Despite not releasing an album since 2006, everyday hip-hop discourse still includes OutKast. From ill-advised comparisons to an emerging duo to flimsy rumors of a long-awaited André 3000 solo record, to well-deserved celebrations of their past work, the legendary Atlanta duo remains relevant.
Within these discussions, there is often an oversimplification of the group’s dynamics and the image of its members. The notion André 3000 is the otherworldly, whimsical, weird member of OutKast and Big Boi is the straightforward, down-to-Earth, street dude is a huge misconception.
While he may not show up at your local grocery store playing a woodwind instrument, Big Boi is every bit as genre-defying and multifaceted as his cohort. If you review General Patton’s post-OutKast output, you’ll find a solo catalog that is not only woefully overlooked but also wildly experimental.
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010)
In 2008, shortly after OutKast went on their indefinite hiatus, Big Boi began working on his proper debut solo album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. Initially, Jive Records, his former label, delayed the release because they thought his music was “too artsy.” This creative indifference caused Big Boi to move to Def Jam, where he finally put out his first post-OutKast release in July of 2010.
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty is an evolution of the experimental funk/hip-hop blend present in the group’s later projects—particularly Stankonia. For example, many artists have worked with Godfather of Funk George Clinton, but few have executed a collaboration as effectively as Big Boi’s “Fo Yo Sorrows.” The standout single is a crash course on funk, including a fat bassline, an earworm hook, and a Too $hort chant to go along with Big Boi sharp raps and Clinton’s smokey vocals.
“Shutterbugg,” another prime example of how far Big Boi will lean into the funk on his first solo, features vocoder vocals, a bouncy bassline, and big drums. Both records pay close homage to the genre which was initially made popular by artists like Clinton, James Brown, and Chaka Khan, while cuts like “Turns Me On” and “The Train, Pt. 2 (Sir Lucious Foot Saves the Day)” have stranger, freakier vibes thanks to Organized Noize’s eerie production.
Despite being “too artsy” for Jive, Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty artistically filled a creative void left from OutKast’s hiatus.
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (2012)
Big Boi’s sophomore LP, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, marked a drastic sonic shift. After scrapping the album’s original title, Daddy Fat Sax: Soul Funk Crusader, as well as the soul-inspired sound he was working with, Big Boi got weird. Unsurprisingly, the direction change came from André 3000.
While Big Boi was recording Vicious Lies, Three Stacks reportedly told him: “We’re in a new time. Try different things; don’t necessarily make it sound any certain way… I told him to try anything, man.” So, naturally, Big Boi tried everything.
Big Boi indulged in his indie rock/alternative influences across Vicious Lies, resulting in some of his darkest and most fascinating music to date. As an outspoken fan of ‘80s experimental pop artist Kate Bush, it surprised no one to find out Big Boi’s musical tastes run deeper than rap, soul, and funk.
Standout selections “Apple of My Eye” and “Thom Pettie” have the funky basslines and hard drums of Big Boi’s previous releases but sound nothing like any of his material pre-2012. While both songs possess familiar tropes to the rapper’s back catalog, Big Boi scrapped the formula altogether on more experimental cuts, linking up with Little Dragon, Phantogram (more on that later), and Jai Paul.
The distorted synths and non-traditional song structures of “CPU” and “Objectum Sexuality” feature synth-pop duo Phantogram and have themes of technology and relationships. Not every record on the album is sonically jarring, though. On the same body of work, Big Boi produced some of his most vulnerable music to date—the Little Dragon-featuring “Descending” and the piano-focused ballad “Tremendous Damage.”
Many rappers have voiced their appreciation for the “indie rock” and “alternative” scenes, but few have taken as deep of a dive into this sonic wonderland as Big Boi on Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.
Big Grams (with Phantogram) (2015)
Big Boi’s chemistry with electronic rock/trip-hop duo Phantogram on Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is undeniable. In time, the three developed a strong friendship and started a full-fledged group together. On the surface, it might not seem like Big Boi would mesh well with an electronic pop duo for an entire project. But their mutual respect and experimental tendencies make the EP a thrilling ride.
