Big Boi 101

With the announcement last week that Big Boi would headline this year’s Large Scale Event came some surprise, relief that we actually have LSE this year, and at least a couple blank stares and hesitant comments: “Who?”

A grunted “He’s one half of Outkast” usually clears up any uncertainties and appropriately shames the questioner, but only stresses how popular recognition for BB’s recent solo work — that is, recognition beyond an “Oh, that song” as the bassline of “Shutterbugg” kicks in — remains elusive. Strange, for the first line on BB’s new album — “If y’all don’t know me by now / Y’all ain’t gon’ never know me” — should, at this point, be more statement of fact than boast. In preparation for BB’s April 6th show, here’s an inventory of some of the essential tracks from his two solo albums.

 

Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty: Released July 5, 2010

 

Shutterbugg ft. Cutty

 

Big Boi’s only real “hit” as a solo artist, “Shutterbugg” is compressed, reverberating drum machine, a stuttering vocal bassline, intermittent stabbing space-synths, chicken-scratch guitar work, and not much else, leaving Big Boi space in the dense future-funk to do his thing. Cutty croons the simple R&B hook at the song’s core, but otherwise BB is left home free.

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General Patton ft. Big Rube

 

Massive, Verdi-sampling beat brings out the Southern hip-hop breakdown lingering dormant in (one can only imagine) all Romantic opera, but Big Boi’s here for more than just the ride, touching on everything from the power of Christ to (this is most of it) how shitty his competitors are. “Another battle won,” Big Rube confirms as the song winds down, and the General “rides off into the horizon of infinite regression, victorious.”

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Be Still ft. Janelle Monae

 

Janelle Monae delivers one of the most memorable hooks on SLLF over sparkling, twangy synths and laid back snare claps and plodding piano chords and cheesily cascading MIDI effects. Big Boi only delivers one verse — precise and inventive but deliberately modest, yielding the floor to the momentary star of the show.

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Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors: Released December 11, 2012

 

Apple Of My Eye

 

The kind of insistent funk that wouldn’t be out of place on, well, an Outkast album, with blistering horns, guitar curlicues, and a strangely infectious hook. It’s a moment of familiarity before a plunge into territory more foreign to Big Boi — even Wavves makes a guest appearance, albeit not one you’ll really want to listen to — and one to return to after some of the weaker attempts fade away.

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In the A ft. TI and Ludacris

 

Rumbling, insistently serious horns drive this unapologetically anthemic beat, with sinister digital strings and plunging synth bass, while T.I., Big Boi, and Ludacris deliver uniformly ridiculous verses in honor of their shared hometown, Atlanta.

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Thom Pettie ft. Little Dragon & Killer Mike

 

One of the odder tracks on VLDR, with virtually every branch of the album’s dizzying eclecticism compressed into three and a half minutes, strung together with the core refrain “Thom Pettie that ho ho ho ho,” an undulating synth bass loop, and essentially non-stop moaning from Swedish electronic group Little Dragon. LD also contribute a slinky pop chorus, both utterly out of place and weirdly natural, which fades into an overdriven guitar solo before Killer Mike tears it all down.

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