Tue, Dec 25, 2012 - Page 12 News List

CD reviews

By Jon Pareles, Jon Caramanica and Nate Chinen  /  NY Times News Service



Big Boi starts his second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (Def Jam), reminding listeners that he’s “one-half of the mind of Outkast,” the hip-hop duo (with Andre 3000) from Atlanta that released its last album, Idlewild, in 2006. Memories probably aren’t that short. And once Big Boi’s solo career got moving — his 2010 album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, was delayed by record-company conflicts — it was clear that he was keeping what made Outkast so memorable: fast-talking rhymes alongside full-fledged tunes that might draw on funk, new wave, club beats or hip-hop. Pop choruses didn’t mean the songs were trivial.

Big Boi (born Antwan Patton) also maintained the persona he brought to Outkast. While Andre 3000 often had cosmic considerations, Big Boi represented the street: cocky and raunchy. Singles leading up to the release of Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors — Gossip and She Said OK, both included on the album’s deluxe edition — continued to boast and leer.

The amiable Outkast swagger comes through on the album too, particularly in Mama Told Me, which Big Boi shares with Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child. A longtime Outkast production team, the Flush, came up with a track of sparkly keyboard-centered funk with a whistling hook and more than a hint of Prince; amid Big Boi’s self-praise, Rowland sings, “Be true to self and you’ll go far.”

But on this album, Big Boi, who’s 37, also reveals some angst. The hymn-like Tremendous Damage mourns the death of his father, while in “She Hates Me,” with Kid Cudi groaning the stately chorus, Big Boi’s romance crumbles because, among other things, “I’m always at the studio.”

When he’s not exulting in the fast life, Big Boi now has second thoughts about it. In Apple of My Eye, a minor-key new wave song recalling the Cure, he considers the aftermath of youthful excess:

They wildin’ try to find theyself

And by the time they do they barely have nobody left ... over

Feelin’ empty and alone, cuz the youth is gone

The thrill has been killed so let the truth be told.

Along with producers from the Outkast stable, the album features new collaborators like the punky rock band Wavves, who rev up Shoes for Running, a song about class warfare and the inevitability of death. Big Boi also works with two electronic pop acts, the whispery Little Dragon and the duo Phantogram, whose specialty is synthesized pomp. Where a typical hip-hop hook singer plays along with a rapper’s ego, Sarah Barthel of Phantogram questions it instead. In Objectum Sexuality, a slow march produced by Phantogram, Big Boi spouts lewd details, but Barthel’s chorus observes, “It’s all you want these days, ‘cause you feel nothing inside.” Even in Outkast, Big Boi was never merely a macho cartoon; now, he’s revealing he’s a grown-up.

— JON PARELES, NY Times News Service

Wiz Khalifa, O.N.I.F.C., Rostrum/Atlantic

Don’t kill Wiz Khalifa’s vibe — it’s all he’s got. O.N.I.F.C. is his second major-label album, and even if it doesn’t have a purpose, it has a mood: smooth, ethereal, unhurried. It’s as if he’s trying to tell you something, without having to rely too heavily on pesky, inconvenient words.

When he deploys them, it’s sparely, and with limited subject range and power. Mostly he raps about what kind of weed he’s smoking (the best, duh) and how many people have been copying his style (loads, duh) in a manner that suggests that enough of the first might lead one to not worry too much about all that other stuff. The Bluff opens with a chest-clearing cough, and at the beginning of Time, he asks, “Who else you know smoke a half-pound in seven days?”

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