In 2006, back when OutKast's Andre "3000" Benjamin was pretty much tired of the actual "rapping" part of hip hop, his partner-in-rhyme Antwan "Big Boi" Patton was at a loss. Although hardly an innocent bystander, he witnessed Andre's artistic transformation from the sidelines, sticking with what he knew best while his colleague shunned the status quo, a process that began with the OutKast double album-slash-combined solo album experiment Speakerboxxx / The Love Below and carried into their feature film debut Idlewild (and its soundtrack of the same name).
Through all of this, Big Boi pledged to stand by the side of hip hop, having carved himself a comfortable groove into the couch cushion of our chosen genre. In 2007 he announced his solo debut, the audaciously-titled Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty, and began the recording process. By the time it was finally on store shelves three years later, the project was a shell of its former self, although the fact that it was ever released at all is thanks to Big Boi's new (and current) label home, Def Jam Records.
The other label in Antwan's life, LaFace Records, was absorbed by Jive Records in yet another corporate restructuring (that happens a lot in the music industry), and the bigwigs at Jive, who were no friends of hip hop (as the Clipse, A Tribe Called Quest, and tons of other rap acts can attest to), tried to force Andre and Big Boi to record another OutKast joint album instead of focusing on their solo careers. Big Boi wasn't feeling this, and not just because Andre had become a fucking recluse: he felt that it was time for the masses to see what he brought to the table. Jive eventually relented and allowed Big Boi to sign a solo contract with Def Jam (OutKast as a duo remains signed to Jive), but in the struggle, Antwan lost the ability to include at least four collaborations with Andre 3000 on the project: since Andre was still signed to Jive, they believed that this would be a fair punishment for Big Boi, since he defected and all. (The strangest part of this story is the fact that the first released single intended for the project, "Royal Flush" (which was a collaboration with both Andre and Raekwon), was even nominated for a Grammy in 2009, even though it has never officially appeared on any album.)
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty was finally released in the summer of 2010 after numerous false starts and multiple singles being released to radio, none of which ever clicked in my neck of the woods. (However, the project did drop the same day that I signed up for Sirius XM Satellite Radio, so I heard Hip Hop Nation spinning a couple of Big Boi's tracks, if not all that frequently.) Videos were shot and ad campaigns were drafted, most of which focused on getting hip hop bloggers on board the Big Boi train. Big Boi himself even gained favor with Blogland by threatening to leak all of his cutting room floor-collaborations with Andre 3000 that Jive wouldn't sign off on and then doing just that, giving his shit away for free because he believed that the songs deserved to be heard. I won't be reviewing those leaked tracks (or "Royal Flush") at this time, since I believe that Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty should be looked at in the way that is actually accessible to the listeners.
Besides, back in 2010 when Rex drafted a Reader Review for this album, he already looked at all of those extra tracks. Check out his write-up if you don't believe me.
1. FEEL ME (INTRO) (FEAT. SLEEPY BROWN)
A Malay-produced blaxploitation-esque groove tosses in some current vocals to snap you back into a present-day state of mind. (Although Sleepy Brown has a voice that makes you believe that he could have been a successful artist in the 1960s and 1970s, the fact of the matter is that he was not, so reading his very name brings you back into reality at this point.) Big Boi more or less sits this rap album intro out. It wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't essential. In any way.
2. DADDY FAT SAX
This ends up being what the rap album intro should have been, as our host files a formal complaint (complete with a chorus, consisting of scratched-in vocal samples) against the current state of hip hop over a Mr. DJ beat that fails to sound as catchy as most of OutKast's back catalog. Antwan is as nimble with the wordplay as ever, but even though I knew Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty represented his actual solo debut, I still found myself waiting for a second rapper to step in and clash with his flow (in a preferable way, like Andre 3000 always did). This was okay, but it wasn't sticky enough for me to remember it after a few more these tracks.
3. TURNS ME ON (FEAT. SLEEPY BROWN & JOI)
Only in Big Boi's world could describing your woman as having “the bottom of a horse” be considered a compliment that gets you laid. The Organized Noize beat sounds like OutKast-lite, which means that our host and his invited guests (including female vocalist Joi, who pops up in the music industry about as frequently as a certain groundhog) all sound pretty good over this sex rap written with the ladies in mind. I hope this isn't an ongoing trend on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, but “Turns Me On” comes across as though it is missing a verse from a certain hip hop recluse who apparently only popped up in 2011 to record verses for Lil' Wayne, Young Jeezy, and Ke$ha. He would have fit this like a glove, too. Regardless, this wasn't bad.
