Exclusive: A rejuvenated Big Boi tells DX why his brotherhood with Andre 3000 is unshakable, he and his wife's union is unbreakable, and his new solo set is "unskippable."
It’s amazing the difference a break can make.
Whether it be a ten minute reprieve to briefly rest your aching body from lifting heavy packages onto screeching conveyor belts and into suffocating trailers at your after-class UPS gig, or a two-week sun-and-sand Caribbean get away to get as far removed as you conceivably can from your soul-snatching cubicle coffin and the blinding vertigo daze you achieve daily after staring into a dizzying computer screen, sometimes you just need a break.
We all do. Even the fortunate few that have been able to parlay their passion into a paycheck sometimes need a break from the more tedious tasks creativity can create. One-half of “The Mighty O,” Big Boi, needed to call a timeout of his own recently after the at times arduous grind that comes with promoting a new release like his prophetically-titled Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors pushed his patience and generally good-natured personality to the limit. During his initial week of pow-wow’s with media outlets last month, an attempt at a bit of humorous sarcasm about his longtime partner-in-rhyme, (and current razor-hocking pitchman), Andre 3000, being unable to contribute to VLADR due to “some Gillette shit” was quickly sensationalized for eye-grabbing headlines, prompting Hot Tub Tony to first put a cease and desist on any additional inquiries into the status of he and Dre’s working relationship before taking a much-needed vacay from dealing with the incessant questions that have dogged him (and for some reason he alone) for the better part of the last decade.
Back from break, refreshed, refocused, and bound and determined to not let chronic cries from fans and media alike for fresh new Outkast material derail “The Train” carrying both he and his high school pal’s musical legacy, Big cheerily chopped it up with HipHopDX during the latter portion of a long day of interviews in his second go-round with longtime frenemy the media to promote his kaleidoscopic sophomore solo album. Determined to not let a repeat of last month’s media debacle take place, B-O-I voluntarily took on the task of clarifying the dangerous rumors that persistently plague two 37-year-olds, who met when they were 15, about why 22 years in they no longer stroll side-by-side like they seemingly did when we were all first introduced to the avant-garde Atlanta teens that legitimized their region while influencing and inspiring a whole generation of Kendrick’s, Cole’s and K.R.I.T.’s to dare to be different. Sir Lucious leapt at the first chance to quickly neutralize any vicious lies that could be created from “muthafuckas taking shit outta context,” and subsequently addressed additional conspiracy theories of corporate interference being the real road block to a ‘Kast reunion. But somehow still managing to have fun over 7,000 days into his career, Big spent most of his discussion with DX happily speaking on the arguably less intense subjects of musical shifts and marital tiffs with the same shoulder-brushing indifference to his critics that both opens and closes his latest long-player: “If y’all don’t know me by now, y’all ain’t gon’ never know me.”
Big Boi Breaks Down The Creation Of "In The A" Featuring Ludacris & T.I.
HipHopDX: We gotta start off by talking about “In The A.” I think I done listened to that joint like 50 times already – crazy. I thought “General Patton” on your last album was the apex of triumphant chest-thumping, but you turned the crunk dial all the way up to 11 alongside your fellow ATL legends Ludacris and T.I.
Big Boi: Right, man, definitely. I’m a fan of lyricism, and them two are guys that I respect, that can spit. And they didn’t let me down.
When I did the A$AP Rocky record, [“Lines”], T.I. and DJ Drama came by the studio that same night. T.I. was supposed to be on “Lines” as well, but after I got with Sarah [of Phantogram] and we finished it up I told Tip I had another record for him and it was “In The A.” And he came back a couple of weeks later and we camped out and he came in and smashed it.
And then Luda, he was actually filming Fast and Furious part 30 or whatever part they on over in Europe. [Laughs] On his day off he went in and did his verse and sent it back. So yeah, it worked out good.
DX: I know it ain’t a battle, but I think personally the second verse might’ve been the sharpest. You note in that verse how you “ain’t lost a step” and “shine brighter, rhyme tighter, than anybody in your top ten.” What does this song mean to you, especially as a solo artist, in establishing once and forever to any remaining detractors that you can stand on your own ten toes and stomp all over a track?
Big Boi: It’s rejuvenating. We got younger kids and cats that don’t even really know Outkast music; they know me from Who’s Your Caddy? and ATL and Idlewild, so … to be in the arena and let ‘em know this Jedi rap shit all day, it’s definitely rejuvenating, man. It’s like an old myth where you have a favorite artist and they get disinterested or disenfranchised with what they’re doing and you can tell. But with me, I’m having fun. I’m a student of the game; I record all of the time, and this is what I love to do. And to knock the wall down for people to be like, “Damn, this guy really, really, really don’t fuck around” [is rejuvenating].
The ‘Kast was a supergroup – and it still is a super-group – and whether dolo or in a band I’ma kill everything I get on. I love making good music.
