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Interview With Big Boi

Big Boi was born into the funk. He lives it, breathes, it, and represents it to the fullest. And his debut album, Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, is a true symbol of a “funk master” who is at the forefront of his craft. His album has been met with critical acclaim as well as possibly being named the album of the year and again—it is his f**k you moment with a big purple finger.

Big Boi blew through the windy city while on his Son Of Chico Dusty World Tour and I got a chance to speak to him about his album, why he starts all his projects on MLK Day, a memorable ass whooping from his mother, and what’s up next for him, OutKast, and Purple Ribbon Records.

Arasia: Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty had a lot of setbacks with downloads, label politics, leaks etc. And with all of that going on, what made you decide to still move forward with it as opposed to scrapping the entire project and starting over from scratch?

Big Boi: (Laughing) Why would I do that? It was a real heavy project and I recorded a gang of records so I had room to play with and as far as the leaks—I did that on my own. I just wanted to keep the fans fed and as far as the label politics—that wasn’t going to stop me. I knew that I had to move to a better situation so that’s why I waited and fought my way over to Def Jam.

Arasia: The music that you’ve done has never fit into one “box” leaving some people, especially mainstream critics, with a difficult time trying to understand it.  However, they seemed to understand this album and you received an abundance of positive responses. Did this catch you off guard?

Big Boi: You get out of it what you put into it and I worked hard. It was like 40-months. But it feels good that everybody digs it. It lets me know that people are really interested in hearing music that is not inside the box and new and refreshing. So it’s just motivation to go back into the studio and make more music.

Arasia: I can tell that you put a lot into this album. Sonically it is exquisite and the lyricism is on point and it’s just a dope album. And there have been a lot of talks of this album being one of the best of the year if not the best.

Big Boi: I appreciate that. Back when we first started working on records with Organized Noize, that’s always been the thing—to make a cohesive body of work that you could play from start to finish. And that’s just been our training I guess from the top and for people to throw around album of the year, and I’ve heard it a lot too—that’s great and it feels really good to know that people want to hear some music that’s not just for right now but some music that they can listen to and not get everything on the first listen. You get treats every time you listen to it. It feels good man. Real good.

Arasia:  In this stage of your career, do you find yourself making music for yourself or for your fans?

Big Boi: I make it for people to live by. Just really taking from my life experiences and the things that impact me and things that I like to talk about. I like to keep it edgy and a little risqué but it’s always gotta be funky. Funky gotta be the face of all the music…freaky and hard hitting. As long as I cover all them bases and they can dig it, I love it. If they can’t dig it, I’ll catch you on the next one. But I can kind of channel what the people like. I am a music fan myself so I listen to all types of music. When I go in to create, I speak from my heart and talk about things that I like to talk about but I do have the fans in mind where I know they will move to this or jam to this or this will sound good in the car. You have to take all of it into perspective.

Arasia: You know this business is very tough, especially Hip Hop. And there is a lot of scrutiny that comes when artists reach a certain level of success or switch up their initial sound. How do you think you have been able to escape that?

Big Boi: I guess because it is to be expected form us. We’ve always been about being innovative and staying a part from what the mainstream is doing. That’s the whole basis of the name Outkast. Me and Stacks never wanted to be a part of what everybody else was doing—we always wanted to have our own thing. I think that’s the beauty of it, being that we’ve been making music since we were 16-years old, is that we never felt like we wanted to be a part of the in crowd. From album to album and record to record, we’ve evolved and just going form Southernplayalistic to ATLiens, people could see the growth in between albums all the way up to Spearkerboxxx/Love Below to Idlewild. It was to be expected. We never pegged ourselves in that hole like this is what it will be like all the time. We never made albums that were sequels or with the same titles. It was like okay….what is the new record? It’s not like we are going to do a Nightmare On Elm Street part 2 or Friday the 13th part whatever. You know what I mean? It’s like new fresh ideas—a fresh new plate of yams you know. It keeps it exciting.

Arasia: You all have an amazing body of work and I think you all have figured out how to keep fans excited and looking forward to what you are going to do next.