4. FOLLOW US (FEAT. VONNEGUTT & BIG RUBE)
This song, on the other hand, was somehow worse than I had feared. This write-up marks the first time I listened to “Follow Us” in its entirety, and what a fucking mess it is. I don't blame Big Boi, though, as his verses all sound polished. I also don't blame producer Salaam Remi, who normally turns in good beats and did so on here, as well. My lone issue with this track, which dooms the song to outright failure, is the singing from the group Vonnegutt, which sounds so much like emo-pussy bullshit that it actually repels Big Boi's audience. I'm never going to be sure as to what our host was thinking: these guys sound like fucking losers. The nerve of them, ruining Big Boi's second single like that! This has been rendered motherfucking unlistenable. Yeah, I said it. I hope Kurt Vonnegut rises from out of his grave and takes a shit on the forehead of each “singer” in the “group”, stamping a torn-out page from his Slaughterhouse-Five on top of it just for misappropriating his name. (I understand that there is also a version of “Follow Us” that consists entirely of Vonnegutt singing, without a single trace of Big Boi. What the fuck?)
5. SHUTTERBUGG (FEAT. CUTTY)
The actual first single from Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, which I had believed I had never heard before, but I was sort-of wrong: I just didn't realize that these vocals were the ones used on Girl Talk's album All Day (which is far more interesting than most of what I've written about for the past two years, but I digress). Anyway, Scott Storch's instrumental is catchy, although I could have done without the background noises that reminded me of drunken frogs, and our host glides over it with precision. I understand why it didn't make much of an impact when it first hit radio airwaves (remember, the first time I heard these vocals was on a Girl Talk album, so clearly it never hit the mainstream), but I feel that it's due for some sort of revival.
6. GENERAL PATTON (FEAT. BIG RUBE)
That song title is so fucking obvious that I'm shocked that Antwan hadn't thought to use it before. Over a booming Jbeatzz instrumental that nevertheless sounds like it's missing that extra something to make it sparkle, Big Boi calls for everybody to “get the South['s] dick up out yo' mouth”, advice that a lot of these artists in the game today should probably heed (personally, I'm still surprised that the South's hip hop scene continues to dominate radio playlists today, even after most of the artists that sub-genre produced had run out of ideas). Antwan sounds refreshed and relatively pissed-off, so good for him. Big Rube's narration at the end was entirely unnecessary, but this is basically an OutKast album minus one half of OutKast, so I'll let it slide.
7. TANGERINE (FEAT. T.I. & KHUJO GOODIE)
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty shifts gears quickly by throwing the listener into a moody, guitar-driven beat that sounds like a late-night drive downtown without purpose, and I mean that as a compliment. Our host tackles the first and third verses, with Clifford handling the hump (Khujo Goodie, unfortunately, only factors in during the chorus), and both artists sound really fucking good, even T.I., who I normally have no real opinion of. (His line about “chasing euphoria”, when he's essentially describing banging a lot of bitches in the back of his car, kind of won me over.) “Tangerine” is also the first song on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty that doesn't sound like it would accommodate Andre 3000. Well played, Antwan.
8. YOU AIN'T NO DJ (FEAT. YELAWOLF)
Speaking of Andre, “You Ain't No DJ” features his only input on his partner-in-rhyme's debut, in the form of an instrumental that sounds alright at first, but grows more and more annoying with each passing minute. Our host sounds okay: I'd go so far as to say that he comes off as slightly invigorated by the idea of working alongside his boy (although the odds that Andre 3000 and Big Boi were actually in the same room together are pretty slim). But this song is, ultimately, really fucking terrible, thanks to the contribution of Shady Records newbie Yelawolf, who completely destroys any semblance of “meaning” and “relevancy” with a godawful two-verse performance that couldn't stay on beat even if you promised it a treat afterward. Dude sounds like he has no fucking business behind the microphone, which is weird, because that wasn't my major complaint about Yela's Radioactive. What the fuck just happened?
9. HUSTLE BLOOD (FEAT. JAMIE FOXX)
I understand that rappers and R&B singers started working together not just to expand their respective audiences, but to also cross over in a broader, mainstream sense, because why the fuck else would you want someone to sing on the chorus to your thugged-out rap song if you didn't want anyone to ever listen to it? Unfortunately, these crossover attempts have diluted hip hop more than they have lent street cred to R&B, and we're left with this kind of shit, where Horrible Bosses's Jamie Foxx dominates the first minute and fifteen seconds of “Hustle Blood” with his technically-proficient crooning, while Big Boi is forced to adapt his own message for a general audience, neither man making much headway. The only surprise on here came from Lil Jon's beat, which was much more low-key than I was expecting. Still, this blew.
10. BE STILL (FEAT. JANELLE MONAE)
Our host's Southern drawl somehow rhymes “orange” with “boring”, which is commendable in and of itself. Otherwise, this track was vanilla, even with the inclusion of Antwan's acclaimed artist Janelle Monae on the hook. It almost makes me wish that he had given her something better to do, but then I would be forced to listen to “Be Still” again, which I really don't want to do. Royal Flush's production also sounds like nothing I would ever want to hear our host rhyme over again. Moving on...
