Musicians across the board are still living in the shadows of the mighty OutKast. Next year will mark a decade since the Atlanta duo magnificently took on just about every genre and won with Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – a record that made rock funky again and made rap truly Technicolor for the first time.
Now seemingly estranged for good from his more docile partner André 3000, Big Boi’s second album is every bit the nourishing melting pot OutKast served up in their prime. A well-chosen mix of rap and indie collaborators (Phantogram, Kid Cudi, A$AP Rocky, Wavves, Little Dragon) help out, as well as reclusive British singer Jai Paul, who makes a star appearance on the insane future funk of ‘Higher Res’.
But the diversity of his studio guests only scratches the surface of Big Boi’s renaissance-man credentials. Name another album this year where you’ll find southern rap (‘Gossip’), tripped-out rock (‘Descending’) and digital indie (‘CPU’) all sounding so natural and effortless. He even has the chutzpah to throw in the odd guitar solo (remember them?) while keeping in touch with his ‘dirty south’ roots by anchoring songs to a distinctive 808 clap. An album of big ideas, all executed with precious little bombast, this is smooth and assured pop music to rival Gorillaz at their best. Oliver Keens