Big Boi: Our motto is expect the unexpected. As long as that shit is jamming—it’s gotta stay jamming!

Arasia: And it’s gotta be funky right?

Big Boi: (Laughing) Yeah, it’s gotta be! Gotta be funky!

Arasia: So is it true that you start all of your projects on MLK day?

Big Boi: Yes, yes, yes, yes, that is true. It started out from Speakerboxxx. I started Speakerboxxx on that day—it just fell on that day. And it was a glorious day to start and the vibe kicked off great. And when I started on Idlewild, it was the same day and then when it came time to start on this album, it was around the same time and it was like maybe three days away and I was just like I’m gonna start this day. So it’s just always been a good time vibe and feeling for me. It kind of just happened like that but the next one might be starting a little early…(Laughing)

Arasia: You’ve been in this game for a long time so how do you feel about how Hip Hop has evolved from when you first started up until now?

Big Boi: It’s definitely grown as a culture being that it’s been global for some time. People didn’t think it was going to last that long but it’s the sound of the streets and for it to go to from Atlanta to Japan to Germany to Switzerland to Sweden and London—it’s just touching ears all around the globe, so in that aspect, yes. And as long as we keep it fresh and funky, I think it will continue to grow. Everybody isn’t going to make the same type of music but one thing that is happening right now that’s not helping is the radio programming. They aren’t playing what the people want to hear. They are programming you to what they want you to hear and that’s not good. That’s the only thing that isn’t good to me but it’s good to have the Internet and satellite radio and things like that where you can get different types of music and not the same 5-6 songs all day long, you know what I mean?

Arasia: Yes, I know what you mean. So what was the first Hip Hop record you ever bought?

Big Boi: The first Hip Hop record I ever bought was a Fat Boys tape. My momma took us to see Krush Groove at Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta. And my aunties and uncles always had Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J, and Afrika Bambaataa’s first records and things like that. But my first tape was the Fat Boys. I remember I went to the movies and had a bubble ski vest on and me and my brother bought some metallic markers and put our nicknames on the back of them and my momma beat our ASS after that!!!! (Laughing)

Arasia: WOW (Laughing)

Big Boi: For real! After watching Krush Groove…that’s how big the influence was. We were just overwhelmed by it.

Arasia: I feel you. You know heads and Hip Hop fans across the globe share stories like that.

Big Boi: Yeah, man…my momma beat the shit out of us for fucking them clothes up! (Laughing)

Arasia: (Still laughing) If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one Hip Hop album excluding anything from your catalog, what would it be?

Big Boi: NWA—Niggaz4life. Yeah…that was a hardcore record and it’s motivation. The beats were crazy and it was just really hardcore. I guess if you are stranded on an island you gone need something to try motivate you to get off that muthafucka rather you doing a thousand push ups trying to swim, fighting sharks, or whatever. (Laughing)

Arasia: (Laughing) No doubt. Now when you prepare for a project, do you seek out that “Outkast” sound or do you try to shy away from that?

Big Boi: It’s just like—-the sound is just in me. I just put a bunch of ingredients on the table—I was listening to the beats for about 2-years before I even recorded on any one of them. Just learning the ins and outs of the music first and as I started getting ideas, I started tinkering with them…laying down bits and pieces. I worked on all the songs at the same time. I don’t work on one song until it’s done. I might work on three or four songs a day. It’s like if I was a carpenter or building a house—I gotta few different teams working on each part of the house. I may have someone putting down the floors, painting in another, picking out light fixtures for the bedroom. And I just keep myself excited about the whole project and I am constantly listening to records so if I am listening to them for 2 years before I record on them, then when I do record on them, they still have to last another two years so I have the songs for about 4-5 years before the public even hears them and if they are jamming to me for about four years, then I know they will last.

Arasia: Wow…that’s interesting and says a lot. So what is up with Purple Ribbon Records?