On “Lights On,” Big Boi delivers an impactful, introspective verse to go along with Sarah Barthel’s magnetic hook, but a better example of Phantogram meeting Big Boi halfway us the hard-hitting “Fell in the Sun.” The Atlanta rapper is right at home rhyming over a horn sample and drum programming that could’ve been laced by Mr. DJ. Phantogram juices up the track with massive synths and stadium-sized vocals on the hook that helped make the group a mainstay at music festivals.
Additional well-executed world crossings include Run the Jewels rapping over a Phantogram beat on “Born to Shine” and Barthel’s hook on the 9th Wonder-produced “Put It On Her.” However, not every experiment is a winner on Big Grams. The group allowed Phantogram producer Josh Carter to spit his first-ever rap over the aforementioned 9th Wonder beat. Carter’s Madlib/Lord Quas-inspired pitched vocals were a nice touch, but he sounds like a novice on the otherwise exemplary track. Big Boi’s razor-sharp verses weren’t enough to salvage the noisy, Skrillex-produced “Drum Machine,” which has an EDM sound that was played out even in 2015.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Barthel said he “idolized” OutKast as a child, and that they inspired Phantogram to make “innovative and fresh-sounding music.” In return, Big Grams got Big Boi even further out of his comfort zone and showed just how dynamic and versatile he could be. The seven-song EP was a fun, synthy record that reminded fans how effective the slick-tongued rhymer could perform in a group setting.
Big Boi’s third album, Boomiverse, felt like a return to his roots. After half a decade of messing around with Pitchfork darlings, he returned to the sound that helped make OutKast one of the most successful hip-hop groups of all time. In an interview with Billboard, he admitted he “hit the reset button” with his third solo LP.
Despite having contributions from the likes of Adam Levine, Scott Storch, Snoop Dogg, Jeezy, and other high profile collaborators, Big Boi’s third LP was his lowest charting solo project to date. Boomiverse, even more so than the rest of his catalog, seemed to fly under the radar.
Nearly one year after the album’s release, however, the Atlanta rapper scored an unlikely hit with “All Night.” The insanely catchy hook caught on with fans after the song landed on an Apple commercial. Following its newfound visibility, “All Night” landed on the AT Top 40 charts, which often evades hip-hop.
“L.A. [Reid] sent me the record in the middle of the night,” Big Boi told Rolling Stone about his biggest solo single to date. “The keys caught me, the ragtime piano—super jammin’. I was watching Westworld at the time, and the pianos reminded me of that.”
Even though his record label billed the release as a back-to-the-basics album, Boomiverse feels like Big’s most scattered release in his post-OutKast discography. The project touches a wide range of styles, including ragtime blues (“All Night”), smooth R&B (“Overthunk”), house (“Chocolate”), weird funk/dance (“Freakanomics”), and even pop-rap (“Mic Jack”). Musically, it is his least focused solo record, but it also might feature some of his most impressive and elaborate flows to date.
Boomiverse was released 23 years after OutKast’s classic debut and showed the world that Big Boi is still evolving as an emcee.
Big Boi’s Legacy
Big Boi may never earn the accolades of his legendary partner-in-rhyme, but he has already accomplished something that André 3000 hasn’t and likely never will as a solo act—consistently releasing innovative and enjoyable music.
In September, the 44-year-old announced his next move with the release of the smooth and sexy “Intentions,” featuring fellow Dungeon Family members Sleepy Brown and CeeLo Green. “Intentions,” which has a similar vibe to classics like “The Way You Move” and “I Can’t Wait,” is the first release off Big Boi and Brown’s forthcoming collaborative album, Big Sleepover. The album will be released by Hitco before the end of the year.
OutKast fans are always anticipating Three Stacks’ next move—a movie here, an Internet-breaking guest appearance there—and all the while, Big Boi continues to deliver the goods.
Give this man his “Roses.”