REVIEW: Big Grams

Big Grams

It’s the kind of collaboration that sends music bloggers into fits of keyboard-mashing ecstasy:  Big Boi of Outkast teaming with indie electro-pop outfit Phantogram for an EP under the portmanteau Big Grams. The pairing makes sense on paper, too—even discounting his work with the always eclectic Outkast, Sir Lucious Left Foot has often displayed a penchant for unconventional collabs, from Earth, Wind & Fire (“This Is How I Feel”) to Santana (“My Man”) and Wavves (“Shoes For Running”). Meanwhile, Phantogram’s duo of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel sport a sound deeply indebted to hip-hop, have worked with rappers like Danny Brown, and cite J Dilla as an inspiration.

Even the lead-up showed a lot of promise: back in 2012, Big Boi’s Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors featured Phantogram on three tracks, including album standout “Lines.” In short, the Big Grams debut should’ve and could’ve been amazing.

It’s not.

Each song on the album is said to be inspired by one of the seven deadly sins, the hook being that the sins are celebrated rather than vilified. Sadly, most of the tracks seem to lead inevitably back to Sloth.

Occasionally, Big Grams sounds like lesser outtakes from Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors. Other times it sounds like a Phantogram record with guest verses from Big Boi. Very rarely does it sound like a proper partnership. You seldom get the sense of Barthel and Big Boi actually sharing studio time, much less a mic. The exception to this rule is “Goldmine Junkie”, which gives a glimpse into how great this EP could’ve been: a fascinating, unique fusion of both camps’ sounds.

Sadly, the majority of Big Grams will leave you questioning where the chemistry/synergy/*insert corporate buzzword of your choice* has gone, and struggling to separate this from any mash-up mixtape cobbled together by a third-rate Girl Talk. Phantogram provide some sharp hooks (“Fell In The Sun”) and Big Boi occasionally sounds engaged by the backing that they provide (“Run For Your Life”). But with far more regularity, Big Grams proves that sometimes the whole is less than the sum of the parts.