Big Grams emerged as a modern fairytale of sorts; frustrated while closing pop-up windows on his computer, Antwan André Patton, better known as Big Boi from Outkast, was unexpectedly delighted when he first heard Phantogram through an autoplayer on one of the pop-ups. Using Shazam, he discovered “Mouthful of Diamonds,” and subsequently made it the Track of the Week on his former blog. Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel contacted Big Boi via the pinnacle of social media communication, Twitter private message, and a new friendship was born. After meeting at Outside Lands, the trio collaborated on Big Boi’s Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors, but decided to later team up as Big Grams and release a debut EP.
Big Grams is a true collaboration. None of the three artists seem to eclipse each other. Carter’s production sets the stage for both Barthel and Big Boi’s vocals, neither of which take more of a role than the other. Each track sounds like a real production rather than a forced overlay of Big Boi verses over a recycled Phantogram track. “Run for Your Life” starts off the EP where Barthel’s slow, dreamy vocals follow Big Boi’s clipped and quick verses. “Born to Shine” featuring Run the Jewels puts Big Boi a bit in the background, but emerges as the strongest point in the album, providing the best combination of Barthel’s vocals, a saxophone-infused Carter production and the unfathomably popular Killer Mike and El-P.
Though it seems a bit like the group got too excited while making Big Grams. While each stands out on its own, it seems more like a collection of seven single releases than a cohesive album. “Fell In the Sun” is an almost radio-ready return to hip-hop whereas “Drum Machine,” which features Skillex and a heftier than necessary dose of auto-tune. The choice to conclude with “Drum Machine” seemed an odd choice for the group considering they really seemed to hit their stride progressing to “Born to Shine,” but it is still a testament to the impressive variety Big Grams showcased in such a short release.
Although “Born to Shine” seems to be the preferred track, “Put It On Her” emerges as a close second with heavier jazz influences and Big Boi’s words accompanied by a Barthel harmony in the background. What make Big Grams so successful is just how enjoyable it is for Big Boi. His decision to start this production and to follow it through to its release seems almost effortless, opening up his future for something perhaps even more unexpected.