After releasing three amazing heavy funk records, Rick James took a serious detour in 1980 with his fourth album Garden of Love, an album that consisted entirely of ballads and songs whose funkiness was so subtle that it disappointed many fans and critics. Compared to his previous records, Garden of Love was a commercial and critical flop, although its reputation has been rehabilitated in the decades since. After four OutKast albums, his debut solo album Speakerboxxx (packaged as part of the group’s insanely popular Speakerboxxx/The Love Below double album in 2003), and 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, all of which had neck snapping funk as integral parts of their DNA, Big Boi released his own Garden of Love this year. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors eschews funk almost entirely, in favor of indie pop and billowy electronic music. Some of the tracks, such as the three songs Little Dragon appears on (maybe three and a half; I’m pretty sure that they play on “Mama Told Me” even though Yukimi Nagano was replaced by Kelly Rowland on the hook), work extremely well. On the other hand, “Shoes for Running,” featuring Wavves, is obnoxious, and the three songs featuring Phantogram are boring. There are real gems on the album though. “The Thickets” and “Apple of My Eye,” produced respectively by longtime Outkast collaborators Organized Noize and Mr. DJ, come the closest to matching the high watermark set by the rest of his career and serve as a great way to kick off the record. The thundering “In the A,” with guest raps from T.I. and Ludacris, follows soon after, but the record begins stalling on the next track, the Kid Cudi-assisted “She Hates Me,” and never fully regains its footing. Some of the remaining tracks are really interesting though and Big Boi deserves a lot of credit for trying something new, such as singing on “Raspberries” and combining hip hop with ethereal folk on “Descending.” Even the not so good tracks are partially redeemed by the fact that Big Boi can still rap circles around pretty much anyone. Overall, this album seems like a mostly failed experiment right now and I definitely think it’s the worst album out of these honorable mentions, but I’ve only had a week to listen to it. I’m really interested to see how this album will sound in year or in ten years. And if nothing else, we can look back to Rick James. After Garden of Love, James returned to his roots and made Street Songs, one of the funkiest album of the 1980s. I know Big Boi has a Street Songs in him.
Big Boi - "In the A" (feat. T.I. & Ludacris)
Big Boi - "Raspberries" (feat. Mouche & Scar)