This is a short Public Service Announcement on behalf of real hip hop fans everywhere: “FUCK JIVE RECORDS.” It’s people like you that make us, the customers that effectively give you employment, hate your guts. If Outkast weren’t enslaved – and I use that word fully aware of any connotations – then Andre “3000” Benjamin would be allowed to feature on Antwan “Big Boi” Patton’s debut solo album. Unless one of the two impregnated your wife/daughter/mother, what on earth is your excuse? These are two of the most talented musicians on the planet – and you, whichever fucking bottom-feeding pen-pushers that made this inane decision, have the audacity to think you know more than THEM?
That had to be said. (Pause). Back to the review. So, how many of you Google yourselves regularly? Losersâ€¦ Yeah, me too. Not a lot, but occasionally (and, you know, only for the articles). It takes me interesting places too, since a lot of the reviews get copied and pasted verbatim into various forums. Then people agree, disagree or ignore. The first time I came across one of my reviews in this manner, being hung, drawn and quartered by some Four Avatars of the Apocalypse, the criticism was stinging, and my ego was bruised. But after a short amount of time, I learned to take both praise and criticism with a pinch of salt. If someone took time out of their day to write me an email saying they loved the review, were they really praising me, or did they simply like the way my review made them feel about the album? Similarly, when a diehard fan has been looking forward to an album from their favourite artist for years, and some dickhead reviewer comes along and nitpicks the hell out of it, was it the specific critique they loathed or the feeling that I’d deflated their sense of expectation? That I took something away from them?
In the end, either way, you have to politely put it all aside and just get into the music, just as you have to get on with life. Not everything is cut and dried; there isn’t always an obvious answer, especially where music is concerned. Every reviewer brings something different to the table, and sometimes their job when appraising an album is simply to point out things that you didn’t realise were there, to shine a light on aspects they feel are important enough to perhaps alter your perception of that work. Occasionally, however, we are rendered relatively redundant – and this, dear Reader, is one of those times. For “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” is an album that has had a long drawn out gestation period, obstacles, leaks, blockades and absences – yet, Big Boi has just got on with it, and released an effortless album that leaves me with only one piece of sagely advice to give youâ€¦ Make sure you listen to it properly more than once.
Yes, that really is all I can say. The rest speaks for itself – an hour or so of music, real music, drawn from multiple genres, acting as the bedrock for Big Boi’s shape shifting flows and remarkable ear for perfect choruses (whether vocally or instrumentally). “Speakerboxxx” was excellent and part of that Outkast double LP that has sold over 15m copies and counting. People underplay that role that Big Boi played, but in the simplest terms possible, I haven’t listened to “The Love Below” since, hmmm, 2004; I crank out “Speakerboxxx” every summer, without fail; DJ’s still play “The Way You Move”; I still trip out remembering the first time I heard “Ghetto Musick” on the Big Ted & Shortee Blitz hip hop show on Kiss 100FM, their hilariously bemused reaction matching mine. None of that is any kind of slight on Andre 3K – just that, well, “Speakerboxxx” was just my summer shit, down to a tee.
You’ll notice my switching of tense just then – that’s because “Sir Lucious Left Foot” has now eclipsed “Speakerboxxx” almost entirely, what with it being superior in practically every way. It is thoroughly modern, but made with an old school attention to detail and craftsmanship. The self-flagellation of being a hip hop fan occasionally makes it all worth it when we get an “OB4CL2” type of record, and this LP falls into the category, with a bonafide vet who’s been there and done that, still having the drive and desire 15 years on to pour everything into an album and make it his best contribution yet.
Out of fourteen tracks, I’d say that around NINE are singles/potentials. The perfect Scott Storch club banger “Shutterbugg” – possibly my favourite song so far this year; the tempo-switching genius of “Fo Yo Sorrows” featuring a full-throated George Clinton; street tornado “General Patton” in which the subtly threatening horns somehow overpower the melodramatic choir; the insanely catchy “Follow Us”; strip-club T.I. feature “Tangerine” (one of the only songs I’d take issue with – I still like it, though); the excellent Jamie Foxx riding over “Hustle Blood”; Janelle Monae – who dropped (maybe) the album of the year, thus far â€“ puts in a more restrained but equally effective vocal performance on “Be Still”; “Shine Blockas” features Gucci Mane but subtly recalls the “International Players Anthem”; finally, on the Deluxe Edition (which, if as advertised, seems to be the more advisable version to buy), “Theme Song” which was previously leaked, then renamed and added as a bonus track – it could have been the outright lead single.
Aside from those mere nine songs, you have the clattering introductory number “Daddy Fat Sax”, setting up SLLF as a platform for his distinctive flow and excellent lyrics; next up, the evergreen Sleepy Brown cruises through lush “Turn Me On” and among the rest, Andre 3000 is allowed to produce the Neptunes-esque “You Ain’t No DJ”; needless to say, this is a real slap in the face for Jive, who dismissed it as a niche product sans the Outkast moniker. And that, unfortunately, is one of the only things that subtracts from the score. Big Boi has done pretty much all he can to make this a classic, and has succeeded. Yet, to push it into the realm of perfection, we needed some Andre 3000. We can self-remedy the situation to a degree by including songs such as “Royal Flush” and others that Patton himself leaked directly to us. But still, the real son of Chico Dusty – the nickname given to his late father – has done himself proud and lived up to the hype. It isn’t a necessary immediate album, but Patton’s talent can be derived from that old military saying: “Either lead, follow or get out of the way.” He knows when to lead (“General Patton”/”Shine Blockas”), when to follow (“Shutterbugg”/”Theme Song”) and when to get out of the way, letting the guests do their thing (“Follow Us”/”Be Still”). Big Boi has exquisite taste in music, guests, lyrics and choruses – not to mention the knowledge and expertise of how to put a classic album together. And whoever bet against him just lost. Big time.