Me and my friend Nancy are pretty cool. We like hip-hop, we’re pretty street. Well, when I say street, I mean that in a white girl from Cambridge kind of way. We like Jurassic 5, and Roots Manuva, and yeah, OutKast. It makes us look cool. When I found out there was going to be a new album by Big Boi, one half of the latter band, I got excited. I thought it could be something I could suggest to Nancy. I like to suggest music to people, it makes me feel knowledgeable. Mmmmmm, sweet knowledge, how I love thee. So with eagerness I rushed to his myspace page to sample the album I’m sure to like.
Of course, nothing in life is that simple right? From the very beginning of this album I’m just not sure about it. What’s with the vocoder and sleazy beat on the intro? Have I accidentally put Kanye’s latest offering on? Immediately I realise that this is not the kind of hip-hop that does it for me. But as I’m turning over a less judgemental leaf these days, I keep on it, and find that track two is an autobiographical statement of what the album is about. Baby Fat Sax talks about high aspirations, reaching goals, and Cadillac’s. It’s a short, noisy track which despite Big Boi’s fairly distinctive rapping style, feels like something I’ve heard before. If I heard this track on its own I’d have to think for a while before I realised who it was.
The next track Turns Me On is a winner though. It’s much more soulful than the opening. The lyrics and style are softer, kind of sexy, which is no surprise from the title. I love the moment when the rapper says ‘from the back’ and the chorus gets played in reverse. It’s a clever little moment at the end of the track.
The rest of the album doesn’t fill me with glee though. There are moments which prove the kind of creative artist Big Boi is, which has been proved in OutKast, but I can’t help but wish I was listening to their new effort instead (this year? Please?) Perhaps the time and difficulties surrounding the album meant that it was over-thought. Somehow it never lives up to its component parts, and the amount of impressive collaborations should have created a masterpiece.
What is problematic is the close proximity of this album to the new Roots album. Whilst tonally different, it proves that you can cleverly use interesting samples to create exciting and wonderful hip-hop. Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty is not as impressive.
There are some high points, though, I’m not being entirely negative. You Ain’t No DJ pokes fun at mix-tape playing turntablists, and is seriously infectious. General Patton makes good use of an epic-scale choir sample to create the kind of track you would imagine a wrestler using as their theme tune, and there’s something about Tangerine’s use of guitars and bongos that really works.
In general terms the album is clever and whilst I can appreciate how interesting it is in parts I don’t feel like it’s as original and amazing as critics have been claiming. Even the track with my new favourite, Janelle Monáe feels subdued in comparison to Big Boi’s inclusion on her amazing track ‘Tightrope’, which sizzles with energy and has the kind of spark that makes me sit up and listen.
Everyone else’s favourite Jamie Foxx is on the album too. Hustle Blood is probably my least favourite track on the whole album. It’s just too close to a conventional r’n’b track for me, and you know what? I’ve yet to be convinced by him. Even the George Clinton track can’t convince me that Nancy will be impressed.
My good friend Nancy would say that the album just isn’t as fun and original as the OutKast stuff we loved. She would say that Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty feels conventional even though she has been informed by many a music reviewer that it isn’t. She would say that she wishes she liked it more than she does, and I do too. I really, really do.
I just don’t think she’ll be convinced.
Words: Alexia Smith
Listen: BIG BOI: Sir Lucious Left Foot