One in the win column for Def Jam and collaborators Janelle Monae, B.o.B., T.I., George Clinton, Jamie Foxx
Credit: Def Jam
I wonder at what point Jive knew they were wrong.
It took three years for Big Boi
’s “Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” to finally drop, and it wasn’t through the Sony subsidiary. Jive passed on the album and let Big release it with whomever he pleased. Antwan "Big Boi" Patton claimed that label – home, too, to his regular outfit Outkast -- deemed the set too “arty.”
I wasn’t in the room when everybody talked it out, but maybe the word, instead, should have been “immediate.”
Because this isn’t your traditional hip-hop record, and it’s a shame that Jive didn’t expect as much. It’s not a non-stop “Hey Ya!” party (though that 2003 track, penned by Outkast’s other half Andre 3000, took a good while to catch on with radio and the masses). There's a choir and war-like buzz of a marching band in “General Patton,” an instrumental army backing his rising, aggressive rhymes. Or the droopy funk of “Fo Yo Sorrows” with none other than George Clinton
. And the late-‘80s dance influence and supersonic synth samples on “Follow Us” featuring Vonnegutt’s watery, memorable hook and a warning to bubblegum rappers with no heart or chops.
But of course, there’s Big Boi’s tightly wound rap style, the hypnotic club beats and the rapper’s ever-present sense of humor and bravado. He brings in skits (oh skits.) and the more typical wompy club jams like on “Daddy Fat Sax” and single “Shutterbugg,” the latter of which is the sound of somebody getting away with something.
And that’s Patton’s signature sensation, like seeing fireworks year after year but still being in awe of fire. We had to wait a while for this set, but it still buzzes, tingles and buys you another drink – with his friends eager to please as well. The many, many guest vocalists, producers and rappers on this set add up to more than the sum of its parts (unlike Drake’s “Thank Me Later,” a record that wouldn’t be much of a record without all the star studs).
Examples of these are Sleepy Brown and Joi’s contributions on suggestive “Turns Me On,” and on “Night Night” with the soul vocals and B.o.B.’s hard side sliding between well-rhymed verses. Salacious “Tangerine” featuring Khujo Goodie and T.I.
gets me as excited (read that as you will) for the new T.I. album as a featured track can. Lil Jon
even manages to dazzle on slow jam “Hustle Blood” with Jamie Foxx
, two artists that typically give me pause; it’s a nice R&B pasture that wildly clunky “Idlewild” desperately lacked. “Shine Blockas” sticks out to these ears, with Gucci Mane’s thick-lipped street cadences over positively sweet beats – make no mistake, though, it is one of the album’s best tracks, and perfectly paced.
“15 years up in this game, still unchanged / feel me,” Big Boi says on “Feel Me (Intro).” Oh, we do, Big. This is one of the year’s best pop and hip-hop crossovers, up there with Patton’s own protégé Janelle Monae
(who also appears on “Sir Luscious,” on “Be Still"). It was hip-hop stalwart Def Jam
that heard its potential, and it’s to their boon. While not every song is immediate, most are memorable.