Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Half of rap's most exciting duo steps out on his own and puts his left foot forward.

Big Boi

Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Label: Def Jam
US Release Date: 2010-07-06
UK Release Date: 2010-07-05

Eminem can rap about recovery and Drake can rap about the pitfalls of newfound fame. Each can eloquently argue, with mind numbing flow and envy inducing wordplay, about how tough things have been for them. They might even be right, but there isn't an MC in history that has had it as tough as Big Boi.

Big Boi, born Antwan Patton, has sold 22 million albums in the U.S., received 16 Grammy nominations and nabbed six Grammys. Yet, in spite of all this success, and in spite of the fact that at his best Big Boi is nothing short of amazing and at his worst he's nothing less than pretty damn good, he is still one of the most underrated MCs hip-hop has ever seen. Why? He's not Andre 3000.

Big Boi isn't half of just any hip-hop unit; he's half of OutKast, perhaps the most creative duo in the genre's history, and his running partner, Andre 3000, a personality the likes of which hip-hop has rarely seen, seems to sweat creative eccentricity. In Andre's shadow he is too often seen as the conventional rapper who simply spits fast and adds a bit of gangsta dirt to Andre's shine. However, OutKast's success was born out of Big Boi's cool confidence, not Andre's cool. Big Boi has always anchored the whole OutKast concept down close enough to the real world to be accepted by those that felt that Andre was simply weird. Andre 3000 made OutKast unique; Big Boi made OutKast real and they both made OutKast legendary.

After years of delays Big Boi is releasing Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, without the benefit of the OutKast banner, and he's doing so in the midst of a number of high profile and high quality hip-hop releases (Eminem, Drake and the Roots all released albums in June) to a public that just wants to hear a new OutKast CD. Andre 3000 doesn't rap a single bar. Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty isn't an OutKast album. It makes no effort to sound like one and it sounds better than most people ever imagined it would.

Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty is a testament of how good Big Boi is. The album runs a bit too long (is there a law stating that all rap albums must have 17 tracks?), but stripped of an unneeded intro, filler like "Tangerine" and "Hustle Blood" and the flat "Shine Blockas" along with its equally flat remix, and the disc weighs in at a trim fighting weight of 12 tracks of shifting tones and musical invention.

"I write knockout songs / You spit out punch lines for money," Big Boi raps over an avalanche of percussion and synths on the disc's first full length track, "Daddy Fat Sax". The song is a marvel of multitasking. In a little over two and a half minutes it makes movement virtually involuntary, serves as a reminder of Big Boi's considerable skills and establishes him as an elder statesman of hip-hop intent on schooling younger MCs who simply aren't holding it down. It's a theme that he weaves into his boasts throughout the record.

"General Patton" (weakened only by the ridiculously sophomoric "David Blaine" skit tacked on the end) is the type of battle rap that OutKast fans are used to him spitting at breakneck speed. "All the shit you rappers lack / We've got plenty here's a snack," he raps with violent purpose over horns, creating his own national anthem, but the delivery is almost slow motion for Big Boi and the track is all the more effective for it. "Night Night" finds him tucking young rappers into bed, wishing them bad dreams punctuated by bright horns, hypnotic synthesizers and an amazing vocal by Joi who also provides a jazz vocal break on the silky smooth "Turns Me On". It has been far too long since Joi has released new music and she is in tremendous form here.

The album's other notable guest turns are from Janelle Monáe, who sings the hook on the new wave pop gem "Be Still" and Vonnegutt who sings the unabashed pop hook of "Follow Us", which finds Big Boi stating "I'm a crocodile walking 'round with alligator skin", a line that sounds natural coming from a man who once claimed to be "cooler than a polar bear's toenail".

Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty continues to deliver moments of musical interest from the staccato kettle drum madness of "You Ain't No DJ" to the high pitched rapper on helium vocal delivery of "The Train Part II" to the robotic growl that forms the beat of its best track, "Shutterbug". "Shutterbug" finds Big Boi rapping like he's a living party, at his funniest while he's at his most fun nodding to No Doubt ("No doubt we don't speak"), name dropping the Wu-Tang Clan and breaking up the second verse to sing the hook to Soul II Soul's 1989 hit "Back to Life".

Is the disc as good as an OutKast CD? Of course, it isn't. In fact, the guest rappers only serve as a reminder of how great Big Boi and Andre 3000 are together. However, the record successfully debunks the belief that only half of OutKast is interesting. Throughout its 12 quality tracks, it's interesting enough to engage listeners and engaging enough to keep the listeners interested. It's a step well above most of the hip-hop that has been released in recent years and will be played frequently until a new OutKast album materializes. Until then, Big Boi should keep recording albums if they're all going to be of this caliber (perhaps an album with no guest stars at all save for Joi singing the hooks?). Sure, he's only half of OutKast, but Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty proves that half of OutKast is still twice as good as just about anything else.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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