Saturday, July 31, 2010
TBG Beats: Big Boi feat. Vonnegutt -- "Follow Us"
As most of you know, I spent several years reviewing rap albums over at 411mania and Inside Pulse. To this day, the passionately negative e-mails I received from readers who disagreed with me remain one of my favorite memories from my earliest writing gigs.
My so-so review of Jay-Z's 2001 release The Blueprint STILL attracts occasional hate mail from Jigga fans who stumble across it (and has earned me the eternal scorn of former colleague/model Mathan Erhardt). Later, I posted a less-than-complementary critique of Freeway's debut LP. In response, a reader offered the following opinion of me: "I used to think you were black, but now I question that."
Oddly enough, my review of kiddie-rapper Bow Wow's Unleashed album probably generated some of the most profane bile of all. I got it from both his pre-teen fans and their teenage mothers. And, those of you who were reading me way back in 2002, might remember when west coast act Shade Sheist (a little-known rapper who had a couple of regional hit singles a decade ago) came after me for using the words "little-known" and "regional" in my review of his album.
At the risk of attracting even more scorn...I've never been a fan of Outkast.
Off the top of my head, I can think of three reasons why I've never had an ear for them.
Timing - When Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and ATLiens were released in April 1994 and August 1996, respectively, my rap preferences were fairly narrow -- commercial acts from the east or west coast with an infrequent urban movie soundtrack thrown in if my paycheck could support the additional purchase.
Peer Pressure - A year after I graduated college, Outkast released Aquemini with Stankonia following in 2000. Even though I had more disposable income and a desire to expand my rap collection with acts I'd previously ignored, I still resisted the Outkast Movement. These two albums produced crossover hits such as "Rosa Parks", "So Fresh, So Clean" and "Ms. Jackson". Three tracks that were EVERYWHERE. But, the accompanying universal acclaim -- particularly from the "I used to hate rap, but THIS..." collection of privileged suburban kids -- actually pushed me farther away.
The Gimmick - M'man Nick once summed up the allure of Outkast with three simple words: "They dress weird".
These days, rumors of Outkast's break-up are running neck and neck with rumors about their next album. For now, their fans are going to have to settle for the long-delayed solo debut from Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. The first single (if we don't count the pair of promotional singles that Big Boi, himself, leaked to the internet) was the solid, but disposable "Shutterbugg". The second single -- "Follow Us" -- hit the airwaves on June 21.
OK, OK...the video isn't all that great. (The only thing triter than the "night-on-the-town" concept is the array of YouTube comments on the video's "racial ratio".
Lyrically, however, Big Boi is killin' it.
"It's like the game is haunted; cuz there's so many ghost wri-ters!"
And, later: "I'm like a crocodile walkin' 'round with alligator skin!"
This is as natural as Big Boi's ever been -- no contrived conceptual characters, no insincere marketing-department charisma. Salaam Remi's malleable beat builds through each verse until Vonnegutt's ballad-y hook pours out of their unnaturally large mouths.
More than 15 years after their first album; I'm finally ready to accept Outkast.
Well, one of 'em, anyway.