Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors
, January 8th, 2013 05:24
Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors might be the boldest gamble of Antwan Patton’s entire fate-tempting career, moreso than the befuddling indulgences of Idlewild (both the film and its even more unnecessary soundtrack) or giving Sleepy Brown his own full-length album. Subversive seemingly since Day One, he has featured proudly, prominently, and profoundly on some of the most progressive, risk-taking rap music ever. After Outkast’s first few records helped dismantle Berlin Wall level prejudice about hip hop geography, along came Stankonia, a fully-formed game changer that put Big Boi’s name on the lips of discerning music lovers, rap junkies, and commercial radio drones alike.
Though his ostentatious collaborator Andre 3000 has cumulatively received the most time in the spotlight, Big Boi seems to have won the day. His first untethered solo outing, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty hit harder than El Kabong and was the only major-label rap record of 2010 that truly rivalled Kanye West’s critically acclaimed narcissistic escapade My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Confirming the long-held suspicions after Speakerboxx made its The Love Below counterpart sound like pretentious directionless trifle, Big Boi sounded triumphant, uncompromising, and in control on cuts like 'Daddy Fat Sax' and the Zapp-tastic 'Shutterbugg'.
Conversely, his follow-up doesn’t. Without a single in sight, even by Outkast’s loosey-goosey standards, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors feels like three or four different records surgically stitched together illicitly by some cross-eyed back alley quack. This lack of real cohesion might have suited a stopgap EP or a mixtape, but surely not the highly-anticipated successor to one of the most riveting and, yes, fun rap records of the decade. Perhaps exhausted by the 808 bump, Big Boi looks to disparate collaborators for inspiration, ranging from rap talents like Killer Mike to indie pop weirdos and Swedish nobodies like Wavves and Little Dragon, respectively. If that sounds like a mess to you, you’ve assumed correctly.
Sharing a Frankenstein-like physiology, the album’s incompatible sounds leak into the tracks like potentially toxic fluids. Even with still-rising A$AP Rocky delivering a terrific opening salvo, the Knife-like goonery of its Phantogram chorus makes 'Lines' only half-listenable. An attempt to recreate the sore thumb success of 'Follow Us', 'Shoes For Running' hurts the teeth like too much sugar, despite having some mighty fine Big Boi verses. Indeed, the ATLien’s lyricism remains relatively unparalleled, a melange of references, braggadocio, and in-jokes, all with a rapid-fire flow peppered with strategic drawl. Such undeniable cosmic skill seems wasted on the banal hood-rep of 'In The A', which comes off as less Atlanta paean than Atlanta pandering, with unremarkable verses from both Ludacris and T.I.
Despite the cringes delivered on even some of the better songs, Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors isn’t a total bust, of course. Featuring the always satisfying Kelly Rowland on the hook, 'Mama Told Me' bleeps and bounces with silvery future funk reminiscent of Speakerboxxx’s brightest spots. Sizzurp slowdown 'Thom Pettie' exudes strength with a perfectly fine Killer Mike verse, while part-sung / part-rapped 'Tremendous Damage' bares Big Boi’s vulnerability, the artist rather frankly coming to terms with his father’s death.
Not to point fingers, but executive co-producer Christopher Carmouche plays an apparently bigger role here than he did on Sir Lucious Left Foot…, with longtime brain trust Organized Noize sidelined, relegated to just one credit on 'Lines'. This constructive abandonment of such an core part of the Dungeon Family calls into question Big Boi’s boisterous shout out to the Atlanta collective on 'The Thickets' - even with Sleepy Brown’s breathy hook. All of a sudden, Antwan Patton appears to be in the weeds, his cross-cultural multi-genre wager having resulted in considerably lighter pockets. Perhaps it’ll play better in Gothenburg.