What do you get when you mix a well-known rapper and an electro-rock duo? If you’re Big Boi and Phantogram, you get something that is both innovative and compelling. For Big Boi, who originally was one-half of the rap duo OutKast and led a series of successful duo and solo albums, the pairing comes after the release of his latest album in 2012 when Phantogram was featured in three songs. For the more indie group, this new endeavor comes even closer to the 2014 release of their sophomore album, “Voices.”
With all artists in “Big Grams” featuring the critical backing of some of the most recognizable names in the industry, the group’s potential seemed endless and following their close friendship, the partnership seemed inevitable. What resulted, self-titled as “Big Grams,” is an incredibly autonomous collection of creative mastery.Retro to a degree and always revolutionary, “Big Grams” is the perfect blend of indie-electronica and rap that audiences never knew they needed. Primarily produced by Phantogram member Josh Carter, “Big Grams” finds itself among some of hip-hop’s most creative releases.
On “Lights On,” Big Boi allows Phantogram and especially lead singer Sarah Barthel to take center stage. Most central to Phantogram’s signature style, the EP’s most pop-driven track is a swirling hit. Featuring Boi towards the end, each moment moves fluidly towards the next. With the type of echoing electronica provided by heavy synths and catchy hooks provided by Barthel this experimental song could easily be heard in a club or on a festival stage.
Other tracks to note include the Big Boi-led “Put It On Her” and the upbeat collaboration of “Fell Into The Sun.” On both tracks, the pairings seem to work best. For “Put It On Her,” Boi’s rapping prowess is notable, while retro instrumentals and softer vocals by Barthel act as the perfect backbone. For “Fell Into The Sun,” Barthel and Boi once again provide the type of laidback awesomeness that this release is characterized by.
“Big Grams” is an accomplished piece of work. What seems like it should not blend not only does so, but does to the extent that it is enthralling. Even with moments that are not as cohesive as they could be, most moments on “Big Grams” are a portrayal of true talent. For Big Boi, it is a continuation of a long career impressing fans and releasing stellar music. For Phantogram, it is a move towards mainstream stardom.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5