The rap game is a fast-paced and ever changing beast. Rappers like DOOM and Gucci Mane probably would never have survived when rap was in its infancy, and yet in another 10 years it’ll be completely different. Because of this, it’s hard to establish a “classic.” Certain records are obviously perfect: Ready To Die, 36 Chambers, GZA’s Liquid Swords, and latter-day albums like Madvillainy and Kanye West’s Late Registration. There’s no way to gauge how far you can push the boundaries, and there’s no telling if it will work out for the best.
Big Boi has always been the lesser member of OutKast, and that’s probably because his mate, Andre3000, is less a person than a force of nature, able to build crossover classics that you’ll be singing a decade later (“Hey Ya!”) and timeless dance grooves that make your ass shake without you even being aware (“So Fresh, So Clean”). So, after a few years of setbacks on the other guy’s record dropping, is it worth the wait? Oh, most definitely. Unlike last year’s The Blueprint 3, but much like Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II, the wait was well worth it. The record that follows is an odyssey of sight and sound, filled with impossibly groovy club-ready cuts (first single “Shutterbugg”; “Tangerine”), as well as bass-heavy steamrollers of funk like “Turns Me On”, all three songs destined for classic status not reached since “Hey Ya!” debuted.
Big Boi has never been a man at a loss for words, and there are lines on Sir Lucious that take you completely off guard, and this is because he possesses something that hip-hop sorely lacks: true flair. Sir Lucious Left Foot may lack the big name producers that every single hip-hop record these days feature (Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze, et cetera), the biggest name on the credits here goes to none other than Lil’ Jon on pimp ode/Jamie Foxx showstopper “Hustle Blood.” Big makes due with smaller, malleable producers who all manage to put exactly the right touches on every last track on the album. And yet, without big names, the album shines in all of the right places, taking the silliness out of Vonnegutt’s part in “Follow Us” and making it one of the most enjoyable choruses on the first side of the album.
But what the album lacks in producers, it makes up in flawless guest stars. Janelle Monae shows up halfway through for “Be Still,” and blows the house down with her verse on not taking chances on love, right before George Clinton chimes in on the “dope on dope” on “Fo Yo Sorrows.” Even up-and-comers B.o.B. and Gucci Mane shine effortlessly on their guest spots, with the former helping to make “Night Night” far and away one of the best tracks the album has to offer, even without Big’s instant classic comment on why you shouldn’t mix drugs and rap: “Snow? That’s for toboggans.”
Sir Lucious Left Foot is Big Boi demonstrating that elder statesmen still can make a living in the hip-hop game. While young bucks around him may be getting put in jail and trying to beat the drug charges that befell them for lines about having big bags of smoke, he’s stepping over everyone around him, only putting out music when he feels it necessary. It’s a delightful change in the wind, and while artists are often found churning out mixtapes at rapidfire speed, it’s nice to know that somebody still has our back when it comes to yearning for well-made, well thought out hip-hop.