The Big Boi Albums Ranked
Outkast is one of my favorite hip hop groups of all time. André 3000 and Big Boi are without a doubt two of the most talented rappers to ever do it, and their disbandment/extremely elongated hiatus continues to be a disappointing absence in the landscape of today’s music. This has been compounded by the relative scarcity of André 3000, who has yet to release a solo album since Outkast’s IDLEWILD (2006) and only recently released an EP under his own name in 2018 (LOOK MA NO HANDS). He’s featured on and produced a number of songs in this post-Outkast period, but his former musical partner Big Boi, or Antwan André Patton, has been a bit busier. Since 2010, Big Boi has released four albums, most recently the impetus for this piece, BIG SLEEPOVER, with frequent collaborator (going back to the Outkast days) Sleepy Brown. Under the name Big Grams, a project with duo Phantogram, Big Boi also released an EP of the same name of the new group in 2015, although that won’t be considered for this list. Instead, it will rank the four albums Big Boi has released so far.
#4 — VICIOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMORS (2012)
Favorite track: “She Hates Me”
Big Boi’s second album, VICIOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMORS, is technically a bit of a sophomore slump. I find I have to qualify, however, that I like each of these four albums a whole lot. But the distinction for VICIOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMORS’ reduced quality can perhaps be attributed to its experimentation. For his first three “solo” albums, Big Boi worked with a big ol’ number of writers, producers, and featured artists. Of course, much of pop, rap, and hip hop works in that mode, but it’s a testament to his authorship that he was often able to pull together those potentially disparate influences into something that doesn’t feel compromised or uncertain. However, on VICIOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMORS, Big Boi’s direction is a bit too scattershot. His verses are still strong, but some of the diverse approaches to sound undermine the cohesion Big Boi’s albums usually have. Some of the hooks also rely too heavily on featured artists who aren’t pulling enough melodic weight, but that isn’t the case with Kid Cudi on “She Hates Me,” my favorite track on VICOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMORS.
#3 — BIG SLEEPOVER (2021)
Favorite track: “Doin’ It”
Big Boi’s latest release at the time of this writing, BIG SLEEPOVER is a collaboration record co-credited to Sleepy Brown. Big Boi, both with Outkast and in his solo career, has worked with Sleepy Brown extensively over the years, but the two applied their shared vision more extensively on BIG SLEEPOVER. It doesn’t fully hearken back to “The Way You Move,” from Outkast’s SPEAKERBOXXX/THE LOVE BELOW (2003, which essentially acted as solo albums for Big Boi and André 3000, respectively). But the album does succeed in brightening Southern rap bass, classic funk, and modern dance music into poppy hip hop goodness, not unlike some of the work on SPEAKERBOXXX. “Doin’ It” is a bit cheesy, but it’s incredibly catchy, and BIG SLEEPOVER’s tracks vacillate from such a description to deeper, more complex compositions.
#2 — BOOMIVERSE (2017)
Favorite track: “All Night”
Because of the distinction between the sounds of SPEAKERBOXXX and THE LOVE BELOW, I always thought of Big Boi as the less “poppy” one in the Outkast duo. But in his solo career, he’s skillfully repudiated this perception of mine, making extremely moving and fun songs that seem tailored to radio play in addition to clever (and still groovy and dance-inspiring) experiments. BOOMIVERSE yields to the cheese more than any other Big Boi album, as can be heard on “All Night” (which is nevertheless my favorite song on the album because it’s so damn catchy), but it’s not like the record is some shallow tripe. “In the South” is an especially great counterpoint that hearkens back to Outkast’s earliest days, and “Overthunk” and “Chocolate” also serve as funky and trap-y varitions respectively. None of Big Boi’s albums get staid or entirely predictable, and this is no exception. In fact, it seems that he challenged himself with BOOMIVERSE. Big Boi himself sings on the choruses more here, and the integration of his always impressive verses into those high-level catchy moments is impressive. His choice curation of collaborators is also appreciated, and their work together under Big Boi’s direction make BOOMIVERSE a good hip hop record. As the release that followed the rapper’s biggest gap between solo albums (it came just under five years after VICIOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMORS), BOOMIVERSE fits into contemporary expectations of the genre while feeling simultaneously fresh and from another, past time.
#1 — SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT: THE SON OF CHICO DUSTY (2010)
Favorite track: “Be Still”
SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT: THE SON OF CHICO DUSTY was Big Boi’s long-awaited solo debut, and more than 11 years later, it still stands as his best album. The eclecticism that Big Boi has expressed, both back with Outkast and since SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT, is present here, but it’s a bit more refined. This record has very little filler, and that makes the album-length experience feel cohesive. That doesn’t mean that much of SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT feels the same, but rather that Big Boi really focused his Southern hip hop and funk instincts into a modern progression of those through lines. His flow has never been stronger on his solo records than it is on SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT, and the variation on lyrical themes from boasting to sex to social commentary to heartfelt emotion, while a bit whiplash-inducing, solidify Big Boi as a sensitive (that is, emotionally, intellectually, and socially) rapper that provides something for everyone. “Be Still,” which features a heavenly Janelle Monáe for much of the song, ironically doesn’t have a ton of Big Boi on it. But this is also indicative of the guy’s great skill in collaboration, something I’ve already described above. Big Boi knows the talents of his producers and featured artists, and moves out of their way to let them do their thing while supporting them with his musical instincts and, of course, his accompanying verses. SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT is just a great, moving, and fun hip hop record, and one that proved Big Boi was not washed up after Outkast. And he still isn’t.