Typically, when you’re reviewing music, you need to tread lightly with albums with direct puns in their titles. Unless you’re “Weird Al” Yankovic, it’s dangerous territory. It sets your album with a loose, goofy tone. It sucks the pretension out of the air, for better or worse. Thankfully, Big Boi — best known as one-half of iconic hip-hop duo Outkast — isn’t setting out for absolute greatness with his newest release, his third solo studio album BOOMIVERSE.
Groovy but not mind-blowing, slick and well-produced but far from essential, Big Boi’s catchy, punchy but not completely electrifying new release, an engaging and dance friendly collection of tunes that won’t set the world on fire but it’ll light up the dance floor like it’s lava. Like a night out at the club, it’s fun, fast-moving, heart-pounding, crowded and finished far too soon. But once you’re done with it, it’s hard to recall that much that occurred. You listen and it disappears to the recesses of your mind. But if you’re looking for Big Boi’s triumphant return, you basically got it.
Alright, let’s just address the big elephant in the room: Big Boi’s music isn’t quite the same without Andre 3000 by his side. But he still knows how to make a hell of a beat. Nearly all 12 tracks on BOOMIVERSE are restless with bouncing energy and quickness. It’s a thrilling, exhilarating hip-hop collection, a rousing celebration of the genre of old with some genuine inventiveness and some killer collaborators, including Snoop Dogg, Killer Mike (naturally), Jeezy, Adam Levine, Eric Bellinger, Gucci Mane and Curren$y.
As expected, the numbers with Killer Mike, including “Kill Jill,” “Made Man” and “Follow Deez,” that become the most memorable, though that’s not to dismiss the other tunes. The appropriately addictive “Freakonomics” is an easy favorite, as are the radio friendly “All Night” and the slightly somber “Overthunk.” But are any of them all-timers here?
Not quite. BOOMIVERSE is packed with wit, heart, jokes and even some fatherly advice, yet it never feels like more than a loose, highly funky jam session. It thankfully leaves no hangovers, but it doesn’t leave a great impact either. It’s very entertaining, most certainly, and it’s easy listening all the way through. But it’s not much more than that.
Comparisons between BOOMIVERSE and 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot, Big Boi’s first solo effort, are easy to make. Much more so than 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, the musician’s second musical effort. At its best, it’s infectious and rambunctious. At its worst, however, it’s somewhat inconsequential and even fairly corny at times. There are more than a few tracks that deviate more towards pop tracks than hip-hop tunes, including “Mic Jack,” which seemingly tries to go for something a little different but barely resembles anything that comes elsewhere on this album. Is it bad? No, but the risk of putting Big Boi and Adam Levine together doesn’t quite work 100 percent either.
It’s ultimately to the album’s greatest benefit and biggest detriment that Big Boi could give less a flying F-U-C-K about PC culture. This is an album that makes Helen Keller jokes and suggests Bill Cosby might, in fact, be innocent — and that’s just mentioning the heavier stuff. It won’t appeal to everyone — assuming you’re paying attention to the lyrics, that is. But if you put this one in the background at your latest house party, you likely won’t get any objections from anyone just trying to cut the carpet with their swinging feet. Above all else, Big Boi is having a blast while trying to prove to his younger peers he’s still in the game. Fear not, though. Big Boi is here to stay, and he keeps you grooving. Just don’t expect anything deeper or more meaningful, though. This one is for the moving crowd.