Boomiversal appeal: The new Big Boi is pretty darn dope if you ask me.

Big Boi was the dependably solid half of Outkast, while his musical partner was the mad scientist that gave their impeccable discography a delightfully odd bent.

Antwan Andrè Patton was the street smart ATLien with an elastic flow that kept the seminal duo grounded in the world of rap while Andre 3000 got progressively weirder, sang more and started play guitar.

Then, Three Stacks went to do a little acting, and Sir Lucious Left Foot started pumping out solo albums, and should’ve always been clear became obvious — Big Boi is a profoundly weird dude in the tradition of George Clinton’s funk mythology.

This worked out to brilliant effect in Big Boi’s long-gestating solo debut, but yielded uneven results on Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors , which was in part hampered  by being a super bloated album.

Go back and listen, there were definitely some good ideas scattered around that album.

Big Boi’s newest offering, Boomiverse, has a hit ratio much more in line with Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, and is frequently a bizarre delight, even if its not quite that album’s equal.

Big Boi is as nimble on the mic as ever, his guest list features Southern rap royalty like Killer Mike, Scar, Pimp C, Curren$y and an expertly deployed Gucci Mane, and there are some truly awesome tracks.

“In the South” is an absolute essential if you’re a fan of a certain type of  Dirty South rap. Gucci Mane raps the way a cat stretches over an icy beat with a hook scoffed by Pimp C. It’s perfect and highlights everything a Big Boi track could possibly do well.

But once again Big Boi is slightly undercut by his dedication to experimentation and willingness to throw things at the wall, which while admirable can sort of derail things.

It means some clunker ideas (Adam Levine feature) co-mingling with awesome ideas  (A Big Rube narration over dramatically swelling strings) on Boomiverse.

It also means more dabbling in electronic sounds, which is sometimes fun, but just doesn’t sound as exciting as the warm, analogue-sounding noise on a track like “All Night”, which mines the same dixieland vein as the criminally underrated Speakerboxxx deepcut, “Bowtie”.

Big Boi managing to drawl and double-time over the same piano beat is one of  this world’s purest joys. “All Night” grabs you by the ear and demands to be on every cookout playlist you make this summer.

But the next six tracks never really hit that high again. There’s some interesting textures, a good bit of introspection and quality rapping, but “All Night” and “In the South” are the two best songs, and they’re on the same half of Boomiverse, which also happens to be the half of the album with “Kill Jill” which is the elevated to the position of best weird song by some inspired huffing and puffing by the big bad Killer Mike.

One Side 2, “Overthought” is a worthwhile if unspectacular meditation on how anxiety is habit-forming and Snoop see whose verse can sound the most like auditory butter, which is pretty damn fun.

This is a good album with flashes of greatness, and songs as good  or odd as “Kill Jill” and “In the South” are worth enduring a thousand less-than-wonderful crossover attempts like “Mic Jack”.

 

 

Stop collaborate and listen (in this order): Ranking 2015’s joint-effort releases

As the world becomes more and more united through technology, humanity’s inherent good shines through in a glut of musical cooperation this year.

Not only have their been vaguely interesting cover albums and cat-sound remixes of last year’s hits, which required the work of multiple artists, but there has been a bounty of collaborative albums.

Of course, this may have less to do with collective goodwill bubbling over and be more attributable to how easy it is to record and email a high-quality vocal track in this digital age, but I’m not cynic.

What I lack in cynicism, so I’ve decided to rank this year’s collaborative efforts from worst to best.

5. Jack Ü by Jack Ü ( Skrillex and Diplo)

This album isn’t for me, and I suspect it isn’t for anyone.

I had a long, angry diatribe about bad haircuts, crappy music and how these two kindred spirits might be the musicians(?) I’d be least happy to meet, but it was obnoxiously mean-spirited.

Instead, I’ll just say their album isn’t good and shouldn’t be listened to.

4.What a Time to Be Alive by Drake and Future

It isn’t quite as instantly disposable as the average Aubrey Graham effort, but it’s also not as good as,  say a middling Future mixtape.

If you’re a modern Hip-Hop completist, give it a spin, but otherwise, it’s incredible easy and advisable to give this a pass.

3.Caracal by Disclosure

I suppose this is cheating, because technically, the brothers Lawrence aren’t collaborating with anyone in particularl, but almost every song on their sophomore effort features a guest providing vocals to match the glossy house beats.

The names are bigger this time around with Lorde and The Weeknd appearing, as well as old collaborator Sam Smith, but there’s nothing quite as catchy as Settle‘s earworms.

It’s not bad, but it is a bit let down. Instead of another A-album, Caracal represents a solid B.

2.Wavves x Cloud Nothings by Wavves X Cloud Nothings

This would have been a dream match-up for me in 2009, and in 2015, it’s actually still awesome. Nathan Williams and Dylan Baldi conspire together to create some super fun sneering, searing hooks. It’s a throwback to the fuzzy garage rock both Wavves and Cloud Nothings began with. It’s infectious as hell too.

1.Big Grams by Big Grams (Big Boi and Phantogram)

Phantogram showed up on Big Boi’s eclectic Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors to fairly positive effect, but the duo’s contributions were lost in the shuffle of a scattered album, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

Whatever vague notions I did have about the Big Grams project certainly didn’t prepare me for how much thoroughly I enjoy this spacey electro-rock-rap mix.

The surprise was especially compounded because Big Grams begins fairly inauspiciously.

Opening track”Run for Your Life” is basically a Big Boi song with a decidedly not hip-hop beat. While Big Boi’s mercurial cadence could probably keep time with anything, somehow his flow and the beat never quite mesh. It’s not a total fiasco, but it didn’t really inspire great confidence.

Of course, the next song absolutely knocks it out of the park and rights the ship dramatically.

Second track”Lights On” is more or less a Phantogram song with a few Big Boi bars tacked on the end, but his verse happens to be an appendage for an utterly fantastic Phantogram song that somehow manages to remind me of both Keyboard Cat and “Trip Inside this House” by Primal Scream.

From Track 3 on things seem to totally gel, particularly on “Goldmine Junkie”. It’s a slightly raunchy, very sweet love song that features Sarah Barthel and Big Boi exchanging talk-sing rap verses. It’s  all oddly perfect.

To add a level of collaboration to the whole affair, Run the Jewels tandem El-P and Killer Mike show up for “Born to Shine” and add appropriate bravado.

Big Grams totally subverted and surpassed my expectations.

Go listen to Big Grams.