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Big Boi

Perennially underrated during OutKast’s heyday, Big Boi has seen his profile dip further in the four years since the duo’s last release. Now safely landed on a new label after an extended stay in industry limbo, the Atlanta rapper is back with a stunningly realized solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty.

The pressure to swing for surefire pop hits after all those delays must have been immense. Instead, Big Boi summons the restless risk-taking spirit of OutKast’s most essential work, yielding a richer set than his half of their 2003 double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Ready with a nimble flow no matter the backdrop, he touts his high-flying party life over bombastic opera (”General Patton”), chrome-bright electro (”Shutterbugg”), wiggly funk (”Follow Us”), and anything else that comes his way. Guest verses and hooks from stylistic heirs like Janelle Monáe, T.I., and Gucci Mane enhance the disc’s contemporary cred but never outshine its central star.

OutKast’s Andre 3000, meanwhile, appears only as a producer (the vertebrae-rattling ”You Ain’t No DJ”), reportedly due to further music-biz mishegoss. It’s a regrettable absence. But the fact that this album feels so complete even without any words from his old partner reinforces just what peak form Big Boi is in. A?