac and ride around Westside Atlanta. Big Boi has this strange line about radio not giving airplay to Southern rappers. Unless he’s talking in past tense he hasn’t turned the radio on in 30 years. Great flow on this one but I don’t know if he said anything too memorable. The dove’s cry line stands out. A white Hennessy nod, that’s how you know Big’s an OG. It’s the kind of song that could’ve been released 10 years ago; maybe that’s a sign of timelessness. Big K.R.I.T. is all this song is missing. Nice chopped breakdown. This instrumental is so gospel with the organ chords. Cory made a beat our church grandmothers would be proud of.
5. "Order of Operations"
Five songs in and I’m not feeling too bad. A slow builder. Keys that sound like they’re underwater. It’s an aquatic quality to them. BOOM! Some swinging drums and snapping snares. A very quick hook, didn’t catch it. Hooty Hoo!! Strip club reference. Reminiscing about money. Big Boi made his first million at 20, I was unemployed looking for quarters in couches. Guess this is a song about his maturity with spending. From buying a Lexus to buying land. An encouraging voice telling us to grind and stack like an angel on the shoulder. Vintage Big, I like it. Hard to catch these bars because Big runs all his words together with the swiftness. He mentions helping everyone eat like he’s in the Atlanta version of Paid In Full. Put this one on the pending list. Leaning toward keeper despite a generic hook that’s not too special. I can’t knock the grind/stack positive reinforcement. Uncle advice.
6. "All Night"
OH THESE KEYS FUNKY. This is something I would expect to hear on Idlewild, take that how you will. Big singing. A bit odd, but also kind of fun. This has bounce, animated, something I can see Mickey Mouse turning up to. I like this. This hook is not good, pretty cringeworthy actually. But the beat and Big’s rapping is dope. Glad to see that even though most of the music sounds based in Big’s comfort zone, he can make spontaneous leaps out. Acoustic guitar and Daddy Fat Sax serenading. Really enjoying this song’s arrangement. As a songwriter, he could’ve given this to someone. Is it strange that I’m interested in what Young Thug would sound like on this?
7. "Get Wit It" ft. Snoop Dogg
So glad Big Boi and Snoop Dogg are together. This has to be a pimp anthem. OH BABY. This is smooth. This is pimpin', I’m talking Katt Williams in 2006 pimpin'. When the beat is smoother than leather seats in a brand new Lexus it’s a requirement to bring the slickest talk. Don’t let me down. Big got the first verse. “One of the last niggas snapping” and a bar about how only 3000 can match him. Ha. Okay. This verse is GOOD. Who is doing the hook? Yeah, Snoop got some ad libs. Everything about this has been rather glorious. Snoop has arrived. Iceberg Slim reference, you already know. WOW. Snoop is FLOATING. Yeah, to all the crip walkers, you have a Snoop verse you can step to. I love hearing the veterans come together and make magic. By far an early favorite. The vibe is just right. Snoop and Big might have to drop a collab joint.
8. "Otherthunk" ft. Eric Bellinger
We just got to where the album gets weird. Heavy techno vibes. That bass is a beast. Eric is such a good vocalist. It’s far more house trap than techno, still an unorthodox instrumental but Eric is killing the hook. My only problem with Big’s rapping is I feel like he’s almost too consistent. He’s comfortable. I want him to approach a song in a way that I wouldn’t expect. I need a change-up. This is a good verse, but almost every verse sounds similar. But it’s also been a while since I heard a rapper rap without having to utilize a thousand tracks. “Overthinking is a drug.” Second verse is also good. This is uplifting. Big has been one of rap’s OG uncles for a while now but there seems to be a lot of verses kicking some words of wisdom. Nice, funky bassline. This beat was weird, wouldn’t be surprised if it was inspired by a Playstation game or something. Not quite sold enough to return but I may.
9. "Chocolate" ft. Trozé
SHEESH. This bass has the strength of LeBron running like a locomotive into the lane. It’s knocking, really knocking. A voice talking about chocolate. Okay, this is blow out your speakers music. KNOCKING. Hard in the paint line made me chuckle. Club music. I don’t know how I feel about it. Feel like the bass is going to rattle my brain from my ears. I really like how Big is in the pocket, though. Out of all the beats so far, he might have danced across this one best. This is rave music. Straight drunk out my mind thumper. Approach the girl in the club who you been eyeing all night music. Trozé and his constant repeating of "chocolate" is not as appealing as they might think. Such a meh hook, too annoying to be catchy. I like elements of the song, not the entire thing but in the right setting I’m turning up. If Big makes an electronic festival run this song is going to go. The first time I watched him perform was actually when he headlined an electronic music festival back in 2012, so it wouldn’t surprise me.
