If you recall my review of Speakerboxxx, you’ll remember that I called Big Boi’s true debut the best OutKast album of the Aughts. I stand by that statement; although Stankonia was their best album as a duo, Speakerboxx was a far more consistent project, and contained less filler than their mainstream breakthrough. Idlewild was a good project, for what it was, but the album was far too concerned with the movie-soundtrack gimmick it was going for. The Love Below was just Andre 3000 being weird, and trying to get his Prince on before more-talented singers would succeed at this years later; while it had it’s shining moments, almost anyone’ll tell you they haven’t bumped that album since 2004.
That’s why I was so excited for Sir Lucious Left Foot. For all intents and purpose, this is 2010’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2; it’s only appropriate that Raekwon was on the earliest leak from this album, Royal Flush, which isn’t included here. Jive kept Andre 3000 from appearing on the album (aside from a production credit for the Yelawolf assisted You Ain’t No DJ; more on that later), and Royal Flush, alongside the far more recent Lookin’ For Ya, were cut from the album so people wouldn’t be confused that this is the latest OutKast project. Jive’s history with hip-hop artists has been long documented, especially duos; they’ve screwed over Clipse, UGK, and OutKast themselves many times in the past. It’s no surprise that they’d try to step in here, and throw a monkeywrench in Antwan’s Def Jam debut.
It didn’t work; not at all. Sir Lucious Left Foot is as strong as any album released in the last five years a thoroughly refreshing album that maintains a modern-sense of relevance while bring the OutKast aesthetic to the album’s sound. The addition of Organized Noize on the boards for four of the album’s cuts, alongside Big Boi’s own co-production credits are partially responsible for that. Over and above all, Big Boi’s whimsically mesmorizing raps are what make this as good as any OutKast album that’s dropped since the turn of the millenium.
Feel Me is the intro, and consists of little more than some murmer and whistling; despite that, the instrumental sets the tones of the album perfectly, showcasing the synth-hop-meets-parliament-funk sound that inhabits the rest of the album. Daddy Fat Sax is next, and it’s the first proper song; on this track that clocks in at less than three minutes, Big Boi goes apeshit on a braggadocious track based around one of his many infamous monikers.
Turns Me On features the soulfully smooth, Marvin Gaye of this generation; the underused Sleepy Brown, who sings alonside songstress Joi. This track starts with Big Boi uttering niggas don’t fuck with a nigga like me ‘cause a nigga like me don’t fuck around two-fold before the hypnotic chorus and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood-esque instrumental starts, before having about a dozen different elements thrown into it. One thing you’ll notice about the production on this album is, no matter how old some of these records may be (and it’s hard to tell as this album was in the recording process for so long), they all still have a next-level vibe that Big Boi only further enforces with his flawless rapping.
Follow Us is next, and Big Boi brings the Dungeon Family’s resident white boys, Vonnegut, with him to provide a generic-rock chorus that you’d expect to hear B.o.B or Eminem rhyme over in 2010. Big Boi doesn’t fall victim to the pop-rock curse that’s currently looming over hip-hop though; he runs alongside the chorus with effortless precision, dropping couplets full of wisdom that only someone of Antwan’s caliber could. Salaam Remi’s production doesn’t hurt either; the frequent Nas collaborator provides a great backdrop for Big Boi to spit his Southernplayalistic rhymes.
Shutterbugg; what can be said about this record that hasn’t already been stated? This song just fucking bangs. It’s amazing that Scott Storch produced this record; I knew he was on the right path when he produced Gucci’s single, Bingo, from The State Vs. Radric Davis, but this is something entirely different. The gut-wrenching bellows, funkadelic chorus provided by Cutty (I dunno either), crazy synths, and absolutely ridiculous rhyme scheme that Big Boi adapts in this song are just mind-warpingly good.
