Big Boi could break out of Andre 3000’s shadow

Hip-hop legend Big Boi is set to release his second solo album next week on Dec. 11, and early buzz on Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is that it could be a masterstroke for the veteran emcee. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, he was one half of OutKast, one of the most beloved hip-hop acts of all time. He also released a stellar solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, in 2010.

So why does it feel like hip-hop isn’t as amped for this upcoming album as it should be?
Big’s former partner, the enigmatic Andre 3000, was announced as a guest star on fellow Atlantan T.I.’s track “Sorry,” and the buzz spread like wildfire throughout social media and hip-hop news sites. 3000 is widely regarded as one of the greatest emcees to touch a mic, and this guest appearance, like his previous joint effort with Rick Ross “Sixteen,” got fans salivating — eagerly awaiting the latest jewels to be dropped by Three Stacks.

That contrast — the feverish devotion to Andre 3000 releasing a verse compared to the relative indifference shown to Big Boi releasing an album—is indicative of what Big Boi has had to deal with, virtually his entire career. A distinctive lyricist with a razor-sharp wit and a old playa-pimp’s perspective, Big Boi has long toiled in the shadow of his more celebrated counterpart. When Outkast released their acclaimed 2003 double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, it drew the yin/yang aspect of their personalities into even sharper relief. The Speakerboxxx half of the album was Big Boi’s statement, while The Love Below served as Andre 3000’s. Both albums were full of visionary music (and some yawn-inducing missteps) but it seemed that fans responded more enthusiastically to 3000’s unbridled eclecticism. Big Boi’s consistent craftsmanship , again, went under praised and under acknowledged.

Music fans have seen these sort of dynamics before with former partners. Paul McCartney’s effortless tunesmithing was dismissed by those overly enamored with John Lennon’s angry introspection and artistic risk-taking. Peter Tosh’s clear-eyed revolutionary rhetoric was dwarfed and continuously eclipsed by Bob Marley’s mythology and mysticism.

With Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, Big Boi could finally shake the specter of Outkast and get his due as a visionary artist and talented emcee. After almost 20 years in the game, the man born Antwan Patton deserves to be known as more than “Andre 3000’s partner.” And rumor has it, his day has finally come.
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