DX: “In The A” stands apart from pretty much the rest of the album as the only trunk-rattler of an earthquake magnitude. Why did you decide to shift away from the Soul-driven thump of “Shine Blockas” and Zapp-ish Funk of “Shutterbugg” to the Electro experimentation of “Objectum Sexuality” and the psychedelic swing of “Apple Of My Eye”?
Big Boi: Just because I don’t like to do the same thing twice. The beats still gonna hit hard or whatever. But, I guess the closest thing to “In The A” on the album, that can kinda tie to that, is “Gossip.” I like to call it that “elite street shit.” People are doing [that sound] so much, but niggas ain’t really bustin’ over beats like that. The game has become not who’s the best lyricist no more; it’s about who can make the best jams. [But] me, I wanna bust on the record and jam, so … I wanna give ‘em everything. I like to make complete songs; complete with bridges, hooks, outros, intros. I want a whole body of work. The game right now is a singles game; you get a hot single, and that might be the only song on your whole album. But, with us, just keeping in tradition with the ‘Kast, I like to make a complete, full album, man – that’s unskippable; you need play and rewind and that’s it.
Big Boi Discusses The Status Of Outkast, Recent Andre 3000 Press
Big Boi: Actually, it was [just] as far as the title. He was just like, “Soul Funk Crusader just sounds kinda like old school.” He was like, “Just the title alone, people might think it’s gonna be old.” And the music that I was making [was futuristic]. ‘Cause it’s actually the same songs [that he heard], but the title of the album might’ve gave people a different notion of what it was. He was like, “This don’t sound like Soul-Funk, it doesn’t sound like some old Funk, it sound like some of that new-new shit.” And I was like, “Cool.”
But that’s my partner. You know, when we meet behind closed doors – And you get the articles and [it’s] “he said this” and “he said that;” muthafuckas taking shit outta context; they don’t really know us. That’s my brother. He comes to my house; our kids play together. They play video games and we sit and listen to music and just catch up. But, that’s out of the public eye. But when you been with a guy since the tenth grade, we don’t have to see each other every day. And we don’t have to make records all of the time; we got a catalog that’s unprecedented. And, when he ready to do a full ‘Kast record together, then that’ll happen. But until then, ain’t no problems or nothing and the music [I make] is still gonna sound out of this world.
DX: Have my [media] predecessors today been jumping on you about that? I got a feeling you had to get that out.
Big Boi: Yeah, man. ‘Cause now our thing is we don’t even discuss Outkast. Until y’all see us sitting in the chair next to each other, we don’t even discuss it.
Big Boi Criticizes Quality Of The Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors Leak
DX: I wanna get back to the album. “Shoes For Running” with B.o.B., that was one of them songs [where] at first I was like, “I don’t know,” but then I started to listen to it more and it really proved to be a great example of that trying different things approach paying off in an addictive song we’re all probably gonna be hearing for years to come in commercials. [Laughs]
Big Boi: Right, yeah. [Laughs] Yeah, man, that’s the beauty of it. It’s like, if you can get it in a first listen; you’ll burn it out quicker. Sometimes when I rhyme, or really just talk about different things, I’ve come to know [through] social networking that a lot of people are not gonna catch everything on the first listen; you really have to listen to what I’m saying.
Like, my brother came to me – he’s younger than me, [but] he listened to Brand Nubian. But [still], when I said, “Punks jump up to get beat down, I’m Brand Nubian,” [on “In The A”] it took him a minute - and he been listening to the shit for like six months. He was like, “God damn, I just caught the shit!” But that’s the shit I like to do, where it’s not on a first listen, where you gotta dissect it.
And I’ma tell you, with the album, I know the shit leaked online, but the hard copy is better than the online copy ‘cause every song is accompanied by a piece of artwork that [represents] my vision of what the song is. And all the lyrics are inside the book. So that way people can get it and dissect it and listen and live with it. And, it’s a shitty quality leak too. Man, I knew it was bound to happen.
DX: Yeah, that quality was [horrible]. I did download it just to preview it, and the quality was atrocious.
Big Boi: Yeah, definitely. I don’t know, it’s like once you master it and it go to those pressing plants – they gotta have it two weeks before the album comes out - and niggas on they lunch break throw one in the bushes, when they get off work, get it out the bushes, go home, put it in the computer and upload it. But, the good thing about it, what is cool about it is, is that muthafuckas is that hungry and that thirsty that they wanna hear that Big Boi. So I can’t complain.
DX: Switching gears here, you mention how you’re a “Tom Petty heartbreaker” on the irresistible ‘80s Electro Funk jam with Kelly Rowland, “Mama Told Me.” But you reveal the reality behind the playboy persona by delving into the particulars of your relationship with your wife on the Kid Cudi assisted “She Hates Me.” The song almost seems too revealing, like something the general public shouldn’t be privy to. Was there any concern about putting your marital matters out there to possibly be twisted into dangerous rumors?
Big Boi: Nah, not really. The song in itself was just a jammin’-ass song, and when putting it together it was just in honesty. That’s another thing Dre told me; he was like, “Man, you have to be so open with people; that’s what’s gonna draw people to you.”