Big Boi: It’s up and popping man. I’m working with this group, Vonnegutt. As well as Cutty Cartel. Just really trying to see what label I’m gonna get it distributed through. I tend to groom artists for a few years before they come out. I had Janelle Monae for a while and she just put out her album The Arch Android and it’s doing real good. She’s out on the road touring and the acceptance of her as an artist—man—she is a great artist. She has a cult following that is unbelievable. Those are the kinds of artists that I like to deal with—the ones that are serious about their craft and love to make new stuff so Vonnegutt is next. They are hard workers and I’ve had them for about 3-4 years and their album is just about done. But I’m always looking for new talent all the time.

Arasia: Do you think releasing solo albums and outside projects allows you to maintain your individuality and keep it fresh for when you and Stacks meet back up?

Big Boi: I guess in a way. To make records that are your own and complete vision is kind of liberating after you’ve done it for so long hip to hip.  And it just gives you a little bit of time to grow. Almost like if you take a specialty class to where you are just honing in on different parts of your skill that you really dig and sharpening things up and then you come back with your partner and it’s mega stupid but at the same time we still work together throughout the years. We are doing records where he is producing for me or getting on a record with me. It’s all still there.

Arasia: I remember the first time I ever saw you. It was in 95’ at the Source Awards and Outkast won for best new artist and Dre went to mic and said the South got something to say and then you all just walked off the stage. I think that was a defining moment in Hip Hop. So do you think the South has finally gotten there just do after all these years?

Big Boi: Oh without a doubt.

Arasia: It was struggle…

Big Boi: Oh most definitely. It was like the Civil Rights Movement almost. They didn’t want to hear our music or nothing we said…you know the stereotypes and different ways that they thought about different artists from the South. I guess we kind of blasted all those boundaries away being that we came from Atlanta. And we consistently put out albums that people loved and stayed on the road and toured and built a fan base of loyal fans that just love music and we just brought people together of all different races and religions and things like that. And we said the South got something to say and hear we are 15-years later and we have a diamond plaque. We are one of the very few to go diamond and we won album of the year at the Grammys so we’ve been to the promise land. We’ve done it all. And we are just doing what we love to do and that’s to make music. And for the South to still be in the forefront is really great and like I said everybody is not going to make the same type of music but you gone have to respect the South when it comes up because you got Outkast, Dungeon Family, Ludacris, Tip, Rick Ross, Scarface, Bun B, Lil Wayne, Young Money/Cash Money, and a gang of artists that come from that. And we are making music and we making moves. We all didn’t grow up in the same school of Hip Hop but we definitely respect the art form and just like everybody else, we are here to make good music and that’s what it is about.

Arasia: If you encountered someone that was deaf, and they asked you to explain your music through color, what would those colors be?

Big Boi: Oooh….the colors would be a glowy purplish sunburst. It would be very, very colorful like glowing lava. Like ooze. (Laughing)

Arasia: I knew purple would fall in there somewhere!

Big Boi: Definitely!

Arasia: So what’s next?

Big Boi: I’m on the Son Of Chico Dusty World Tour. I’ve been destroying stages every night for the past three months. Getting ready to head over to Europe for a couple of weeks and Australia for a while—I will be on the road touring until a couple of weeks before Christmas. And then we will pick back up at the top of the year. I also started on the new record—Daddy Fat Sacks: Soul Funk Crusader in the meanwhile while I’m waiting for Dre to finish up his album and Ceelo Goodie is about to drop an album but I’m just really putting my ideas down.

Arasia: Any acting?

Big Boi: I put that off until next year because I am so into the music and while I’m in my groove I still want to stay in it. But there are some projects that have been coming up but I want to put them to the side for a second cause I got some songs I want to do first.

Arasia: Is there a new Outkast album on the horizon?

Big Boi: Yes after Dre finishes his album, the plan is to reunite and do the Outkast album.

Arasia: Cool, well I will be looking out for the new projects. Well, thank you for speaking with me. It was a pleasure!

Big Boi: You too. Thank you!

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About Arasia Magnetic

Arasia is a contributing writer at KevinNottingham.com and resides in Chicago, IL.
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