Big Boi (OutKast) [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – Big Boi may be known for being one half of OutKast, but he doesn’t need any help on his own. His latest album Sir Lucious Left Foot – The Son of Chico Dusty is on every critic’s top ten list and on the mind of every hip-hop head. The stunning mix of classic and cutting edge has been drawing all sorts of people into the Southern rapper’s fan base, and collabs with legends like Too $hort and George Clinton ground the music in its cultural context.
Big Boi recently performed at the Vogue in Vancouver, and the all-ages show was more like a party at your mom’s house than a big-time rap show. The vibe matched his flow: good times with some added intensity. Big Boi is atypical in not only his music and lyrics, but in his life. He makes sure to integrate his kids into his life – and he into theirs – and runs a non-profit organization named Big Kidz which helps equip youth to share their voices.
Big Boi is polite, well-spoken and focused – our interview is interrupted by party cheers, lights flashing on and off, and pressing fans but he barely bats and eye and answers each question eloquently. HipHopCanada was pretty pleased to spend some time with the big one, and we got him talking about groovy sounds, Bill Gates, and how to shut down the man.
HipHopCanada: Wow, that show was all ages but it felt more like a house party!
Big Boi: It was dope. It’s all about the energy. The more we get, the more we give back. It was crunk the whole time.
HipHopCanada: You’ve been across Canada now, what do you think?
Big Boi: It’s cool, man. It’s always like, you know what I’m saying? Whether it’s Edmonton or Toronto, this is my first time out in Vancouver and it’s just all love, man. Makes me wanna come back.
HipHopCanada: You mentioned on stage you’ve been enoying these B.C. trees…
Big Boi: Ya. Yaya. Ya. They do have some of that. They got some of that.
HipHopCanada: Your latest album has a lot of classic styles in it but still creates newness in music. How do you do that?
Big Boi: Really it’s just the love of the music. When we go in to make records as a group or separately, it’s always an experimentation process that we go through where you just try different things to create groovy sounds, and once you get the groove then you just lyrically attack it. It’s all about having the funk as the baseboard, you definitely gotta have the 808 just knock everything down, then lyrically aggressive.
HipHopCanada: What would you say is the theme of the album?
Big Boi: The theme of the album is basically it’s like a diary, it’s another side of me where the listener gets to kind of come into my time capsule. It’s my diary from the last time you heard me, on Idlewild, up until now where I’ve been kind of dealing with life, things I’m reflecting. It’s a personal look into my life.
HipHopCanada: Sometimes critics describe you as being the underrated member of OutKast… have you ever felt that?
Big Boi: Nah, I never felt underrated, man. I feel like I’m killing lyrically, can’t nobody touch the ‘Kast, together or solo. This is what we do, we the best. Most definitely. We are the best and everybody knows.
HipHopCanada: How does it feel to be doing your own thing?
Big Boi: I feel good, you know? It feels good when you make music and you get to go out and see the people and shake their hands, kiss the babies, and we have people that enjoy the album, bring the album out to the concert, let you know that they support you, that’s a good thing.
HipHopCanada: You have a lot of collaborative songs… what’s the process of these collabs? Is T.I. phoning you up and trying to record a song about shaking asses, or how do these come about?
Big Boi: Actually, we’ve been meaning to do that song for a minute. When I finally actually got the song, I figure out who works best with that particular record, it’s like sprinking ingredients on the record. I can’t listen to a whole album which is just my voice by itself. I wouldn’t want to do that. So certain songs even if it’s “Fo Yo Sorrows” with George Clinton and Too $hort, they fit that vibe. Two artists that I love and admire, and to jam with people who you listen to or grew up with is dope, just to see what y’all come up with.
HipHopCanada: Any unfulfilled collabs on your wish list?
Big Boi: Ya. Actually, Kate Bush that’s from the U.K. I’m gonna work with Kate Bush on the next record. And possible maybe Eminem cause I ain’t had the chance to jam with him yet.
HipHopCanada: Yelawolf’s been through here a few times, we’ve heard his version of “You Ain’t No DJ,” and now we heard yours. What’s your guys’ relationship?
Big Boi: He’s my buddy, man, one of my partners. I went to school with his manager, he kinda been around the studio hanging out, was in the right place at the right time. As a lyricist I respect him, he’s one of the up and comers that I like, and I made it happen.
HipHopCanada: You’re a family man but you’re still working hard on this music… how does that balance?
Big Boi: By being in my kids’ lives. Music is my life but I also have my children, so to be at home with them or taking them to school balances me out. Can’t just be here on the fast-paced go all the time, have to go home and slow it down. Kind of rejuvenate, get your energy back.
HipHopCanada: Do they fully understand your iconic status?
Big Boi: Yes. They know. They dig it, they like it. I bring them out on stage and they perform with me, they rock with me. It’s really good, you know what I’m saying, on hand parenting.
HipHopCanada: How does it feel to be someone who’s changed the musical landscape of our culture?
Big Boi: It feels good, it feels good. To be somebody who changed the face but you know, but there’s a lot of negative people that’s kind of running the game right now, so they trying to shove bullshit down the public’s throat, but you know, the real music gonna always thrive and survive. That’s what it’s about, keeping it going and that’s why the next album is Daddy Fat Sax Soul Funk Crusader, cause a crusade [will] shut these fucked niggas down.
HipHopCanada: Besides hip-hop, what genre is closest to your heart?
Big Boi: All music is dear to me. I listen to everything, from Johnny Cash, to the Talking Heads, to NWA to UGK to Genesis, The Who, you name it. Peter Gabriel, Guns n Roses, Metallica, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, I listen to all music. If it’s a jam, it’s a jam.
HipHopCanada: It seems so odd that you collaborated with the Atlanta Ballet. Tell us about that.
Big Boi: I’m the original ballet master. I did my show Big a couple of years ago. The Atlanta ballet came to me and they wanted to do a collaboration with me, and as long as I wasn’t wearing a tutu I was open to ideas. So we just styled the songs after vignettes and had the dancers and everybody do skits and songs and it was lovely. People ages 5 and 95 in the crowd on their feet the whole time. I got another collaboration with them coming up two days after Thanksgiving called Luminocity which we’re gonna take on parade floats, do something real fun in Atlanta. You’ll see.
HipHopCanada: What’s your greatest achievement?
Big Boi: My biggest accomplishment, I have to say, is being a great father and an awesome son, taking care of my mom and my family. That’s what it’s all about. I’m all about family.
HipHopCanada: You run a program called Big Kidz… what’s that about?
Big Boi: I just left Chicago yesterday, doing something with Bill Gates and his wife. Big Kidz Foundation is a non-profit organization I started to really prepare the youth for the future. It’s really all about getting them to understand what life is about and letting them dream big and help them accomplish their goals by having them open their minds and communicate. For sure.
HipHopCanada: You’re obviously popular with the younger crowd… our young HHC ticket winner was chilling with you back here, having the time of his life.
Big Boi: He did a good job, he was on stage and everything.
HipHopCanada: Thanks man, great talking to you.
Big Boi: Cool.
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Photography by Jamie Sands for HipHopCanada.