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Big Boi: Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (Def Jam) 

Even without the large and eclectic stable of special guests, Big Boi's second solo album would sound like a musical collage, an ever-shifting hybrid of hip-hop, dance and rock styles.

Helming this colorful journey, Big Boi sounds confident and creatively energized as both rapper and mad genius. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is bookended by "Ascending" and "Descending," the first a mellow bit of introductory bravado, and the closer a long meditative collaboration with Little Dragon, resting on a slowly twisting acoustic guitar riff.

In between are the bouncy and catchy sounds of classic OutKast hip-hop funk like "The Thickets" and "Apple of My Eye"; the heavy club beats of "In the A" and "Lines"; the R&B guest hooks of Kelly Rowland on "Mama Told Me"; and most surprising of all, the hyper indie-rock of Wavves paired with a skittering beat on "Shoes for Running."

"CPU" (featuring Phantogram) starts as the sort of bass-heavy, futuristic song that recalls OutKast, before fading into airy synthesizer ambience. "Thom Pettie" returns to that futuristic funk, with Killer Mike adding some of the record's best verses.

The most thrilling part of Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is that despite how well Big Boi stitches together so many sounds, I still get the sense that not everything fits together quite right. Exploratory wildness is the guiding principle on this album as well as in his career, and there's surely even better music still to come from Big Boi.

More by Eric Swedlund

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