The first thing you notice when taking a look at the tracklisting for Big Boi’s second album is the bewildering array of guest appearances. The deluxe edition boasts a grand total of 23 spread over 17 tracks, with artists as diverse as Wavves and Kelly Rowland supporting Outkast’s more prolific half in his sophomore solo effort. Initially exciting, this saturation of guest talent turns out to be the album’s biggest weakness.
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours certainly isn’t a bad album. After 2010’s triumphant post-Outkast debut Sir Lucious Leftfoot, Antwan Patton put his credentials as an incredibly competent rapper in his own right beyond doubt, and here as ever his inventive and suavely confident rhyming is engaging throughout. The production too remains lush and expansive; Big Boi has never been one for simple repetitive loops, and as well as the predictably melodic contributions from Outkast beatmakers Organised Noize, Vicious Lies demonstrates an ethereal sonic edge in fitting with the presence of electronic artists like Phantogram and Little Dragon.
So all the ingredients of a great record are here, and yet something just isn’t quite right. It’s worth reiterating that Big Boi is a great rapper, but the problem is that he’s spread himself too thin. Vicious Lies is far more singing-orientated than Lucious Leftfoot, and it’s easy to find yourself tapping your foot waiting for an actual verse amidst the swirling oceans of slightly over-earnest choruses. Of course mixing singing with rapping isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and soulful vocals were an integral part of the Outkast recipe, but the problem here is that there’s no common ground between the wildly varying vocalists Big Boi has roped in. Albums need consistency, and vocals that range from Sleepy Brown’s smooth crooning to Nathan Williams’ surf-punk yelping via Kid Cudi and Little Dragon simply end up cross-contaminating the album. In the dizzying mix of genres and sounds, Big Boi comes across as a little lost.
But Vicious Lies does have its strong points. The Killer Mike duet ‘Thom Pettie’ is as hard-hitting as you’d expect it to be, and the A$AP Rocky-Phantogram combination ‘Lines’ is greater than the sum of its generically-diverse parts. Compared to his first solo effort this may be a disappointing follow-up, but there’s still no doubt that Big Boi is good enough to make music without Andre 3000. It’s a pity, then, that he’s not quite confident enough to truly go it alone.