Big Boi

I’ve always enjoyed mash ups, but most often for their comic value. Being with friends and exciting them with the promise of something excellent like ‘Seven Nation Army’ or ‘Let It Be’ only for it to resolve itself into, let’s say, a mash up with Backstreet Boys or Shaggy respectively (yeah, I have those tracks)  is exactly the kind of cruel musical trick that makes me giggle like a fool – particularly if it really annoys someone who thinks mash ups are terrible. The thing is, because of my lowered expectations, finding a really well-executed, creative mash up is therefore a particularly enjoyable experience. Max Tannone‘s Jaydiohead project was an example – not only was he utilising songs I deeply love as excellent backing tracks, but his actual musical talents were on show (his re-engineering of ’15 Step’s troublesome time signature the most obvious standout for this).

It seems strange then that longtime favourite DJ Lobsterdust, a man, woman or sonically-gifted A.I. platform who has mixed Boston with the Black Eyed Peas and Nirvana with Wild Cherry could have made something as interesting, well-thought-out and unequivocally good as ‘Shutterbugg Yrself’. It seems obvious once you’ve heard it, but the bombastic approach of Big Boi’s vocal tracks is matched unexpectedly perfectly by the sparse percussion and synths of LCD Soundsystem, making for a track that swaps the  explosive braggadocio of the hip-hop original’s production for something that seems like it could have grown organically out of a freestyle. It’s a great example of the merit of mash ups, and the sheer scope for musical experimentation they offer. But keep the hilarious ones coming, too. What about Lou Reed and Metalli- Oh.

Big Boi vs. LCD Soundsystem – Shutterbugg Yrself (DJ Lobsterdust Mash Up) (YSI)

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.

Big Boi – General Patton (YSI)

I’m glad I didn’t say hello when I saw him in an airport now. Bastard.

Wow, uni really is a distraction from blogging. Here are two tracks that couldn’t be more different, more hyped or more brilliant.

Big Boi’s second release from his upcoming solo album, ‘Shutterbugg’, has managed to blow my mind so many times I think I’ve forgotten how to hyperbolically discuss its virtues in list form. Oh wait, here we go:

1) The talkbox beat is the best use of autotuning I’ve heard, and if played on a proper soundsystem I think it might just act like the Brown Note.
2) Big Boi’s flow is so unlike any other in mainstream hip-hop that it immediately engages me every time I hear it.
3) The unwieldy mix of glittering synths and occasional strummed guitar just works, and wonderfully at that.
4) The tiny break into ‘Back To Life’ by Soul II Soul – amazing.

Big Boi – Shutterbugg (YSI)

There seems rather a lot of young, exuberant bands plying their trade in the wilfully lo-fi world of garage rock. What with The Smith Westerns already gracing these pages and those kings of the genre, Black Lips popping up every so often, you’d think I’d have little time for more of the same, but Harlem have knocked me clean off my feet. All the hallmarks of this particular murky corner of the music industry are present: high tempo, twanging guitars, muted background drumming and a complete disregard for production aesthetics. But mixed amongst all of this there lies a little something extra in this Austen three-piece. Michael Coomers’ breathless delivery reminds me of the glory days of Kings of Leon and all the teenage nostalgia that comes with that. I love them.

Harlem – Friendly Ghost (YSI)