By Aaron Leitko
Back in 2003, Big Boi got stuck playing straight man.
The rapper, one-half of mega-selling Atlanta hip-hop duo OutKast, was cast as the humorless street-hard traditionalist opposite his arty and ultra-flamboyant bandmate, Andre "3000" Benjamin. Critics called Benjamin visionary. Big Boi was dubbed, "dependable." Following the double album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," the duo went on hiatus.
In 2010, however, it seems like Big Boi got the better part of the bargain.
Wednesday night at 9:30 Club Big Boi - real name Antwan Andre Patton - performed a number of songs from his solo debut, "Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty."
Contrary to popular belief, Patton is not a somber guy. He proved an energetic and engaging presence - rapping at warp-speed, catapulting around the stage with chain-necklaces a-glittering. Accompanied by only a DJ and College Park-based rapper Blackowned C-bone, he managed to keep energy high for the duration of his one-hour set, rolling forward on the heavy 808-rhythms and double-time rhymes.
Big Boi had to fight hard to get "Sir Lucious Left Foot" released. His then record label, Jive, held the album, hoping to pressure the rapper into getting back to business with OutKast. From a commercial standpoint, Jive's concerns were, perhaps, well founded. Big Boi's performance was lightly attended, particularly for a guy whose past record sales have totaled in the bazillion range.
But from an artistic perspective, Big Boi is at the top of his game. His latest single, "Shutterbug," is giddy with bass bounce, humor, and the best use of talk-box since Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer." It shook the room, brought arms into the air. His persona, once written off as traditional, is now a welcome refuge from a legion of dour rappers that just want to talk about street crime and purple drank.
Meanwhile his OutKast counterpart is, well, pretty much off-the-grid. A few years on, Benjamin's antics seem like the stuff of parody - an Eddie Murphy stand-up routine on hip-hop evolution, rather than a next-step.
Not that Big Boi is willing to let the duo's legend slide.
The rapper spent a large part of the evening whipping through the group's glory days--performing hits like "Rosa Parks," "B.o.B.," and "So Fresh, So Clean."
Just his verses, though.