Big Boi is as smooth as ever on Boomiverse, but that smoothness doesn’t seem to carry quite as much weight as it used to. Over twelve syrupy sweet tracks, the Atlanta rapper brings the same bombacious boasts and confident flow that listeners have come to expect, but nowhere does this album feel as challenging as it could be: more often than not, the songs on Boomiverse play it safe, preferring to stick to the tried and true than to foray into uncharted territory. It makes for an album that never fails but also never surprises; a dependable LP that still leaves listeners wanting more.
As in all of Big Boi’s solo efforts since the outstanding Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, the ghost of OutKast looms large on this LP. Having been the Apollo to former bandmate Andre 3000’s Dionysus, the rapper plays straight man to his guests throughout the album, many of whom seem poised to fill in for Andre’s idiosyncratic style and attention-grabbing flows. The problem is that so many of Boomiverse’s guest verses fall short. Big Rube’s outro on “Da Next Day” comes off as lazy and phoned-in; Snoop’s guest spot on “Get Wit It” is far from his most compelling; and Kurupt’s appearance on “Made Man” is so derivative that it might as well be anonymous.
Single “Kill Jill” is set against a vocaloid backing track as Big Boi tries to persuade listeners of his skills in the sack. Despite a typically strong Killer Mike guest verse, the song feels flat and undercooked, and its shrug at Bill Cosby allegations reminds of another rapper’s straight-faced denial. “Mic Jack” and “Overthunk” revolve around guest hooks from Adam Levine and Eric Bellinger respectively, neither of which prove very memorable. Big Boi’s flows on “Follow Deez” and “Order of Operations” feel borrowed from other, better tracks from previous albums.
The record’s highlights are much more lively: “All Right” embraces the same big-boned pop that made Chico Dusty tracks “Turns Me On” and “Shutterbug” shimmer, whereas the funky “Chocolate” is a delightful throwaway that has more personality than most of the album’s more thought-out efforts. Penultimate track “Freakonomics” is a romp, and Big Boi sounds like he’s having a lot of fun throughout. “In the South” could be an OutKast outtake, thick as molasses and balmy as a sunny Atlanta afternoon.
But the varying quality of tracks on Boomiverse make the album feel uneven and confusing. Further, the order of the tracklist doesn’t seem to have much logic behind it, frontloaded with singles and concluded with the album’s more unusual numbers. Switch your iPod to shuffle and you’re likely to find a track order no better or worse than the one listeners have been given here.
Boomiverse is still an improvement on 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours, a messy and generally weak effort that made Idlewild sound like Stankonia. There’s still plenty to like here, and underwhelming Big Boi is still enjoyable: he can phone it in and still sound better than half of the MCs in the game. But for an artist capable of so much more, Boomiverse can’t help but feel a little disappointing.
review by Max Hill
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