Published Sep 25, 2015No one would blame you for thinking legendary funk-inflected rapper Big Boi and electronic-rock duo Phantogram have nothing in common, but on a handful of tracks from the rapper's latest LP, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, they fused their wildly different sounds into something surprisingly complementary. Now a unit under the name Big Grams, the trio continue that success on their self-titled debut EP.
While this EP features a few dispiriting moments in which the MC and the electronica duo don't quite gel (disjointed opener "Run for Your Life" being a prime example), there are plenty of other turns that find Big Grams falling into step together, with exhilarating results. Big Boi and Phantogram front woman Sarah Barthel synchronize on a glorious, climactic call and response chorus in the last minute of "Goldmine Junkie," for which her piano infused electro-pop notes form the backdrop. Meanwhile, her Phantogram partner in crime, Josh Carter, provides a soaring guitar and synth instrumental for Big Boi and Barthel's yearning vocals on "Lights On," making the song echo Kanye West's "Runaway" in both panoramic scope and yearning sentiment. But casual fans will lap up the blaring horns of "Put It On Her" and the breakbeats of "Goldmine Junkie," which wouldn't be out of place on Sir Lucious or even Big Boi's more conventional Speakerboxxx.
Big Boi employs his malleable cadence to great effect throughout the dramatically shifting sonics that Phantogram provide him on Big Grams. He takes on a devilishly cheeky high-pitched tone midway through "Put It On Her" and adopts a pitter-patter flow for "Lights On" that transforms into an elongated, perfectly timed climatic wail. Hip-hop diehards will be especially pleased to hear Big Boi reunite with Run the Jewels' Killer Mike on "Born to Shine," on which Sir Lucious and his long-time ATL cohort trade knockout barbs that align smartly with Barthel's R&B hooks. Phantogram's electronic fans, meanwhile, will be enthralled by the pulse-pounding, Skrillex-featuring dance floor cacophony on closing track "Drum Machine," which prompts Big Boi to keep pace with a breathless flow.
Such impressive, unexpected moments like this are consistent enough here to prove that the oddball teaming works. Such promise makes the seven-track EP feel far too short, leaving listeners longing for what curiosities Big Grams could concoct on a proper full-length follow-up. (Epic)