“It’s cool to put the damn cameras down and start clapping!” Big Boi shouted playfully to the packed crowd last night at Converse’s Rubber Tracks Studios in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. But no one risked missing a moment as he ran through brand new tracks from his upcoming Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, out December 11th. Camera phones flanked the MC on all sides, albeit with woozy aim after folks abused the open bar while Big Boi’s DJ and drummer dropped classic Outkast material. Andre 3000 was a no-show despite being spotted in New York earlier that day, but the cuts he previewed from this second solo album (his third including Speakerboxxx) proved once again that Big Boi can more than hold his own.
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors finds Big Boi experimenting with the melodic hip-hop/funk sound that Outkast pioneered, while still nodding to the contemporary sounds churning out of his native Atlanta. Tracks like “Apple of My Eye” and “CPU” are strong showings, with Big Boi courting a Georgia peach and dropping hefty technology punchlines, respectively. The previously released “Mama Told Me” is a synthy space-funk jam that explodes on stage – Big Boi played the studio version featuring Kelly Rowland, and then surprised fans with a rare rendition featuring Little Dragon that they premiered at a concert in Austin over the summer.
In fact, the collaborations on Vicious Lies are as definitive as Big Boi’s presence. The rapper fills the perceived void left by Andre’s absence with some of the most varied features on any rap album in recent memory. He resurrects Ludacris alongside T.I. on “In the A,” a hometown anthem that is heavily reminiscent of his minor 2005 hit “Kryptonite,” with the Purple Ribbon All-Stars. A$AP Rocky continues to rack up big features, dropping one of his more impressive verses on “Lines” alongside criminally underrated indie trip-hoppers Phantogram.
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The major surprise of the night was “She Hates Me,” a moody R&B-esque cut featuring a flawless Kid Cudi on the hook. Toward the end of the set, Big Boi took a break from rapping and let the songs ring off uninterrupted, but his presence never waned as he took to the crowd to pose for pics as they ran the set list back from the top.
“One half of Outkast, one whole of me,” Big Boi rhymed in almost direct response to those still nagging for a reunion. But he remained in great spirits and delivered a fantastic follow-up to his underrated 2010 release Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. As label execs, industry mainstays and diehard fans trailed out of the studio, it was clear the 20-year vet was done dodging the lies and rumors, and this go-round was out to just have fun.