Big Boi, also known as 1/2 of Outkast, has very little to prove these days. With tens of millions of records sold, a burgeoning acting career, and his own imprint, he’s pretty much done it all; except ballet. His project with the Atlanta Ballet entitled BIG, recently debuted and incorporated a number of Outkast songs into the repertoire. Format catches up with Big for a phoner from Stankonia Studios.
â€œWhat I do is what I do. It’s like, you know it’s gonna be funky. You know it’s gonna be innovative. You know it’s gonna be something that’s gonna tear your back up.â€
Format: So I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times already, but this project you’re doing with the Atlanta Ballet, BIG, was this an idea that had been percolating in your head for awhile or was this a recent surge of genius from Daddy Fat Sacks?
Big Boi: Uhm, actually, it’s kind of funny how it came about. I was at a fundraiser for my Big Kids foundation and some of the guys from the ballet came over and they were fans of the music. And we were kind of like, “why don’t we bring these two forms of expression together and see what we come up with?” And I was like you know, I’m down.
Format: So you didn’t even approach them about it. They approached you essentially.
Big Boi: Yeah yeah yeah. I thought it would be something cool with good energy going on.
Format: This summer you are set to release your first solo album. Did you see Speakerboxxx and The Love Below as two separate solo projects packaged as one, or did you truly feel that that project was an Outkast album?
Big Boi: No, no, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was two solo albums. Speakerboxxx was my first solo album, we just packaged it together, but that’s me and my dog. And now we are going to give it to you separate. Iâ€™ma do mine in July. Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Sun of Chico Dusty and you got Andre 3000 coming out in winter and the top of next year we coming out with the Outkast record.
Format: Are you at all nervous about living up to your past unparalleled success in the music business by putting the albums up as two separate entities this time?
Big Boi: No, no, no. I don’t have nothing to prove. You know what I’m saying. What I do is what I do. It’s like, you know it’s gonna be funky. You know it’s gonna be innovative. You know it’s gonna be something that’s gonna tear your back up. So you know what I’m saying. If you can get with it, c’mon get with it. I’m just trying to get as many people on board to hear it as possible. Each one teach one.
Format: Who are some of the producers you are working with on the project?
Big Boi: Definitely Organized Noise, Rico, Ray and Pat. And actually there are these new producers Royal Flush who produced the single I have out right now with Andre 3000 and Raekwon called “Royal Flush,” a new hip-hop tune. Also I have my boy Mr. DJ on the album producing and a couple of newcomers. I got one from Scott Storch and it is just all really painting the picture man; to all these soundscapes that I got.
Format: Speaking of soundscapes, Outkast came to pretty much define the Atlanta soundscape in the 90’s and beyond. And you guys are definitely credited as being the ones who put ATL on the map. However, there was definitely a scene popping down there for a minute even before you guys came into the picture. And you know, a lot of people don’t know that groups like Kriss Kross and Another Bad Creation and what have you are from Atlanta. What do you think it was about Outkast that made people from outside the region really sit up and take notice of what was going down?
Big Boi: I mean, I guess both me and Andre’s lyrics and music was funky and undeniable and we knew it was coming from the heart. It was honest and funky and we were really just having fun man.
Format: When you were putting together your first album, did you realize the magnitude of what you were doing at the time or did it just seem like, “hey we are two young guys just making music and having a good time?
Big Boi: I mean, we just wanted as many people to hear it as possible, you know what I’m saying. We expressed a lot of different ideas, points of views, and you know, it’s brain food. We asked and posed certain questions, you know, something to stimulate the mind and as many people that can get down with it, we was like hey, these two boys right here straight from Eastpoint and we started out actually rhyming in front of a beauty shop and you know, high schools and just really honed in on the craft. Now it is what it is.
â€œthese two boys right here straight from Eastpoint and we started out actually rhyming in front of a beauty shopâ€
Format: How did you guys go about getting your first record deal?
Big Boi: We actually hooked up with Organized Noise, the producers that brought us that’s been with us since the beginning and it was like some Jedi training. Like sharpening your pen and being lethal with them lyrics and they pushed us and really it what we wanted to do. So, I mean, lyrics come first.
Format: These days an artist has to have a buzz or a single or whatever pretty much to get signed. I mean I was only 12 when the first album came out but did you guys have a buzz in Atlanta before you guys signed with LaFace?
Big Boi: Oh, yes. Definitely. You know, we used to go to the different open mics, contests and go and rip things up on the weekly video shows and radio shows. But what got us on was Organized Noise working on the album with Parental Advisory and they were under L.A. Reid’s former wife’s Pebbles label. And Organized Noise actually took us to LA Reid.
Format: And then what?
Big Boi: And we rapped live in front of the whole staff and he was like you know, “Man, they’re talented, but I don’t know yet.” And LaFace didn’t have any rap groups at that time, so they got us to do a showcase. We showcased for them and they still was like they cool but I don’t know if they’re stars yet. So then we continued to work on the album and you know came back and did another showcase now for the whole BMG, the whole staff and everything down at a little retreat they had and set the whole company on fire and we came back and LA Reid was like, “Man I’m signing ya’ll up.”
Format: That’s so funny. How do you think Outkast career trajectory would have been different if the Internet, you know the way it functions now, was around in 1994, ’95, when you guys were just starting out?
Big Boi: I guess word might have spread faster. As it is, the communication superhighway like all the information and stuff and what they’re doing now, you can really reach more people via the Internet, YouTube or MySpace, and whatever. And you can kind of really test the music out and get a feel for what the people really like and what they really want. I think, it might have caught on faster but it worked out how it was supposed to work out and nd I would have it no other way.
