Big Boi of OutKast Talks His New Album and Why Andre 3000 Isn’t on It: “He Said He Had To Do Some Gillette Shit”


Big Boi just touched down in the city where nearly two decades ago he was booed mercilessly. While accepting an award for “Best Rap Duo” at the oft maligned Source Awards (beating hometown heros Smif N Wessun), he and his partner Andre (he wasn’t even 3000 yet) were met with jeers at the podium. “The South got something to say!” exclaimed Andre before they exited stage left.

Well, these days Andre 3000 doesn’t have much to say unless it’s his lines in a Gillette commercial. Big Boi however, has got more to say than ever before. Although many uninitiated folks claimed Andre was always the real talent, it has become more and more apparent that Big Boi is no slouch when it comes to making the timeless, funk/soul induced compositions the duo was known for.

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And while Andre was on a mission of change from album to album, giving up weed, alcohol and normal clothes, Big Boi managed to evolve as well but held steadfastly to many of his original aesthetics. The combination worked because Andre pushed boundaries while Big Boi kept the original fans happy. That’s not exactly true, though. They were dubbed “The Pimp and the Poet” by the media, but it doesn’t take a rap genius to know they were both pimps and both poets and both were all about pushing boundaries.

With his second solo album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (third if you count Speakerboxx) due out on December 11, Sir Luscious Leftfoot is out to push Stankonia’s city limits again. Just before his much ballyhooed listening party last night at Converse Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn, Big Boi spoke with us about his new album, his rhyme partner’s lack of, er, rhyming, and how his three kids are his best A&Rs.

OutKast always had interesting album artwork. Tell me about VLADR‘s art?
Basically, this artist Justin, he wanted to do something in a similar vein to previous albums I was involved in, but more iconic. My whole thing with this album is if you don’t know me by now, you ain’t never gonna know me, you feel me? That’s why there’s no Big Boi logo or nothing. If you don’t know that motherfucking face then you ain’t gonna know it. It’s just me in the purest form. And the colors just represent emotion.

So we were talking about how your albums are complete thoughts. Not scattered at all, just cohesive bodies of work. How do you maintain that similar mind-set throughout the recording process?
I still bounce all over the place, but I just don’t work on the same songs. If I get tired of a sound or topic or style, I switch to another. It’s like building a house. My foundation is my beat selection process, just corralling all the beats together. Some might get bumped later on, but that foundation gives me direction.

How do you pick which songs might get bumped and which are going to make the album?
I’ll record 30 or 40 tracks, and I just ride to them for months, sometimes even years. I play them for my kids. They’re like: “What’s that Dad? I like that!” The ones the kids pick I always put them shits to the side.

Wow. Any other trusted ears you rely on for picking songs?
My kids, man, my kids. Eleven, 12, and my oldest daughter is 17. She actually put me on to the Weeknd and Wiz Khalifa. I ain’t know nothing about none of that shit, you feel me? And my two younger kids listen to everything from Future to Guns N’ Roses because they’ve been exposed to all of that coming up.

So A$AP Rocky is on the album. Is there a specific reason you sought him out?
Nah, wasn’t even about seeking out. Like I’ve said, the albums are organically created. I was in Atlanta and was doin’ an interview with Greg Street, and he came up to do an interview after me. He came in, and it was just like, “Hey what’s up?” I told him I was on my way to the studio, he said he wanted to come through. So as soon as he left the radio station, he called me up and showed up at the studio. He stayed for a few hours and knocked his verse out. And he merked it. It’s not like I sat down and was like, “Who can I get on the album that’s hot?”

Do you ever think that way in terms of features and production?
Nah man, no way. I don’t need the hottest nigga to get on my song. My shit’s hot.

You’ve been putting out music as long as Nas has. How do you always manage to come up with new, fresh sounds?
It comes down to really living this music. For me, the recording process never stops. Like we’re mastering this record on Wednesday. I had to take my hands off it last night and just leave it be. And it’s being mastered in Atlanta while I’m up here in New York City, so I don’t even know what they’re doing [laughs]. It’s like sending your kids to school for the first time. But anyway, it’s not yet mastered, and I already have music for the next album. We record. We make music. Unless we’re on tour or acting, we are making music. That’s how you stay fresh with it.

Speaking of acting, you did a good job in ATL. Any other acting gigs in the future?
Yeah definitely. I’ve just been turning roles down because of I just love music the most. But I have to go read for Colin Farrell when I get home.

Do you regret turning any of the acting jobs down?
Oh, man. Yeah. I had never heard of Sons Of Anarchy before, and they wanted me to play a recurring role for six months or so. I was supposed to be some big-time dude, I think his name is Pope or whatever. But I was in the middle of this album, and I was like, “I can’t really do this right now.” My brother was looking at me like, “You’re crazy right now,” but that’s how strong my love is for the music.

So let’s talk label bullshit. Last album Laface was fronting on clearing Andre 3000. Is that still the case?
No, that’s all cleared up now. He could’ve been on any song he wanted to. I gave the motherfucker about five songs, but I guess he was just too busy. He said he had to do some Gillette shit [room erupts in laughter]. No for real. He said he had some contractual obligations.

OK. So what happened with Little Dragon’s former label not clearing them for “Mama Said”?
Well, they left their original label and signed to Universal, so it was like bad blood between Universal and Peace Frog. So when it came time to negotiate clearance it didn’t go so well. But they’re still on the album, and Kelly Rowland is just singing the lyrics Yukimi wrote.

So last thing: “For Your Sorrow” was my shit on the last album.
Mine too, that was my favorite song, hands down. I still play that.

Me, too. At least a few times a week. My question, though, is how do you keep coming up with these formulas for such timeless music?
To me, the secret is that the shit is fun to me. Finding a new groove to make a new song, that shit is fun. When you get the beat right, and then the hooks and the bridges and the lyrics and it all comes together, it’s like this feeling that you get like you hit the jackpot. I can only describe it as trying to unlock the combination to a safe. Once you get inside it, boom.

Yeah but that doesn’t ever wane a bit and leave you stressed and overwhelmed trying to match and even outdo what you did the album prior?
Hell yeah, hell yeah. Last album I was like, “I don’t now how I’m finna do this shit again,” but it’s been like that since Southernplayalistic . . . When in doubt, you just gotta go to work.

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