General Patton is next, and it’s Big Boi’s orchestral war-cry. Big Boi amps up his delivery for this, going from his usual whisper flow to shout double-time raps over a beat that makes Big Boi seem more like King Leonidas than a former dope-slinger. Tangerine is next, and T.I. and Goodie Mob alumni, the currently-incarcerated Khujo Good help out Big Boi on this record. This is as tasteful as strip-club music gets; an elegantly sexy instrumental laid with understated, witty lyrics from two of Atlanta’s premier lyricists in Antwan and Tip; Khujo Goodie’s small guest appearance is also welcome, and certainly a treat for those who’ve fucked with DF the long way.
You Ain’t No DJ is up next, and Big Boi goes in on this beat dismissing mixtape DJ’s and the like; basically, anyone who put DJ in front of their name to make a quick buck. I’m not sure how this’ll go over with the mixtape community, but it’s not like Big Boi is really putting out anything in that medium anyway (and he shouldn’t be - he saved all this flawless material for this album, as it should be). Yelawolf is Big Boi’s guest, and although Yela’s one of my favorite young rappers, and does his thing on this track, he’s rightfully outshined by his elder, who jumps on here and destroys everything in his path.
Two R&B joints follow, and they’re two of the strongest cuts on the album; the surprisingly subtle Lil Jon contribution, Hustle Blood featuring Jamie Foxx, is one of the most sensual songs I’ve heard all year from anyone not named Terius Nash. Everything about this song is perfect, and both Antwan and Jamie get their chance to shine on this record; Big Boi flossing his lyrical dexterity, and Jamie flexing his vocal range. Be Still with Janelle Monae is next - these two already collaborated on Janelle’s own single, Tight Rope, but this is great too. The beat reminds me of Diddy’s Keyshia Cole assisted Last Night from Press Play; ironic considering Big Boi was on that album himself. Despite that, this is just as strong as that record, if not better. After all, Big Boi > Diddy.
Fo Yo Sorrows featuring George Clinton (yes, THAT George Clinton) and Too $hort is next; this record has been floating around for about a year, but it doesn’t sound remotely dated. Clinton sounds great in his role on this album, and Big Boi rides the melancholic smoker’s anthem to the top with a short guest verse from Short Dog (the Real Short Dog). Night Night is next, and has B.o.B does his best Three Stacks impression; it was inevitable that these two would eventually work together, and this is at least their second collaboration to date. Although I have strong feelings towards Bobby’s own solo debut, this DJ Speedy (who also made standout songs for Gucci Mane and OJ Da Juiceman before dissapearing - get this guy more work!) produced-cut is as strong as anything else on the album, and reminds me, musically of Speakerboxxx in the most flattering way possible.
The International Player’s Anthem-esque Shine Blockas is next, and this song has also been available for nearly a year. Although this isn’t one of Gucci’s best verses, the chemistry these two have on this A-Town banger can’t be denied. Gucci’s sing-a-long chorus is instantly memorable, and Big Boi’s verses mesh perfectly with the beat, as well as padding Gucci’s verse between his two in a big Atlien sandwich.
The Train Pt. 2 is one of the deeper songs on the album, and has Big Boi waxing philosophically with a remorseful tone. this is simply Big Boi getting in touch with himself, and the game; being the kindred spirit that he is. Nas can try to be as relevant as he want, Eminem can try to act like he’s not a broken mess because he’s on enough anti-depressants to knock out a horse, but none of them have released anything as thoughtful as this record in years.
Back Up Plan is the final song on, and works well as a closer, although I believe that The Train may’ve been a more fitting one, as this is a side-bitch anthem similar in vein to Master P and Mia X’s Plan B off Ghetto D. Despite that, this song is still good, even if the sequencing is kinda strange. Originally Big Boi wanted Royal Flush to close out the album so that Andre could have the last word, but that didn’t happen. Regardless, a high note for the album to go off on.
So, Sir Lucious Left Foot is everything I hoped for and more. Easily one of the strongest albums of the year, if not the very strongest. This’ll go down as a classic in years to come; it’s already hard not to label it as one. Big Boi passed anyone’s expectations here.