Format: The Dungeon Family was very much a cohesive sound and by association, I can probably count at least a dozen acts that were able to get major deals and countless hit record out of the association. You know, even though every act under that umbrella was very different. Do you feel as if the Dungeon Family still exists?
Big Boi: Do I feel that they still exist?
Format: Yea. I mean, I know that obviously artists are still doing their thing and stuff. But like-
Big Boi: Hell yea. You hear me talking to you right now, hell yeah. Cee Lo and Gnarls Barkley. Hell yeah. We here baby. We ain’t going nowhere.
Format: For instance, can we expect another Dungeon Family album, you think?
Big Boi: Weâ€™ve been talking about it. You know everybody’s excited you know about this album right here ain’t nothing but the Dungeon Family on it with a few outside appearances with Raekwon and Mary J., but it’s DF all the way. You know, its about from day one every Outkast album has been a Dungeon Family effort, you know what I’m saying, from Organized Noise or the Goodie Mob, Cool Breeze, Witchdoctor. It’s family, it’s fun, we got this tattooed here on our veins, it’s right here baby.
Format: How were you able to build such a talented endeavour for us/froster9:44 without the same sort of repeated clichÃ©s that you know a big label or imprint like Cash Money or G-Unit would fall victim to?
Big Boi: I think it’s just the chemistry. You know what I’m saying, we experiment and we do what we feel and if the music makes us feel a certain way, we run with it. It’s all about really emotion and expression. You express yourself and people can kind of identify with what you’re talking about and you’re grooving at the same time, and like hey, that’s what we do.
â€œIt’s like you’re writing the same song all over again, so just using different patterns and using different types of words, that’s what I thrive on.â€
Format: What’s your favorite Dungeon Family record that you’ve been on, whether an Outkast album or a Cool Breeze or whatever?
Big Boi: I can say one of my favorite Dungeon Family songs has to be â€œBlack Iceâ€ with Outkast and Goodie Mob together and we’re killing it.
Format: How do you feel about the direction which Atlanta and hip-hop has gone, you know, say in the past seven years, you almost have subgenres within the Atlanta scene. Are you a fan across the board? What particular newer Atlanta acts are you feeling?
Big Boi: Man, I love it all man. You know, I mean, these guys out here is expressing themselves. It’s a lot of fans in the club, and you know, hip-hop started out in the club, so they just brought it back to the club. Man I love some of these newer dudes that got so much flavor and so much charisma that, you know what I’m saying, their records are popping. I love it all man. You need all of them.
Format: One of my favorite records that you’ve ever done is that Kilo Ali record “Love In Her Mouth.” Ali Record â€¦(11:48)
Big Boi: Oh hell yeah, believe it. Yeah, yeah. Somebody just redid it.
Big Boi: Yeah, yeah. Somebody just redid it. “I want a girl in the south…” or something like that.
Format: Man, that’s funny. At what point in your career did you record that?
Big Boi: When I was I guess, really respecting the head game [laughs]. I was a young boy having fun.
Format: Was that after Outkast was a multi-platinum selling group or was that before?
Big Boi: It was after. It was like after our second album.
Format: How did that collaboration come about? Because I know Kilo was very big in the Atlanta bass scene that was popping in ATL.
Big Boi: Actually, me and Dre, when we were in high school, we used to jam to all of Kilo’s tapes. Kilo was like the underground legend in Atlanta. Fo sho. He’s a guy that’s very talented, man, and we used to bang his records man and he signed up with Dungeon Family and he will you get on a record and we did it.
Format: That’s so cool. Unless I’m crazy, your flow kind of changed like maybe five years ago, if I remember correctly, around like the “Whole World” and “Popping Tags” was that like a conscious decision on your part? And if so, what prompted it? Or maybe you don’t feel like your flow changed.
Big Boi: It’s just evolution; you know what I’m saying. I mean, I love that I’m still studying the craft. I just like to create ways of rhyming that excites me. I don’t like to keep rhyming the same one song. It’s like you’re writing the same song all over again, so just using different patterns and using different types of words, that’s what I thrive on. So it’s all about delivery, it’s what the music brings out.
Format: I went to college in Atlanta and when I graduated in June 2005, I thought the scene was becoming a little bit oversaturated; now it seems to have gone to a whole new level of saturation. Where do you see the Atlanta sound heading? Do you see it becoming more cohesive? More diverse?
Big Boi: It’s growing, it’s growing you know. You got a lot of guys out here that are serious about the craft and you know serious about making music and I mean everybody is not going to sound the same. Everybody’s gonna have their own thing going and it’s good to have variety. As long as it’s working, run with it.
Format: I was a huge fan of your performance in ATL and I’m just wondering when what else we can expect from you on the acting tip in the near future?
Big Boi: Aw, man, I got a couple things on the table and I had to turn down a few things ’cause I’ve been trying to get my album together. But it’s definitely there, it’s coming. I’m gonna put this record out and Iâ€™ma do a few more films and it’s definitely something that I’m gonna pursue.
Format: Very cool. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk and I don’t know if there’s anything else that I didn’t touch on that you’re trying to get out there?
Big Boi: My new album, thirteen brand new songs baby boy and I’m proud. I love it and hope you can dig it and get down with it.
Format: Cool, Well I really appreciate it man, I’ve been a big fan for awhile. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
Big Boi: Aight bro, appreciate it.