I ain’t got shit to hide. I’m human like everybody else. And shit, my marriage and everything is great. I’ve been with my woman for twenty years [total]. We’re going on our 11th anniversary come Valentine’s Day. We’ve got three beautiful kids. I’ve got a daughter that’s about to go off to college. And, life is really, really good like Nas said. I’m loving this shit.
DX: “I know old-ass niggas that’s scared to do what I did.” Ain’t that the truth. [Laughs]
Big Boi: [Laughs] Yeah, man. Niggas ain’t gonna commit early. I ain’t perfect or nothing, but just to take that stance [at such a young age is commendable]. Before she was my wife, my girl was like, “I’m pregnant.” I’m there for my daughter. And now I’ve raised a great, fine young woman that’s gonna go attend Auburn University next year and I’m proud of that. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of as a father, is being here and raising my kids hands-on; keeping ‘em from the wolves of the world.
DX: Now, I do have to ask this follow-up: You told Idolator.com that wifey stopped speaking to you after the “She Said OK” video; did you really think you were gonna get away with leaning back into some other cooch and not have to sleep on the couch? [Laughs]
Big Boi: [Laughs] Nah, I knew it was gonna be something, but I ain’t know it was gonna be that. [Laughs] I mean, it was like the label was there [and they were] like, “This is art. This reflects art. This is your job.” And she wasn’t on set then. But, that worked out, and she saw it too. It wasn’t so much me being like just laying on it but [afterwards] when I was twittering like, “I love my job,” she was like, “That’s disrespectful.”
DX: Switching gears again, I know there’s the moratorium on the group talk, but I do have this one question that kinda ties in: What role, if any, has Jive Records – which has been dissolved into RCA Records – played in preventing there from being any new ‘Kast product on store shelves in six years?
Big Boi: Nothing. They played no part in whatever. Like, whenever Dre’s ready then we’ll do it. Nobody’s holding the group back. ‘Cause with L.A. [Reid] we’re signed to Epic [Records] now as Outkast. I have two deals; I have the deal at Def Jam [Records] and then I have the Outkast deal at Epic. So there’s no red tape, there’s nothing in the way, it’s just like, shit, whenever 3000 is ready to do it we’ll knock it out.
DX: I appreciate you clarifying that, ‘cause that’s one of the conspiracy theories online that [label interference is really behind the delay].
Big Boi: Yeah, I know. It’s not that no more.
DX: And, you know I gotta take a shot while I got you here and ask if you got a chance yet to ask Dre directly why he felt the need to apologize to you publicly like that on T.I.’s “Sorry”?
Big Boi: Nah. You know what? I didn’t even ask him about it. I heard the song actually before I seen him. T.I. played it for me when we did “In The A,” in the studio. And actually, when he recorded it T.I. called me like, “Man, you gotta hear this song, Dre talking to you,” and I was like, “Cool.” I guess that’s just his way of [venting]; it’s therapy for him of just getting out certain feelings that he had; how he felt a certain type of way. I appreciate it. I mean, that’s my brother. I respect him as a man and his decisions. I stand behind him in whatever he does. So, that was honorable of him to do that, ‘cause he don’t usually do that stuff; he don’t really express his feelings like that – especially not in the public.
DX: Man, I tried to keep the ‘Kast questions out of my prep for this interview, but you know you can’t stop these questions.
Big Boi: Nah, that’s cool, man. ‘Cause I know there was a lot going back and forth, that week when me and him both was doing press. Shit was getting twisted up so now you get to clear it up. I only talk to you about it ‘cause it’s HipHopDX, but [for] these other muthafuckas I ain’t really commenting on this shit no more. [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] I appreciate that. It’s too tempting, man, ‘cause y’all fucked up by giving us too much timeless music together.
Big Boi: I know it; I know it. And the people want it so bad, so people gonna inquire about what they want. But, I’m here.
DX: Do you feel like you’re making progress on the solo front, of keeping people focused on what you’re doing and keeping the legacy going that way?
Big Boi: Hell yeah. They loving it, man. Even with the leak, the reviews [have been positive]. Even with the listening sessions, the response has been nothing short of incredible. And I just really feel blessed and humbled and honored that people still dig my shit after 20 years. Like, this is an anomaly; this don’t happen. So, they really just know this some Jedi shit here, man. And I’m only gonna get better though. And I ain’t gonna stop until I wanna stop.
DX: “It seems just like yesterday, where did the time go?/I’m giving you the best that I got, Anita Baker rhyme flow.”
Big Boi: Exactly.
DX: Well, before I let you go, any last words you wanna get out to the people about this new album? Definitely buy the hard copy ‘cause the leak is trash.
Big Boi: Yeah, definitely. I know the leak out there, and I know this the digital age and everything, but I’ma tell you like this, Def Jam ain’t fin to pay on no free records, you feel me? So if you got it, and you enjoy it, use the honor system and make a light donation to iTunes or to your local Best Buy and support the project and let Def Jam know you on Daddy Fat Sacks team. I got a vault full of music and I’ma keep giving it to you.