Big Boi: Boy O Boi!
With six multi-Platinum albums to their credit (including 2003’s 11-million-selling, Grammy-winning ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’), Atlanta duo OutKast is officially the most successful rap group of all time. Which in turn makes this month’s release of ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty’ - the long-awaited new solo LP from the twosome’s more socially-conscious half, Big Boi - of major significance to the hip hop community worldwide.
Born Antwan Andre Patton in February 1975 in Savannah, Georgia - where he spent the first half of his childhood immersed in his grandmother’s favourite soul 45s - it was after Big Boi moved to Atlanta in the late-Eighties that he first met Andre Benjamin(aka partner-in-rhyme Andre 3000), with whom he would later go on to form OutKast.
With the duo going on to sign with then-red-hot urban writer/producers LA & Babyface’s LaFace Records in 1992, the release of their Platinum debut LP - 1994’s ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’ - would mark the beginning of a trailblazing career that would in turn embrace such further landmark albums as 1996’s ‘ATLiens’, 1998’s ‘Aquemini’ and 2000’s ‘Stankonia’ before the auspicious arrival of 2003’s world-conquering ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’. Which groundbreakingly packaged together two separate solo albums from the two rappers, with ‘Speakerboxxx’ (which spawned the uptempo US Number One single ‘The Way You Move’) effectively becoming Big Boi’s debut solo set.
Meanwhile today, pioneered by the bass-pounding hip hop/funk of its offshoot single ‘Shutterbugg’, Big Boi’s aforementioned new ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot’ set now showcases Patton’s ever-tight rhyming skills further - through musical moods ranging from the shuffling funk groove of ‘Turns Me On’ and twanging guitar-and-percussion of ‘Tangerine’; to the sweetly endearing bounce of ‘Be Still’ and Seventies soul vibe of ‘Shine Blockas’.
All of which a highly-affable, beshaded Big Boi discusses fully in recognisable Southern US tones, while relaxing over drinks on a balcony of the West End’s trendy Sanderson hotel with an equally-chilled Pete Lewis.
PETE: Let’s start by discussing your new single ‘Shutterbugg’
BIG BOI: “I was actually in Miami, recording a song with Mary J. Blige. And, while I was there, I hooked up with (chart-topping US urban producer) Scott Storch. He told me he had a beat that he’d been sitting on for me for a couple of years, invited me to come to his house, played the music at the loudest volume I’ve ever HEARD music played at... And I was like ‘COOL!’!.. So I took it home, brought my band in - my guitar players, keyboard players, the talkbox - and we just pissed on it! You know, we put the P-Funk on it, and just commenced to lyrically destroy the track... And that’s how ‘Shutterbugg’ came ABOUT!”
PETE: So how did you come up with the album title ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot; The Son Of Chico Dusty’?
BIG BOI: “Well, Sir Lucius Left Foot is of course me! It’s Big Boi with a more mature mindstate. I’ve been using the moniker for years now, and it basically signifies me as a soul-funk crusader. You know, the whole Left Foot theme is that I’m leaving imprints of funk wherever I go. When I leave the room I want it to be smelly! So, before I get there, I want them to prepare for me to stink it up! I mean, it’s really just about bringing the fun back into the music. Then the ‘Son Of Chico Dusty’ part is basically a nod to my father, who passed while I was making this record. He was an airforce pilot and he was also in the marines - a real tough guy. So, with me being the oldest outta five kids, using the Chico Dusty name represents me still carrying the torch for him.”
PETE: How would you break the album down musically?
BIG BOI: “Oh man, it’s definitely a funk-filled extravaganza! You know, layers and layers of funk with raw lyrics and a lotta honesty. I mean, when you’re making this music you have to be PROLIFIC with it. And I’m just really, really showing them how to DO it!”
PETE: Let’s discuss some of your collaborators on the album
BIG BOI: “Well, production-wise we always start out with Organized Noize - because they’re like the backbone to the whole OutKast movement. Then, beside myself and my squad Boom Boom Room Productions, I also wanted to reach out to different producers that I’d never worked with before - like Salaam Remi, who I went down to Florida to work with. I basically just wanted to show people that, if you jam, you can jam with ANYBODY - as long as the music’s quality and fun! So I handpicked the different producers just to bring different aspects of the music. But, while they all had different styles, the album still came out as one cohesive project because of the way I just put it all together and just added different layers of funk to it. Then artist-wise I brought in Jonelle Monae; my new group Bonnegutt; plus B.o.B and T.I. You know, they’re all artists that I respect and listen to. So to have a jam session with each one of them was a privilege.”
PETE: How do you see ‘Sir Lucius Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty’ as reflecting your consistency as an artist?
BIG BOI: “I think when people get it, they’ll see that it’s dead serious over here, man! That it’s all about the music, and it’s always BEEN about the music! You know, there’s no controversy; no who-are-they-sleeping-with; no who-got-arrested; no who-are-they-beefing-with… As I say, OutKast has always been purely about the MUSIC! And I just want to continue showing them that you don’t NEED all that extra stuff! That if you just make the right music, the people will come to your party!”
PETE: So let’s talk about your early days growing up in Savannah, Georgia
BIG BOI: “Well, I grew up in the Frazier Homes projects, where I lived with my grandmother, my mom and sometimes my dad. You know, because he was in the armed forces he was away a lot. And my grandmother and my uncle basically did nothing but blast music all the time! Whether it was Bob Marley, Anita Baker, Parliament, Stacey Lattisaw, The Bar Kays… I mean, my grandmother used to make us clean the house and hang up clothes on the LINE listening to music! So being around it that much at such a young age got me really interested in it. And so, when the time came for me to start buying my OWN type of music, I’d find myself listening to everything from Kenny Rogers to NWA to my all-time favourite female artist Kate Bush - who I got turned on to by my Uncle Russell! You know, I just loved music, period! And so, with my musical tastes being so varied, when the time came for us to form the group OutKast, my resume was UNLIMITED! I could pull from here, from there… from ANYWHERE!”
