Boomiverse (released June 16, 2017)
Face it, Atlanta is absolutely ruling rap right now.
Migos, Lil Yachty, Future, Rae Sremmurd, 21 Savage – for better or worse, these names are influencing rap culture as we know it. Even rap veterans have begun to tinker their sounds to keep up.
Nearly everyone seems to be bowing to the throne of trap.
And while the new blood’s influence is definitely undeniable, their emphasis of style over substance still makes me skeptical of their long-term success. I mean, there’s a reason why no one talks about ringtone rap anymore.
Fix your face, playa, you come hear to read that real, so that’s what you’ll get.
And ever since he pulled up in his Southern Playalistic Cadillac in the fall of 1993, few have been realer than Antwan Patton. Before there was a Quavo or a Young Thug, when the South needed a voice, Big Boi was its bullhorn.
So two decades after Outkast put hip-hop on notice at the Source Awards, Big Boi looks to find his voice in current hip-hop – ironically, the same landscape that he helped build from the ground up.
In an attempt to diversify his sound, Boomiverse, Big Boi’s third solo album, is a sonic smorgasbord. Production is as far-flung as beats from the backroads of Georgia to piano keys straight from the Phantom of the Opera to somewhere between Saturn and Jupiter.
It’s appealing but it’s also a lot to digest at times.
Intro track “Da Next Day” sounds like it was plucked from the early 2000s, thanks to its bold trumpets. Narrator Big Rube foreshadows the album’s diversity with a foreboding message: “True fusion only occurs at the heart of a star.”
But things really get into gear with “Kill Jill,” one of the best tracks of the summer so far. Jeezy handles the hook (always his best role) while Big Boi and Killer Mike slaughter a track that samples, of all things, virtual J-pop singer Hatsune Miku.
I can’t believe I got to namedrop Miku-chan in a rap album review. Nerd achievement unlocked.
Killer Mike and Big Boi are pure magic together – the pair absolutely rampage the Castlevania-like keys on “Made Men.” Big Boi jabs at America’s racial hypocrisy (“get mad when a n**** wanna take that knee/cheer when he catch that ball”) while Big Mike threatens pretenders who “talk tough but they Mello Yello.” Kurupt holds his on on the track too, as does Curren$y on “Follow Deez,” but it’s clear that Big Boi and Mike are gunning for the rap tag team championship.
The rest of the album, while intriguing, doesn’t reach the bar set by those tracks. Second single “Mic Jack” brims with P-Funk energy, which gives Big Boi the chance to drop more quotables: “We break it up like the smile of Michael Strahan/And keep shinin’ like the glove on Michael J hand.” But outside of the groove and a couple of standout lines, there’s not much that will stick with you.
The album’s production, while typically very intriguing, winds up being a detriment. Organized Noize cooks up a truly bizarre beat for “Overthunk” that sounds like Martians playing the Mario Bros. water level on their spaceship. The track is great (props to Eric Bellinger’s hook as well) but feels out of sync wedged among the vaudeville keys of “All Night,” the house vibe of “Chocolate” and the trademark Dirty South grit of “In the South.” Boomiverse winds up being a pretty schizophrenic listen, keeping the album from finding its groove.
Boomiverse might be a mild disappointment considering the strength of Big Boi’s two previous solo efforts but by no means is it a failure.
His music has stood the test of time. Let’s see if the new generation can do the same.
Best tracks: “Kill Jill,” “Made Men,” “Follow Deez”
3.5 stars out of 5