Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (Def Jam)
While we await an OutKast album, Big Boi’s second solo album will hold us over nicely. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors feels like an OutKast album minus the lyricism of André 3000. Rapid-fire rhymes and progressive sound allow him to stand alone. He can romp with the best Atlanta offers, evidenced by the T.I.- and Ludacris-assisted trunk-rattler, “In The A.” He offers a futuristic electro sound alongside new jack A$AP Rocky and indie-pop duo Phantogram on “Lines.” Even Little Dragon-charged slow jam, “Descending,” feels at home. It’s not all of OutKast, but it’s the next best thing. ★★★★☆
Rihanna, Unapologetic (Def Jam)
Rihanna’s tabloid life has superseded her musical career; she’s more of a reality TV star than a pop artist. However, on her seventh studio album she nearly returns attention to the music. Paralleling her chaotic personal life, the narrative is built around a woman’s obsession with a man who abuses her. At times, Rihanna is on key with the pulsating “What Now” and the vulnerable “Get It Over With.” But it’s difficult to take her victim status seriously when she belches out synth muck such as the vulgar braggadocio of “Fresh Off the Runway” and the cringe-worthy duet with Chris Brown, “Nobody’s Business.” Unapologetic is what the title insinuates. But the shortcomings she flaunts are her downfall. ★★☆☆☆
Game, Jesus Piece (Interscope)
The Game’s career has had a ton of promise, but his personality has stunted his growth. The music is always above average and still is on Jesus Piece. Issues arise, though, with a too-long guest list. Sometimes great (Kanye West- and Common-assisted title track), sometimes not (Future and Young Jeezy’s sluggish trap music anthem “I Remember”), it’s hard to get to know Game without his associates. But what you get from Game is impressive. He flexes alongside Pusha T on chest-thumping “Name Me King” and shows chemistry with Kendrick Lamar and Tank on the introspective “See No Evil.” Jesus Piece is good, but would have been better if Game made it about himself, not showing off his friends. ★★★☆☆
Upcoming albums on Andreas’ radar …
JAN. 15: A$AP Rocky’s oft-delayed debut album, LongLiveA$AP, will finally see the light of day, and we’ll get to decide if he’s truly worthy of the hype. JAN. 28: J. Cole’s sophomore album, Born Sinner, will allow us to see if the North Carolina MC is able to totally step out of Jay-Z’s shadow as an established artist. Our money is on yes.