With both albums officially coming out today, I decided that Music Mondays would be better off on Tuesday this week. So let’s get to it.
Ever since I got into hip-hop (and even before) I was a pretty big Outkast fan. Outkast is one of those transcendant groups that appeals to almost all people, regardless of genre affiliation. As the duo moved away from their traditional southern roots to a more poppy sound, as in Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, they still managed to put out good music…excluding Idlewild.
But, as Speakerboxxx/The Love Below indicated, Big Boi and Andre3000 looked like they wanted to go separate ways. Four years after their last album, the public saw an Outkast member release his first solo effort, via Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, which was one of the best albums of the year. This success helped hype his album that dropped today, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. I seemingly got caught up in said hype.
Game, formerly known as THE Game, is a completely different story. A Dr. Dre protégé, Game had a bright future ahead of him as a solo artist and his debut, The Documentary, instantly put him on the map. Unlike Outkast, I never really got into Game. It could have been because when I first listened to hip-hop I only went for conscious, underground music. Yes, I was basically a backpacker.
But now that I’m more open-minded, I’ve discovered Game. Still, he didn’t impress me as much as Big Boi. His style just didn’t seem to match my taste. But then came Jesus Piece, Game’s fifth studio album. A feature-heavy release always will attract listeners, but the leaks I heard not only had solid collaborations, but really great production as well.
Consequently, December 11 became the day where Big Boi and Game would have a battle over eardrums. And based on several play throughs, there is indeed a winner.
The Best Of…
VLDR is incredibly poppy at times, and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s…not so much. But the best track on the album is one of the few times where Big Boi really sticks to his southern roots, and like Game, uses features to his advantage.
“In the A” – with T.I. and Ludacris
Sampling yourself, eh, Big Boi? This song is huge, plain and simple. It’s the closest you get to a banger on the album, and the horns in the background bring back memories of “General Patton.” The real winner here is T.I., who absolutely tears through his opening verse. Actually, the verses get worse as the song goes on. But they’re all great, so that’s the most nit-picky criticism.
If “In the A” goes hard, then “Ali Bomaye” makes it look like a plush toy. Just looking at the features will give you some idea what to expect from this song. Furthermore, “Ali Bomaye,” a reference to a phrased chanted at Muhammed Ali, meaning “Ali, kill him” before The Rumble in the Jungle, really tells you what’s in store.
“Ali Bomaye” – with 2 Chainz and Rick Ross
This, ladies and gentleman, is what you can consider a “banger” for hip-hop. Everyone on this track was made for this song and you can tell they relish in the bass-heavy production. All in all, it’s definitely a pump-up track and definitely makes me respect these three artists a little more.
As aforementioned, VLDR gets really poppy to both positive and negative effects. Well, what’s poppier than combining a fairly mainstream rapper in B.o.B. and a random rock band in Wavves? Granted, I’ve never heard of the surf-punk band Wavves, but based on their contribution to this album, I could get into them.
“Shoes for Running” – with B.o.B. and Wavves
This song is just bubbly and incredibly paced. Luckily for Wavves, I just finished watching Friday Night Lights, and their chorus reminds me a lot of Tonny Lucca’s “Devil Town,” which I absolutely loved. B.o.B. naturally fits in such an upbeat rap song and probably was the best choice for this song. The difference between Big Boi’s rapid-fire first verse and his deep, groggy third verse is a great little touch to this song.
Game’s Jesus Piece deals somewhat with religion, but aside from “Hallelujah,” doesn’t really explicitly address it. There are songs where you can certainly feel its influence, including the haunting production on a Kendrick Lamar-assisted track.
“See No Evil” – with Kendrick Lamar and Tank
So, aside from Tank sounding like Future, which is good or bad depending on how you feel about the guy, this song is pretty fantastic. Its tone makes it seem like the song was off of good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and not Jesus Piece, because of its dark content. It’s great to see Kendrick and Game on a track together after Game has lashed out at Shyne for calling GKMC “trash.” They also both put in really good verses, and are well-matched for this particular song.
When it’s not trying to the indie/pop crowds, VLDR can be at its best. In this case, Big Boi gets very personal, addressing his possible domestic issues. The song’s hook is kind of…um…susceptible. That’s not to say Kid Cudi doesn’t do well on it, because he actually does a wonderful job here. It’s more the wording…
“She Hates Me” – with Kid Cudi
A very mellow, pensive track, “She Hates Me” is a big departure from the songs that surround it. The production is not too special, but that works here because it’s all about Big Boi’s lyricism. Despite being a bit of a downer, it’s a very catchy song and it’s always good to see Kid Cudi performing well on a song…no thanks to WZRD.
The final song of the “Best Of” section is probably the most low-key track off of Jesus Piece. With no imposing production or catchy hooks, Game brings listeners down a couple of decibels. But it’s not a bad thing…
“Pray” – with J. Cole and JMSN
Fun is definitely not the way to describe this song, but at the same time it is a bit of an easy listen. Sure, the subject matter is a little tough, but Game is on his…er…game here. Like B.o.B. in “Shoes for Running,” J. Cole seems like the perfect choice for the beat on this song, and really makes it his own, which is interesting because Game kills it here too. I also like the little hand off between the two artists here at about 2:20 into the song.
Winner of “The Best Of” round: Push??
When at their best, these two albums are nearly inseparable.
Back to the poppy-ness of Big Boi’s album! It still works in this case, but it’s actually his verses that aren’t fantastic. Big Boi can definitely spit at a fast rate, but he seems like he’s playing catch up here. The filter here is also not too appealing.
“Apple of My Eye”
That being said, this is a fun little song. While the intro track is ‘meh’, “Apple of My Eye” picks listeners up and really does a nice job at opening up the album. The complaints for this one are rather small, and the jazzy horns in this song are actually fantastic. It makes the filtered voice somewhat forgivable.
