If OutKast emcees Antwon André “Big Boi” Patton and André “3000” Benjamin parted ways after releasing their soundtrack for the 2006 film Idlewild, it was, apparently, an amicable parting-of-ways. At the Regency Ballroom on Thursday, Big Boi used two minutes of stage time to promote forthcoming projects from 3000, along with his own new album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, and an upcoming release from David Banner. He also hinted at a new OutKast project in the works. Let’s hope so.
Not that Big Boi couldn’t handle things on his own. He has the fastest, cleanest delivery of anyone, buoyed by that melodious Southern drawl. He never drops a beat or stumbles over words. And he nailed it at the Regency, despite a muddy sound system and a high-ceilinged room better suited to an act with less bass. Big Boi used backing tracks throughout the performance, and appeared to be rapping both his own parts and the ones traditionally held by 3000. At many points it was hard to distinguish live from recorded vocals.
That said, the whole setup was electrifying. Big Boi did a recap of all his pertinent OutKast hits since 1994’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik: “Player’s Ball,” “ATLiens,” “Elevators (Me & You),” “Rosa Parks,” “So Fresh, So Clean,” “Bombs Over Baghdad,” and, most excitingly, “The Way You Move,” featuring five scantily clad dancers who somehow managed to bum-rush the stage. Big Boi’s sideman C-Bone summoned one lucky woman to the foreground, to be gamely sandwiched by both emcees. She was the best dancer, and the only one wearing a mini-skirt. “Yeah,” one audience member chortled. “Whoever came with her is going home a-loone.”
Yet the best feature of Big Boi’s show wasn’t the audio. It was the video montage behind him, showing clips of classic OutKast videos from the mid-Nineties onward. That might have been a cheap substitute for an actual stage show, but it worked. Not to mention, Big Boi reminded us just how much creativity went into those videos — the sleek cars, the space ships, the psychedelic screen-saver backdrops, the primitive man theme of “Bombs Over Baghdad.” At a time when their peers were enthralled with the material trappings of hip-hop, Big Boi and 3000 insisted on brute imagination.
The bass throbbed on for roughly an hour, with no breaks for prattling between songs. When Big Boi did speak, his Georgia accent was so deep and thick that the words were all but incomprehensible to California ears. We didn’t get much sense of the man behind the persona that night, other than the fact that he’s actually quite small and compact for someone with the name “Big Boi.” But we did get the mythology. Big Boi’s logo — a crown topped by a green Saturn, with his name inscribed on the bottom — flashed on the screen repeatedly, usually zooming in, superhero style. If personal branding was the aim, he certainly accomplished it.