PETE: I understand you first met (fellow OutKast member) Andre 3000 after moving to Atlanta, Georgia…
BIG BOI: “Yeah, Dre and I met at Tri-Cities High School in 10th Grade! I mean, moving up to Atlanta to live with my Aunt Renee turned out to be a really good move, man! I met Dre; he and I had similar dressing styles - and, because we were both really into fashion, all the girls at High School loved us! So basically that was one of the main things that brought us together - the fact we wore the same type of clothes! And then, once we discovered we both had a love for music, we decided that was what we were gonna PURSUE! And from then on that’s all we DID! We set our hearts and minds to do it, we put our heart and soul into the music - and became The ‘Kast!”
PETE: So how do you recall the early days of forming a duo with Andre 3000 back in the early-Nineties?
BIG BOI: “Well, we started out calling ourselves Two Shades Deep and performing in smoke-filled clubs. You know, back then we weren’t even old enough to GO to clubs! But we’d still go along to open mic nights just to PERFORM - because we wanted as many people to hear our music as possible! I mean, we were just two boys with a dream, man who just really, really loved making music. And so, when people accepted the music we did, it only threw gas on to the FIRE! It just made us wanna make more and more OF it! So, once we made a name for ourselves around the city, we changed our name to OutKast, got our deal with LaFace Records, got the chance to make our (1994-released) first album ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’... And the rest it HISTORY! We KILLED it!”
PETE: Aside of your new album, what else is happening with you musically right now?
BIG BOI: “There’s definitely a lot happening with my label Purple Ribbon Entertainment. My next act is Bonnegutt, who actually feature on my album on the song ‘Follow Us’. They’re a two-man rock group where one raps while the other sings and plays guitar. Plus I have Cutty Cartel, who used to be in the group Jim Crow and actually sings the chorus to Shutterbugg’... So yeah, I already have albums done on both those acts. Plus, now that my own record is finished, Dre (3000) is working on HIS solo album; he and I are also plucking things for the new OutKast record; plus I’ve even started work on my NEXT album after THIS one! So yeah, things are definitely busy in the studio right now!”
PETE: You also, interestingly, collaborated on a show with The Atlanta Ballet. Which (entitled ‘big’) premiered at the city’s Fox Theatre in April 2008 and was performed by Atlanta ballet dancers, plus local youth and talent…
BIG BOI: “Yeah, that was super-dope! What happened was that The Atlanta Ballet came to me wanting me to put on a production with them. So I scored the music, and it was sorta like a play, where we used different visual aspects as well as physical props. We did six nights, and we had people from five to 85 up on their feet by the time it was over! And it was a real good - and very different - experience to have like ballerinas and just contemporary dance in general all around you! So yeah, man - we’re most definitely gonna be cranking it back up some time soon!”
PETE: You’ve additionally, of course, enjoyed success in the acting field - as Rooster in OutKast’s own 2006 movie ‘Idlewild’; as loveable villain Marcus in fellow Atlanta rhymesmith T.I.’s 2006 film ‘ATL’; plus as fictitious rapper C-Note in 2007’s ‘Who’s Your Caddy?’. So are there any more roles currently in the pipeline?
BIG BOI: “Well, you know, music is my first love, point-blank. I mean, I love acting and it’s definitely something I can see myself doing in the future. But for right now I’ve got so much music in me that I just wanna get that out first! But, having said that, one area of films where I CAN definitely see my career going in the near future is in the field of developing movies and scoring them - you know, being behind the boards and creating moods for different scenes and stuff like that.”
PETE: Another string to your bow is that you also own and operate Pitfall Kennels in Fairburn, Georgia, where you train and sell many varieties of American Pitbull Terriers - specialising in the very rare Blue Pitbull…
BIG BOI: “Primarily we just want to breed the best puppies, and dispel the rumours and myths about the dog being so violent. Because I feel they get a bad rep, when it’s really just about how you RAISE them. It’s been like a family business for like 15 years - me and my two younger brothers, James and Marcus. And we’ve sold dogs to everybody from Serena Williams the tennis player to Usher, Roy Jones Jr. the boxer… 50 Cent’s bought a dog from us, Lloyd Banks… You know, the list goes on and on. And, as I said, for us it’s really all about promoting the positive sides of the breed.”
PETE: Can you also tell me more about The Big Kidz Foundation, which you founded in 2006 to help youth in Atlanta; its mission being described as “to provide culturally-diverse experiences in the field of humanities while helping create socially-conscious youth”?
BIG BOI: “The Big Kidz Foundation is my non-profit organisation - and my thing is all about getting the youth prepared for the future. We do things like holding different summer camps in the areas of dance, theatre and music - as well as courses in public speaking and just helping kids to communicate, get their point across and express themselves. As I said, we’re basically just trying to prepare the youth for the future. Because it’s easier to mould a child but harder to fix a broken man. You know, we gotta start them out when they’re YOUNG!”
PETE: And finally, the obvious last question - what can we expect from the next OutKast album?!
BIG BOI: “Top secret for now!! But, as soon as we get the plan together for definite, we’ll let y’all know!”
Big Boi’s single ‘Shutterbugg’ is out now. The album ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty’ is released on July 5, both through Def Jam/Mercury Records
Words PETE LEWIS