I have a strange relationship with hip-hop. As a firm lover of lyrics, it appeals to me due to its innate focus on “the words”, but often disappoints with its almost constant reliance on a narrow set of themes and even shorter set of musical influences. Last year, Mos Def bucked that trend with The Ecstatic, an incredible album brimming with socially conscious lyrics and topped off with a genuinely surprising attention to instrumental detail. Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about Big Boi’s new album, Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son of Chico Dusty, and most of it has been very, very positive (you may even have noticed yours truly getting a little worked up over the first official single, ‘Shutterbugg’ not too long ago). The focus seems to have been on its inventiveness, both musically and lyrically.
But for me, barring a minority of songs, this album may be inventive in terms of hip-hop, but it never truly innovates. As an explanation for that pedantic differentiation, this album often introduces musical themes seemingly alien to the norm – the laid back Stevie Wonder groove of ‘Turns Me On’ for example – but never actually surprises me with its ideas. The fact that I can attribute the sound of that song to Stevie Wonder prooves this in part; that isn’t simply a lazy journalistic comparison – it could be a sample of an obscure song. Even worse, it rarely breaks through out of the shackles of hip-hop lyricism – Big Boi may have a flow better than most, but he still sticks to rigid themes of women, money, drugs and general chest-beating boastfulness.
There are a couple of exceptions, but whilst it seems that Sir Lucious Left Foot might be the character ready to break hip-hop out of its rut, he simply makes the rut wider and seemingly harder to get out of.
I’m glad I didn’t say hello when I saw him in an airport now. Bastard.