Both as one half of the mighty Outkast, and a solo act, Big Boi’s never been a stagnant artist. No album of his sounds like another and, even after more than two decades of creating music, he continues to find ways to innovate and expand his creative horizons. Through the years, whether it’s unique vocal filters on “Bust” to goofy harmonizing on “Raspberry,” his output is always fresh, and, most importantly, sounds like he’s having the time of his life.
The Phantogram duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have been Big’s close collaborators in recent years, appearing all over his Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors, and even performing at spot dates together across the country. The chemistry between the trio has been fluid and organic, and an official partnership has been all but inevitable since they first started releasing music together.
Summed succinctly, the end product, the Big Grams EP, is “Jedi rap sh*t” at its finest. Outkast fans know the term well but the project really does sound like science fiction. It’s not in the intense Matrix kind of science fiction, but rather something more along the lines of Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s light and fun; a space vacation, if you will.
There’s a lot of EDM influence on Big Grams and it feels like a more developed iteration of the style of VLADR. From the jump, “Run For Your Life” sounds electric, spacey even. Recycling the Guardians of the Galaxy analogy, it could fit perfectly in Star Lord’s Walkman as he’s up to his usual shenanigans. In particular, Sarah Barthel’s higher octave vocals in particular serve as the most futuristic element.
However, the EP isn’t quite perfect, and starts to lull on occasion. At certain points, Big Boi’s more conventional Hip-Hop style doesn’t quite fit perfectly with Phantogram’s electronic production. Specifically, the lead single, “Fell In The Sun” is almost two completely different songs between his verses and the Sarah Barthel’s hook.
But the trio hits stride by the half way mark and ending trifecta of songs sends the EP off into lightspeed. In particular, “Born To Shine” is Big Grams’ highest peak, as another close Big Boi affiliate, Run The Jewels, makes an appearance and slays the record like it’s business as usual. It’s the closest thing you’ll hear to ‘regular’ rap here, and will likely be the most memorable takeaway for hip-hop heads.
When it’s all said and done, Big Grams is a great starting point for three artists from two completely different genres of music to come together and create an album that fits everyone’s the different visions. The production value is very satisfying and it’s great to hear Big Boi rap over instrumentals that wouldn’t otherwise come close to touching the Hip-Hop landscape. And with a little more refinement, a full length project would be a very welcome treat for fans of creativity, innovation, and a splash of good-natured fun.
Big Grams releases Friday, September 25 via Epic Records. Pre-order the album on iTunes.