Coming right after “See No Evil” may hurt this Game track a bit, but the backing vocals are too good to make it overshadowed. The production on this song is somewhat similar to that from Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” which is a good thing. I’ll update some of these YouTube links when actual CD quality tracks appear.
“Can’t Get Right” – with K. Roosevelt
One could say this track is a bit boring, but I think that the beat is good enough to prevent it from being uninteresting. I also really like K. Roosevelt here, and think he’s one of the best, if not the best, non-rapping feature on Jesus Piece. The orchestra that comes in at the end of the song also keeps it from letting up, which gives “Can’t Get Right” a really nice progression.
If there’s one artist that has been impressing me more and more (aside from Kendrick, that is), it’s A$AP Rocky. He absolutely owns this Big Boi song. Being outdone by your feature is never a good thing for the the album artist, but for listeners it’s pretty awesome. And that’s definitely what happens here.
“Lines” – with A$AP Rocky and Phantogram
Big Boi’s verse isn’t that bad, it’s just not nearly as good or smooth as A$AP’s. What really makes this song suffer is the last minute, which is given to Phantogram, who just lets the song die. Any sort of fire brought by the pair of rappers is put out by a dragged out conclusion. To be fair, Phantogram was pretty good on the hook, it just didn’t deserve its own extended ending.
If you’re looking for a lot of Kanye in this feature, then turn away. Aside from a couple of “huh’s” and “something like my Jesus piece,” he does nothing on this song. It’s actually pretty disappointing.
“Jesus Piece” – with “Kanye West” and Common
Common’s a pretty overrated rapper. His verses can be pretty boring and his label as a “conscious” rapper is a little generous. The beat on this track however is pretty great and Game does, yet again, a great job. Not even the disappointing lack of Kanye and so-so Common verse can make this song bad.
EDIT: I actually have decided that the Common verse is actually pretty awesome. I don’t know why.
Wait…I thought it was Andre 3000 who sings? Big Boi tests out his singing ability in a track late in VLDR. It can be boring at times, specifically when Bosko comes in, but I find Big Boi’s soulful singing ability to be very impressive here.
“Tremendous Damage” – with Bosko
Other songs on this album make you wonder where this Big Boi came from. Regardless, it’s nice to see him rapping and singing on the same track. What keeps this song from being perfect is that Big Boi is absent for the last half of it. The best word for “Tremendous Damage” is “overlong.”
Closing out “The Good” tracks from these two albums is what can best be described as “Ali Bomaye lite.” With all the intensions of a “huge” track, the beginning of the end of Jesus Piece offers a duo that both used a Tyler, the Creator feature extremely well.
“Name Me King” – with Pusha T
This combination seems like a pretty good idea, the execution is just not as great as you’d expect. The choir in the background is a nice touch and neither of the two rappers outshines the other, which makes for seamless transitions. I also really like Pusha T’s hook here, and because he’s not sharing a feature with anyone else on “Name Me King,” he contributes a lot to this track.
Winner of “The Good” Round: Game, but slightly.
Consistency is what gives him the edge here, both within and between songs. Big Boi’s songs can start out great but then sharply fall off.
I’m not going to post links to bad songs, because that’s a waste of time. Instead, I’ll list some problems with each.
The bad songs of Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors:
•”Thom Pettie” – with Little Dragon and Killer Mike. The only good thing about this song is Killer Mike. Little Dragon’s whiney contribution is so out of place. Big Boi’s voice is just average. The middle of this song just falls out completely and the over-production on the track makes it pretty mediocre.
• “Raspberries” – with Mouche and Scar. This is an example of why Big Boi should not sing. The beat on this song is just so lame and uninteresting, sound almost identical to a metronome. Boring and uninspired, plain and simple.
• “Descending” – with Little Dragon. Take the complaints regarding the two songs above and basically combine them. That’s exactly what’s wrong with this song.
• “Higher Res” – with Jai Paul and Little Dragon. Listen carefully, or you’ll miss Big Boi who is barely on this robotic track. It’s not something you can groove to, it’s not something so “out there” that it’s interesting, it’s just a jumble of noises and weak percussion. Definitely the worst of VLDR.
The bad songs of Jesus Piece:
• “Celebration” – with Chris Brown, Tyga, Lil’ Wayne, and Wiz Khalifa. None of the features are to blame here. The beat is so incredibly weak, sounding like a cheesy send up of old west coast rap. Actually, Lil’ Wayne’s part is pretty terrible and I’m not even sure Wiz Khalifa qualifies as a features, because apparently he has just two lines.
• “I Remember” – with Young Jeezy and Future. This song’s quality completely depends on what you think of Future. I’m not a huge fan, but I wouldn’t say I hate him. His auto-tuned mumble-slurring is not the most attractive thing, so if you don’t like “Turn on the Lights,” stay away from “I Remember.” If stupid, ignant rap is your thing, then you can put this in “The Good,” if not, it belongs here. I’m pretty neutral on it, but I’m leaning towards bad because I’m not the biggest Young Jeezy fan. But I also am trying to like Future. Shoot.
Who wins “The Ugly” round: Game, by a lot.
Jesus Piece has some decent tracks that aren’t that good, but never enter “bad” territory. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, however, has some downright terrible songs.
First of all, these are both fantastic albums. But when it comes down to it, Jesus Piece is more complete, fluid, and consistent. The abundance of features may be a little unfair, but it’s almost like a tryout for Game, who left Interscope Records following Jesus Piece‘s release. So with Maybach, G.O.O.D. Music and Young Money all over this album, it will be interesting to see what he does next.