Somewhere between Nas declaring that hip-hop is dead and Young Money’s utter domination of urban radio, hip-hop heads around the globe decided that hip-hop needed to be serious in order to be real. Emcees needed to bring highly lyrical bars about serious issues that truly matter, and producers either needed to be avant-garde or boom-bastic. Well, leave it to Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty to remind us all that great hip-hop can be pure, unbridled fun.
Too often known as “the other guy in OutKast,” Big Boi is – newsflash – actually a terrific emcee, just as capable and formidable as ‘Dre 3K, though often not as eccentric. And Big Boi makes it a point to impress with lyrical dexterity, big-upping his own rhyming skills from the jump on “Daddy Fat Sax”, a track that doubles as a crash-course in OutKast history, swiping vocal samples straight from ATLiens.
“Daddy Fat Sax” morphs right into the poppy “Turns Me On”, which really hints at the big idea behind Sir Lucious: This is an accessible album, dangerously close to being considered a pop album that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Take a listen to Big Boi’s rhymes, which while highly dexterous and lyrical, apply a heavy dose of humor, wit and playful sassiness to keep the music both intelligent and party-ready. The numerous catcalls on the aforementioned “Turns Me On” and “Hustle Blood” are for entertainment purposes, and entertain they do.
The production follows suit, ranging from slinky synth-funk to trap to melodic pop. Certain tracks even recall the extraterrestrial funk-ride of OutKast’s yesteryears, which is more-than-welcome. In fact, there’s not much that Big Boi (who co-produced many tracks) and his roster of musicians (Organized Noize, Boom Boom Room Productions, Lil’ Jon) won’t try on Sir Lucious. The Scott Storch produced “Shutterbugg” places jittery electronic grooves over bitcrushed handclaps for a trippy club track, complete with a talkbox-ed hook.
Sir Lucious is particularly exciting because it is more or less a platform for Big Boi to showboat. He speeds up and slows down his bars to complement the production and to avoid a stale flow. However, there are moments that muddle Big Boi’s tongue-twisting rhymefest, particularly on “You Ain’t No DJ”. Furthermore, there is a plethora of guests here, most of whom actually more than hold their own. That said, despite the abundance of material he has to work with, more Big Boi and less guests may have been a wise choice.
Radio-friendly, heartwarming and entertaining, Sir Lucious Left Foot is perhaps the year’s best pop/hip-hop hybrid. Even those overused calls of “It’s Gucci!” somehow cannot detract from the end-result. So if you’re looking for some ultra-avant-garde project, you might want to take a pass. Otherwise, lighten up and enjoy the latest, twisted offering from one of hip-hop’s finest.