Following up on the nasty funk of 2010′s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty, on which Big Boi employed guests on nearly every track, here too he packs his lineup for success. Only, rather than the Miami Heat, it looks more like this year’s Los Angeles Lakers — a whole lot of talent that just can’t play well together. Phantogram and Little Dragon have writing credits on three songs each, and Wavves‘ Nathan Williams, Kid Cudi and A$AP Rocky each have single contributions as well, making for a smorgasbord of music’s coolest acts.
If Big Boi’s directive was to expand his sound by working with some artists foreign to the world of mainstream hip hop he’s lived in largely for about two decades, he can pat himself on the back for trying. But, unfortunately, the album doesn’t work. Mixing drastically different production styles and undeveloped ideas early on before settling into something totally wild in the second half, it’s altogether unclear what Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors is supposed to sound like. It plays mostly like a conflicted mashup between Big Boi’s home base Atlanta Dungeon Family crew and a few randomly picked college radio darlings, just to see what comes out. And wading through the jumble, one wonders whether anyone onboard could conceptualize any further from there.
Some gems do, however, shine. “The Thickest” stands out as a proper opener, teasing the production blend of organic sexiness and hard hitting swagger we first might expect and hope for here. But it also sets an inconsistent tone for the rest of the album. Later, after a considerable lull, the Little Dragon team-ups seem to be the most natural and interesting of the unexpected bunch, allowing Big Boi to stretch out in a realm that doesn’t feel all too unfitting or foreign. The track “Raspberries” is a delightfully perverted soul number that rests comfortably on a trippy, dragging beat and modest dubstep bass. And despite a slightly uncomfortable amount of twee, the Wavves and B.o.B. collaboration “Shoes For Running” makes for a pretty solid, poppy play one wouldn’t mind hearing on Top 40 radio.
But in the end, despite any singular successes, Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors‘ lack of creative vision, critical editing and oversight makes for a disappointing listen. Nothing hits like you’d hope — not the pop, not the rap, not the indie. It’s split between worlds that don’t seem to fully understand each other. And so, in turn, the only tangible concept to the album of pulling off something cool and adventurous was its undoing.
The fault for this is ultimately Big Boi’s and his frequent creative collaborator Chris Carmouche, who executive-produced the record. For this job, recruiting someone like Flying Lotus, SBTRKT or Diplo, all of whom have proven comprehensions of genre-bending and accountable taste, could have made the difference. Instead, it all falls flat, and the album never delivers on the experimentation that seemed so exciting to begin with.
The Best Song Wasn’t The Single: Sure, it’s kind of jokey but the vibe on “Raspberries” beats any other song on the album hands-down.
Best Listened To: While stoned.
Idolator Rating: 2.5/5
— Colin Stutz