Phantogram & Big Boi – Big Grams Review

Cross-genre collaborations have led to some fantastic hip-hop albums and songs in the past, like A$AP Rocky’s recent collaboration with Rod Stewart on “Everyday” or 2010’s Distant Relatives from hip-hop legend Nas and Damian Marley, son of reggae icon Bob Marley. Big Grams’ debut EP Big Grams is an amazing album and a must listen for any hip-hop or electro-rock fan. From the collective genius of Atlanta’s very own Big Boi and New York’s Phantogram, comes this seven track project featuring artist Skrillex and hip-hop super-duo Run the Jewels. This isn’t the first time that Big Boi and Phantogram have collaborated. The pair first teamed up on three tracks off 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, a result of Big Boi’s accidental discovery and infatuation with Phantogram after hearing one of their songs in a pop-up ad. A mix of bonafide bangers and relaxing synth tracks, this EP does not disappoint.

Neither artist outshines the other and instead does a great job at highlighting the insane talent they both have.

Big Grams starts off with “Run for Your Life,” in which synth slowly builds into a poetic verse from Big Boi-followed up by a ghostly melodic hook sung by Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel. The song really sets the tone for the entire album, letting you know chill and relaxing vibes are going to blanket the whole project. “Lights On” is very similar and is exactly something you would expect to hear from Phantogram. Barthel’s bright and slow vocals are amazing, acting as a perfect compliment for Big Boi’s distinct ATL flow. This distinctly shows the way the spotlight switches from Big Boi to Barthel, demonstrating the natural chemistry between the two. Next comes “Fell in the Sun,” the standout of the entire project. Big Boi delivers some immaculate verses with his thick southern flow between Barthel’s beautiful hook, instantly taking you to your happy place. And the trumpets! The trumpets that play during the chorus overlap the synth and drums, and then quietly step back into the background during the verse, executing a spectacular and genius production decision. “Put it On Her” is very Outkast-esque and is a welcome expedition into Big Boi’s past. It’s also the only song in which Phantogram’s other half, Josh Carter, comes out of the background and rap-sings a verse. “Goldmine Junkie” gets psychedelic with it’s synths and backing vocals and then contracts it with a simple piano riff. The back and forth pattern between Barthel and Big Boi is shown even further and is one of the album’s greatest moments.

[Carter] does a terrific job of mixing the typical Phantogram sound with your usual hip-hop snares and drums.

Run the Jewels accompanies Big Grams on “Born to Shine,” which gives “Fell in the Sun” a run for its money as the best song off the EP. Killer Mike, El-P, and Big Boi were already great on “Banana Clipper” and this track is no different, providing some killer guitar in the background to boot. Skrillex then helps finish everything off with “Drum Machine,” and as you can probably guess, it’s a dub-hop banger.

Carter handles most of the production on this EP and does an excellent job, especially with “Fell in the Sun.” He does a terrific job of mixing the typical Phantogram sound with your usual hip-hop snares and drums. What also stands out about this project is the chemistry between both parties. Neither artist outshines the other and instead does a great job at highlighting the insane talent they both have. This is a difficult feat to achieve when blending genres such as these two do. Fortunately for them, however, there’s no question that rock and hip-hop blend well along with electronic and hip-hop, so maybe it wasn’t all that difficult in the first place.

Regardless, Big Grams did a great job at making such a short project feel so complete and fleshed out, and hopefully the collaborations don’t stop here. Could a full album be around the corner? Who knows, but hopefully some light will be shed on this once the dust from all the recent releases settles. What did you think of Big Grams? Let us know in the comments below.

Our Rating

8

Does a great job of playing off the strengths of each artist respectively while blending their sounds to create a distinct sound. Only drawbacks are length (granted it is an EP) and one or two of the songs lacking replayability.

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