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Reviews: The Game, Big Boi on quest to impress

'Jesus Piece' finds the Game stepping up his in light of up-and-comers like Kendrick Lamar, while Big Boi's 'Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors' recalls his OutKast days.

December 11, 2012|By Mikael Wood
  • Big Boi's "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors"
Big Boi's "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors" (Island Def Jam Music Group )

When Kendrick Lamar was anointed the savior of L.A. hip-hop this year, the Compton rapper's promotion implicitly unseated another such figure: The Game, whose 2005 major-label debut, "The Documentary," attracted much of the same acclaim as Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city" (and from many of the same gatekeepers). A savvy assessor of hip-hop's shifting power structure, Game hasn't blocked Lamar's ascent; in fact, the younger MC's voice is one of the first you hear on Game's underrated 2011 disc, "The R.E.D. Album."

Yet the success of "good kid" appears to have galvanized Game, who spends his new record pondering the gangsta's paradigm with a Lamar-like eye toward faith and family. At its best, "Jesus Piece" thoughtfully embodies that duality, as in "Ali Bomaye" (with Rick Ross) and the brooding "Heaven's Arms." Game makes a better villain than he does a good guy, however, and on this often-earnest album he seems hard-pressed to accept that.

You can hear Big Boi similarly striving to keep up with a more youthful competitor on his follow-up to 2010's hit "Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty." But in the case of this Atlanta veteran, it's not a Dirty South rookie he's up against — it's the Big Boi who rose to fame as half of OutKast.

Enlisting left-field cameos from indie rockers such as Wavves and Little Dragon, the rapper seems determined on "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors" to reproduce the heady sprawl of OutKast's early-'00s work. And sometimes he does. "She Hates Me," with Kid Cudi, is an effective update of "Ms. Jackson." But in his quest to impress, Big Boi short-changes the street-level swagger that always kept his partner Andre 3000 here on Earth. Only "In the A," a boisterous club track featuring T.I. and Ludacris, delivers his once-distinctive charge. Who said excitement is a young man's game?

The Game

"Jesus Piece"

(Interscope)

Two and a half stars (out of four)

Big Boi

"Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors"

(Def Jam)

Two stars (out of four)

 

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