Atlanta rapper and former OutKast member Big Boi has released his third solo album and his first in 5 years. His previous project, 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, never really lived up to the widespread critical and commercial acclaim of his debut, but this project here is certainly a swing back in the right direction. Musically, Boomiverse is a complete mixed bag which holds it back from becoming truly great, but this is a fun collection of songs for a variety of occasions. It is all held together by some great features and of course, Big Boi’s calm and dexterous flow that always served as the contrast to Andre 3000’s chaos.
There is a wide range of collaborators on this album, which likely contributes to how all over the place it ends up being. Big Boi recruits quite a few of his old friends, turning to established rap producers such as Organized Noize, Mannie Fresh and even the legendary Scott Storch, who lends a beat to “Order of Operations”. But for crossover appeal, he also brings in modern-day producers known for making more commercial bangers such as DJ Dahi, who contributes what might be the poppiest song of his career on “Mic Jack”, 808 Mafia’s TM88, and even the combination of Dr. Luke and Cirkut, pure pop hitmakers, on “All Night”.
On the mic, we have old OutKast collaborators like Sleepy Brown and Killer Mike, who predictably knocks it out of the park on all 3 tracks he appears on here, as well as other southern rap stars young and old – Gucci Mane, Pimp C, Curren$y. Snoop Dogg comes out of hiding to deliver a spectacular verse on “Get Wit It”, while pop hooks from Adam Levine, Eric Bellinger and LunchMoney Lewis swing things back the other way. When you thought the genre hopping was getting out of hand, we get “Chocolate”, a completely misguided electronic dance track that Big Boi still somehow manages to save with his personality.
The main appeal of Big Boi’s music is his technical ability and overall demeanor, which can really tie together such a wide variety of instrumentals. Big Boi’s voice is the universal solvent of rap music. Who knew he would be able to make a whole project with an indie band like Phantogram? Still, he’s at his best on the more standard rap tracks, especially when they have a little extra aspect of something creative.
“Kill Jill” is an absolute knockout of a banger featuring fellow Atlanta larger-than-life mic presence Killer Mike and a menacing Young Jeezy on the hook. The beat has trap elements, but it also samples Japanese hologram sensation Hatsune Miku quite heavily. “Mic Jack” is another great track that features a poppier, bouncy instrumental and an Adam Levine feature, but we still get a rapid-fire flow with that deep voice that brings to mind OutKast tracks like “The Way You Move”. Sleepy Brown, who of course was featured on that track, just so happens to appear on this one briefly as well.
OutKast was almost more about the interplay between the two characters than the spectacular music they were creating, and Big Boi by himself is still a fun enough personality that when he delivers a straight pop track like “All Night”, complete with a piano sample that would make D.R.A.M. proud, it’s still enjoyable to hear the veteran artist having so much fun making music.
Boomiverse could have benefited from more organization, perhaps a reordering of tracks or better selection of what ultimately made it onto the project. Placing a pop-rap track like “Mic Jack” in between the two most unapologetically Atlanta tracks in “Kill Jill” and “In the South” doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it would serve better next to the Dr. Luke track “All Night”. Many of these tracks aren’t bad at all, but the lack of cohesion in the album takes a lot away from the listening experience.
A few of the pop tracks here are a little awkward, not quite figuring out how to shoehorn the hook in or contrast it well with Big Boi’s all-out assault on the mic, like Eric Bellinger’s hook on “Overthunk”. As well, Big Boi doesn’t even try to pretend like he’s making any sorts of new developments in his career, and as a result we get a few tracks that come across very dated. We need to leave things like Sleepy Brown’s talkbox hook on “Freakanomics” in the 90s where they belong, regardless of how great Big Boi’s verses are.
You’ve almost got to listen to this project out of respect for all Big Boi has done, and even though it’s becoming clear that he’s turned this into a science and he’s coasting a little bit, he’s still just as technically proficient, hilarious and fun-loving as ever before, and it makes for a pretty good listen. Now where, for the love of god, is that Andre 3000 solo project?!?
Favourite Tracks: Kill Jill, All Night, Mic Jack, Freakanomics
Least Favourite Track: In The South