Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
(Def Jam; 2010)
By Chet Betz | 6 July 2010
“Boi, stop.” It’s this record’s tagline, what “break!” was to Stankonia (2000) or what Pusha’s “eghk” is to a Clipse record. It’s a visceral reaction that Big Boi has to himself but expresses for everyone else, too, voiced in first person like he understands exactly what we’re feeling. And what we’re feeling is that Big Boi’s flow is doing us. It could be stated more coarsely but that’s not right, there’s too much care in this rapping. We could say “making love” but that’s too soft for how hard Big Boi goes on Sir Lucious Left Foot. Pleasure this complete and heady is kind of painful—so goes the teasing plea to “stop” that Boi voices for us.
And, yeah, there are a lot of sex raps on Sir Lucious. Big Boi talks at length about how good of a lover/rapper he is; thus, blowjobs are a recurring motif. The syllogism is complete. But amidst all the bragging and macking it’s pretty clear, as explicated on a couple (“Fo Yo Sorrows” and “The Train Part II,” specifically) of this record’s dozen standout tracks that what Big Boi yearns for the most in all things is truth. Keats got his back. This simplicity as wrapped up in the origami folds of Big Boi’s vocal construction is one reason that Sir Lucious Left Foot is currently enjoying some of the best and most unified response of any record this year. A couple weeks ago CMG was divided in half over that Drake record. Now we’re all holding hands and loudly mumbling along with Gucci Mane’s hook on “Shine Blockas.” While there’s a lot of value to respectful and thoughtful disagreement, Big Boi should be thanked for giving us a means to enjoy the bliss of shared euphoria. For a rap fan, particularly, Sir Lucious is a little piece of heaven. Or: a big, expansive piece of heaven.
A smorgasboard of different producers including Lil Jon, Cut Master Swift, Kast-patrons Organized Noize and Mr. DJ, Kast-half Andre 3000, and a motley crew of others cohere around one thing, and that one thing is Big Boi. He is their aesthetic palette. Scott Storch momentarily forgets to suck in order to drop the glow-stick reclamation of shuffle music on “Shutterbugg,” as brilliant and daring a single as any that pop music has given us since “Hey Ya.” But to illustrate further the kind of charmed cohesion this record achieves it’s fitting to address a whole portion in its gut, its middle. Despite some reservations about the trying-too-hard tawdriness of the content in “Tangerine,” Knightheat’s instrumental is a million kinds of ill, its downtuned guitar line, David Banner-in-the-jungle drums, and ghastly synth ephemera all a Dirty South echo of the surreal sextape that is Big Boi’s twisting flow. Boi’s second verse is a notably striking display of sick rhyme-scheming, the emphases he plays with for “wo-MAN” and “Pat-TAN,” “CARDS, dummy” and “HARD for me,” serving as evidence that there are no rules the force of dude’s syntax can’t bend.
The skewed impact that “Tangerine” then has with the minimal Three Stacks-produced and Yelawolf-guesting “You Ain’t No DJ” makes for the record’s most challenging stretch, sinister sonics and torridly avant-garde rapping perfectly setting up “Hustle Blood” to be the shock it totally is. Shocking because (1) Jamie Foxx and Lil Jon both take huge part in a track that’s genuinely awesome and (2) Big Boi outdoes the unoutdoable, himself. Raw sex is transformed into the purest kind of eros, the rhythms of Big Boi’s flow equal parts sensuous and transcendent. Like at so many other points on this record, Boi comes across as Momentum made flesh; he spits velocity and then parses the physics as simply as if it’s a purely physical act, which it is for him. And in the midst of all this bleeding-edge intuition, perhaps even through the spell that Boi casts as he rapidly switches between every gear of great rapping’s clockwork, he stumbles upon a moving testament to monogamy. The first verse ends: “Giddy-up, bruh / There’s plenty pretty bitties in the city I’m from / Man, I’m gonna get me just one / to ride shotgun / Do you hear me? / Just one / One.” Weddings just got their dopest slow jam ever, and this record just got one of its several thematic throughlines.
It’s beyond inspiring that so much of this shit works and somehow finds a way to work together. One could make a laundry list of various tossed-off moments that end up feeling essential. To wit: when at the end of “Turns Me On” General Patton orders “from the back” and the music briefly reverses before he orders it back to the front; the beat drop “back to life, back to reality” moment of “Shutterbugg”; on “Night Night” when Big Boi out loud decides to do the second verse because he likes to “destroy shit”; in the “The Train Part II” where “fire-breathing dragon” echoes and warps like Boi is actually transforming into the myth he names; the moment when you get past some chintzy drums to realize that “General Patton” doesn’t need the sound of guitars to be hip-hop thrash metal; “Shine Blockas,” all of it. And the more one tries to list all these moments, the more the realization dawns that this record is a constant stream of such spine-tingling fractions of time (kinda like that Frog Eyes record), unceasing and unfiltered, which coalesce into the flaring sprawl that radiates off the central artist’s persona. One could play a guessing game of where Andre 3000 verses were supposed to go (perhaps that second verse on “Night Night,” for instance) before the bastards at Jive placed an embargo on Dre’s voice but, thing is, it doesn’t really matter too much. This, definitively, is a Big Boi record, much moreso than Speakerboxx (2003).
That so many different producers and different guests come together to make this, a definitive Big Boi record, is maybe because all those voices just feel like wildly divergent extensions of Big Boi’s voice. Too Short’s four-bar appearance on “Fo Yo Sorrows” is like a pure figment of what Big Boi imagines Too Short might rap after such an impromptu introduction. Jamie Foxx and Sam Chris croon for Boi where he can’t. Yelawolf is Big Boi whiter and weirder. Joi is his feminine side, and if he has a plain stoopid side it’s Gucci Mane. Monáe is artistic kin to OutKast and to all the parts of Boi that are made up of Dre, and while it’s a shame there isn’t more than one wondrously winsome Big Boi verse on “Be Still,” it’s the best song not on The ArchAndroid and if it were on there it would be the best song that’s not “Tightrope” (which, surprise, features Big Boi). This may be part of the reason that Vonnegutt’s hook on “Follow Us” is so damn bothersome; their “voice” doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Big Boi’s voice, making their cameo the sore-thumb flaw of an otherwise great song. That and they look like this.
Backstreet spawn aside, it may finally be settling in that Sir Lucious Left Foot does gather itself around Big Boi enough to make it the best OutKast-related release since the duo dropped Aquemini a dozen years ago (we can debate its merits next to the incredible six tracks or so on the bloated Stankonia, sure). For a Kast fan, this is life-affirming. New faith blossoms. Every time Big Boi flows on this record he defies the law of entropy. Ultimately, Antwan Patton feels undeniable here because what happens when his mouth meets mic is unmitigated art, the craft of rap elevated beyond just craft by impossible skill and passion and little more. Its concept is itself, itself the truth, and the truth is a beautiful thing. And within the buoyant eclecticism of Sir Lucious its truth is also a many-splendored thing, meaning that this record feels like love. Love for all us different Kast fans, rap fans, music fans, people in general that aren’t liars, wack rappers, or Jive bastards (you know, shine blockas). But not “making love” kind of love. Like I said, this love goes hard. And, Boi, don’t you ever stop.