10. "Made Men" ft. Killer Mike & Kurupt
I've got Twilight Zone vibes. Nice drum kick here. This is much darker than the rest of the album. Hearing some DJ scratches. It feels like the aliens are coming down to fuck shit up. Big bounced in with some aggressiveness. Okay! Let's GO! God, this is good. “I’m going to keep pushing this pen I don’t write on no iPhone,” in a post-Blackberry freestyle era this is a crazy line. KILLER MIKE! I have a new favorite. Nasty. Just nasty. SNAPPING. The Helen Keller line was set up so nicely. Kurupt! I’m loving all the OGs man. So nostalgic. Some grimy West Coast raps. You ever just feel like a song has all the right components? This is it. Nice little breakdown at the end. Rewind worthy. A little skit about grandmothers and plastic on the couch… LMAO.
So jazzy. Okay, okay, okay. This is that unique funk that I’m all the way with. Keys and percussion are off-kilter. Is that Sleepy Brown? Big Boi having a song about girls having a PHD in Freakanomics is very on brand. Energetic flow. I feel like Big Boi has done this song in various variations BUT it’s a fairly fresh take on a beaten horse theme. Probably silly to criticize a pimp for always arriving to a party with a different girl. Silly but also brilliant. The arrangement for the production is incredible. Love the melody Sleepy is utilizing. Again, the hook is silly, but everything else is good. In the running for my favorite beat on the album. I forgot how unique Big’s sound is. Yo! Hood family feud. Album skits might be back.
12. "Follow Deez" ft. Curren$y & Killer Mike
JETS FOOL! So happy to see Spitta on the album. He’s starting the album off and he’s living up to his moniker. Sounds like a hook. WOW! Mannie Fresh on the beat. Curren$y feature. The bass got that New Orleans wobble. It’s still a middle finger to the Saints, though. I liked the Big verse. This is good. So Southern. I never imagined Spitta would be rapping over a Mannie beat on a Big Boi album. Shedding a tear for old Cash Money. Good offering from Spitta, his verse easily could’ve been the beginning of a 16. Sounds far more like a verse than hook. YO! Killer sounds right at home on this beat. SUPER DOPE FLOW. YO! KILLER REALLY DELIVERED THREE DIFFERENT UNIQUE VERSES. This is a rapper, man. Pleases don’t overlook how this guy flows and deliver these verses. Put some respect on Killa Killa’s name.
Feeling rather nostalgic as the album closes. BOOMIVERSE has plenty of BOOM, almost every beat will cause speakers to tremble. As I predicted, it’s almost like a homecoming for Big Boi, a return to the zone he’s most known for. It's funky and jazzy, some Southern bounce with a few unexpected twists.
The album doesn’t sound modern, this isn’t the Atlanta rap album for the kids who don’t know that Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall's biggest song stole the beat from “Knuck If You Buck.” But it doesn’t sound old, either. The artwork might be the most dated quality about BOOMIVERSE. Well, next to Big Boi still approaching songs like he always has. It's Big Boi’s previous albums, cool enough to make a penguin shiver but also strange enough to make you feel as if you left our stratosphere.
I’m glad BOOMIVERSE is short. It’s a quick listen that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Big didn't blow my mind with the rhymes but his wordplay is still able to captivate. He’s a little too vocal about his status as one of the best, and it becomes redundant. I wish he had a bit more to say and I would’ve loved for him to speak on broader topics past an awkward mention of Cosby’s case. But what has always been great about Big is how he constructs lyrical poems. Killer Mike, Snoop, Gucci and Curren$y make up some excellent assistance to give the music an extra coat of paint.
BOOMIVERSE isn’t an explosion, it isn’t the album that’s going to send your earlobes blasting off like Team Rocket, but it is a reminder that Big Boi hasn’t departed. He’s still here, not conforming his creativity, and making some good songs in his 23rd year. If you've been missing Big Boi, needing a little bit of that Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in your life, BOOMIVERSE is a nice escape from the music of the present without being launched into the past.
Big Boi solidifies he lives within his own separate world, and BOOMIVERSE sonically exists in a place that can only be created by Daddy Fax Sax.
By Yoh, aka YOHIVERSE, aka @Yoh31