Big Boi has been known as the other guy from Outkast for most of his career. Even a #1 single (“The Way You Move”) couldn’t get him out of Andre 3000’s considerable shadow, not with “Hey Ya” on the same double album. His new solo album “Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty” was stuck in label purgatory for four years, an ignominious fate for someone whose sold more than 25 million records worldwide.
But his relative anonymity has never been due to a lack of talent. His pinpoint breath control allows him to flow over almost any type of beat, something he takes full advantage of on “Sir Lucious Leftfoot.” He is as comfortable rapping over the laid-back soul sample of “Shine Blockas” (“the penmanship is so legit / I came equipped like an prophylactic”) as he is spewing syllables in rapid-fire fashion (“they got flour for tortillas and lettuce for enchiladas”) on club songs like “Shutterbug.”
There is an almost infinite variety of musical influences on the album, befitting the experimental style Outkast is known for. A top-notch production team, headlined by longtime collaborators Organized Noise, adds many musical touches, from electronic synthesizers to funk guitars, trumpets and orchestras, not often seen on a Southern rap album.
Like many rappers used to being in a group, Big Boi seems uncomfortable performing by himself. He recruited a bloated guest-list in place of Andre 3000, who was barred from appearing because of label politics. Of the album’s 15 songs, 12 have guest appearances.
The sheer number of guests and musical styles prevents Big Boi from putting his stamp on the album. On tracks like “Be Still,” a jazz-influenced ballad with Janelle Monae where he has only one verse, he feels like a guest on his own song. While Big Boi has the skills to be a star in his own right, “Sir Lucious Leftfoot” shows he might be more comfortable in the background.