By Sabrina Ford
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Big Boi is trying new sounds and styles for his highly anticipated second album out on Tuesday, carving a successful solo spotlight beyond OutKast's devoted following.
Big Boi, whose real name is Antwan Andre Patton, is best-known as one-half of hip-hop duo OutKast with Andre 3000. The group, which went on indefinite hiatus in 2007, scored hits including "Ms. Jackson" in 2001 and "Hey Ya" two years later.
While Andre 3000 has remained relatively quiet, occasionally featuring on other artists' projects, Big Boi is releasing "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors," following his critically successful 2010 solo debut "Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty."
Georgia native Big Boi, 37, described his latest album as "one-half OutKast, one whole of me," and told Reuters that the title was an homage to his late grandmother, who said before her death that if she were to write her life story, that would be the title.
Following his 2010 album release, the rapper spent 18 months on the road, touring a wide range of music festivals with eclectic rosters. The result?
"This album is more electronic," Big Boi said. "I've been doing 50- and 100,000-seat festivals all over the world. The crowds were not your typical hip-hop crowds. You bump into people backstage and you click naturally."
The rapper invited a few of the acts he met over his touring travels to his studio in Atlanta. Out of his sessions came collaborations with New York-based electro-pop duo Phantogram and Swedish band Little Dragon, who featured on one of the rapper's favorite tracks, the closing song, "Descending."
"('Descending') is just raw emotion. It's a form of therapy - just mourning my father. It was an emotional time for me recording that song," the rapper said of his duet with Little Dragon vocalist Yukimi Nagano.
Big Boi pledges that his sound will always be funky, regardless of evolving trends and influences.
"It's just more electro-funk. I used a lot of brass on the last album - a lot of traditional instruments. I still use the brass, but not as much. But the beats are still hitting hard."
The rapper has been making music since the early 1990s.
"I met Dre (Andre 3000) when we were in the 10th grade. We sat down like, 'Man, let's do it.' From that day forward, music has been the main focus of my life's journey. I love it."
His sound has evolved into a fusion of traditional hip-hop and R&B with electro-funk and soul, creating throwback songs with contemporary beats.
"The albums are like time capsules. They actually capture your life since the last time the listener heard you."
So far in his solo career, Big Boi has earned positive reviews from fans and critics, and said he was "humbled" by their warm response.
"I'm pleased that the people still love digging the music and that they're not scared to experience new sounds."
As for a possible OutKast reunion, Big Boi is tight-lipped.
For now, he remains dedicated to his solo efforts and has already completed more than half of album No. 3, which will contain some surprises for fans.
"I know people are like 'Damn, how does he keep doing it after all these years?' But this is what I was born to do and I'm still having fun. I'm just getting started."
(Reporting by Sabrina Ford; editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Matthew Lewis)