11. FO YO SORROWS (FEAT. GEORGE CLINTON, TOO $HORT, & SAM CHRIS)
Our host forces us to undertake a funk excursion at gunpoint, but coercion doesn't make it any more enjoyable. Every single ingredient used for “Fo Yo Sorrows” would be put to better use on entirely separate songs. I just couldn't get into this aural mess. Guest rapper Too $hort is wasted in a brief cameo, and the Organized Noize instrumental is experimental when nobody requested it to be, and it really needs to sit down and shut the fuck up already.
12. NIGHT NIGHT (FEAT. B.O.B. & JOI)
For some reason, all of the skits on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty are getting on my last nerve, more so than their equivalents on OutKast's actual output. Anyway, the only pieces of this song I cared for were our host's rhymes (and his brief interlude before the second verse, where he explains that he just likes to “destroy shit”), which were mostly good. The DJ Speedy beat was weak, though, as were the guest vocalists, including Bobby Ray, who apparently accepted an opportunity to only sing on the hook in order to be that much closer to his dream of actually being Andre 3000 for a day. Next!
13. SHINE BLOCKAS (FEAT. GUCCI MANE)
Even with Gucci Mane's involvement, I'm happy to report that I was not predestined to hate “Shine Blockas”, which is huge for me, I know. Instead, I listened to it all the way through before I decided that I didn't care much for it. DJ Cutmaster Swift's instrumental makes some interesting life choices, but our host sounded bored, and the aforementioned Gucci Mane, holder of one of the worst rap names (and face tattoos) in recent memory, punches in with such a low growl that it was super-easy to pretend that he wasn't even on the track. In short, this shit is over, and I'm never going to listen to it ever again. I know, right?
14. THE TRAIN, PT. 2 (SIR LUSCIOUS LEFT FOOT SAVES THE DAY) (FEAT. SAM CHRIS)
This sequel to a track from the forgotten OutKast album-slash-soundtrack Idlewild (“forgotten” because nobody seems to like it) keeps things moving with a decent Organized Noize beat and an overly wordy hook from Sam Chris that only barely manages to make sense. Big Boi chugs along (no pun intended) admirably, but it's almost as though even he realized that the end of the album was near. The musical interlude at the end wakes the audience up, though, regardless of what our host is actually saying.
15. BACK-UP PLAN
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty's regular program ends with the energy level much higher than on the previous track, as our host, thankfully, chooses not to recount the plot to that Jennifer Lopez movie of the same name. The beat keeps heads nodding until it stops, which happens around the same time Big Boi throws in the towel, having burned through fourteen tracks (and an intro) that sounded more audacious than most of what the South manages to put on record store shelves. But will any of this stand up to the test of time? The review isn't over yet, jackass.
The deluxe edition of Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty contains the following two bonus tracks.
16. THEME SONG
This piffle evaporated from my mind while the shit was still playing out of my earbuds. Little wonder why it was held back as a bonus track only.
17. SHINE BLOCKAS (REMIX) (FEAT. BUN B, PROJECT PAT, & GUCCI MANE)
Had I not forgotten that this remix existed as a bonus track, I wouldn't have proclaimed that I would never listen to this shit ever again, like I did above. Big Boi still sounds lost within the beat during his third verse (which is the same as it was on the original), but with the inclusion of Bun B and Three 6 Mafia affiliate Project Pat (Gucci Mane is stuck with chorus duty only now), it becomes obvious that our host sounds bland over the beat (also a holdover from the original song) because it was never in his wheelhouse to begin with. Anyway, it doesn't matter, as this shit is finally over.
THE LAST WORD: Although it starts off strong, Big Boi's solo debut Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty begins to sink under the weight of the undue pressure placed upon him as the non-reclusive member of OutKast, and by the time “Shine Blockas” takes the stage, the man has flat-out drowned. I'm not sure where all of the instantaneous blogger love for this project came from: it has its good moments, but a lot of this leaves much to be desired. (The kinda-sorta OutKast reunion “You Ain't No DJ” is rendered a fucking horrific car crash thanks to a talentless performance from guest star Yelawolf, and “Follow Us” is so blatant with its bait-and-switch approach that Big Boi should be brought up on charges for violating federal consumer protection laws.) And even the good moments are merely alright: I can't imagine any of these songs ever finding a place on my OutKast playlist. I'm not going to launch into a discussion about how the songs left on the cutting-room floor could have turned Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty into an instant purchase: the original Reader Review already did that, for one, and I don't even believe that including the likes of “Royal Flush” on here would have even worked: if anything, the mediocrity of the rest of the project would have made “Royal Flush” seem awful by comparison. What we're left with is a Big Boi solo album that shows promise for future endeavors, but isn't good enough by itself to hold up even just one year later. I have no real need to ever listen to this again. Oh well. On to the next one.