The Big Boi boom the­ory

Hip-hop pi­o­neer, master col­lab­o­ra­tor, sock sales­man – is there any­thing Big Boi can’t do? Not much, he tells Séa­mas O’Reilly

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

“Those are nice socks. Do you like colour­ful socks?” This is the first thing Big Boi says when we meet, eye­ing up my (ad­mit­tedly gor­geous) footwear.

A com­monly held dream of the mu­sic jour­nal­ist is that an artist will show up for an in­ter­view clutch­ing your lat­est ar­ti­cle, ex­press­ing love for your work. That’s not hap­pened to me yet, but hav­ing my socks be the sub­ject of sin­cere ad­mi­ra­tion is a fair al­ter­na­tive.

“If you want com­fort­able socks,” he con­tin­ues – after a lit­tle back-and-forth on colour, pat­tern and ori­gin (he favours Amer­i­can-made, I rec­om­mend Korean) – be­fore drop­ping the hook on me: “I have a line of socks my­self . . . The range is called Left Foot by Big Boi. You’ll love it, the de­signs are crazy.”

As half of Outkast, one of the most revered and com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful hip-hop groups of all time, Ant­wan An­dré “Big Boi” Pat­ton has the pres­ence of an ex­pert sales­man, born out of long ex­pe­ri­ence of pro­mot­ing him­self and his ven­tures with the smooth hy­per­bole of a car­ni­val barker. Some­times this brag­gado­cio is com­i­cally en­dear­ing, such as on Kill Jill, the lead sin­gle from his new al­bum Boom

iverse, on which the plain­tively boast­ful re­frain “They say it’s lonely at the top, but it’s the best s**t ever” forms a cru­cial part. When not rep­ping spe­cial­ist footwear, he’s no less hy­per­bolic about the new record, his 12th whether solo or as part of a group.

“The Boomi­verse is like the sci­en­tific con­cept of the big bang,” he says at a lis­ten­ing event that pre­cedes our in­ter­view. “It’s what’s left after the big boom,” he says, im­ply­ing that this re­lease will have an ef­fect on the mu­si­cal land­scape broadly sim­i­lar to the emer­gence of all mat- ter from one in­fin­i­tes­i­mal point of near in­fi­nite heat and mass.

Like su­per­heated cos­mic dust, hip-hop bangers also need time to set­tle. “Some­times you gotta let them mar­i­nate, leave them sim­mer,” he says. “When I work on a record, I work on a whole bunch of songs at the one time. I might put a verse on one track and then move on to an­other. And when I go back and lis­ten to the first, it’ll sound dif­fer­ent to me – I hear some­thing I didn’t hear be­fore. And this can in­spire a dif­fer­ent type of bridge, or a whole new verse, some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent; it’s al­ways an on­go­ing process.”

Teenages­tar

Big Boi has been plat­inum since his teen years with Outkast. The duo put out six al­bums, sell­ing 20 mil­lion records in the process. While his Outkast part­ner, An­dre 3000, had the higher pub­lic stature and the more flam­boy­ant bear­ing, Big Boi was al­ways a crit­ics’ and fans’ dar­ling. While he couldn’t match An­dre in, say, his abil­ity to dress like a fox hunter from The Jet­sons, he more than made up for it with his polyrhyth­mic pat­ter and elas­tic south­ern drawl.

Nowa­days this earthy style de­fines a lot of modern rap, as At­lanta ex­pe­ri­ences a time of supremacy within the art form. At­lanta na­tives such as Mi­gos, Gucci Mane, Lil Yachty and 21 Sav­age dom­i­nate the na­tional stage, while Killer Mike has made Run the Jewels the big­gest tour­ing hip-hop group on earth. Else­where Janelle Monáe is an art-pop cause célèbre, while in 2016 Don­ald Glover’s rap com­edy drama At­lanta took the city as the set­ting for one of the year’s best TV shows. How does Big Boi ex­plain the cul­tural mo­ment his home­town is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing right now?

“For me, the dif­fer­ence with At­lanta is that we work to­gether. There’s a cer­tain sort of broth­er­hood, a pride. None of that in­fight­ing you get else­where. The stu­dios are in one sec­tor of the city and, me hav­ing one my­self, any­one can bump into any­one else, whether in the club or the stu­dio or what­ever and be like, ‘Hey man, we record­ing tonight’, and they’ll be like ‘Oh s**t, we’re com­ing through, then’. When you got peo­ple work­ing to­gether on their songs, and putting out the mag­ni­tude, the qual­ity and volume of records from one place, you’re gonna get a lot of hits out of that. Be­cause there are no egos; peo­ple just come in and wanna jam to­gether.”

This even ex­tends be­yond this mor­tal coil, as Boomi­verse fea­tures a post­hu­mous col­lab­o­ra­tion with late UGK rap­per Pimp C. “My man Cory Mo, who pro­duced records for UGK, brought me South­ern An­them, the song with the Pimp C verse on it. It’s got Gucci [Mane] on there, and then you got me with Pimp – it’s like Clash of the Ti­tans, three of the big­gest voices from the south, and it is nasty, just hard-hit­ting, it beats like a moth­erf***er. And it’s so funky. My man came in wild­ing on an elec­tric gui­tar and that bassline drip­ping syrup on the track. That’s what I call ‘that elite street s**t’.”

Open-door pol­icy

Some­times this open-door pol­icy can lead to mo­ments of un­ex­pected serendip­ity. “Cer­tain things hap­pen by chance,” he says. “The Snoop col­lab­o­ra­tion on Get With It came about be­cause he just hap­pened to be in the stu­dio when I first did that record two years ago. We lis­tened and felt like this was some real

Ant­wan An­dré “Big Boi” Pat­ton has the pres­ence of an ex­pert sales­man, born out of long ex­pe­ri­ence of pro­mot­ing him­self and his ven­tures with the smooth hy­per­bole of a car­ni­val barker

‘The mu­sic is never old – never! This mu­sic is ac­tu­ally far ahead of its time, be­cause we do so much wild s**t. Some of these tracks are years old and, to be hon­est, I still feel like y’all ain’t ready for this s**t’

west coast s**t. And it just so hap­pened that when my dead­line was creep­ing up, he came to the stu­dio, blessed the track and killed it. That’s how things turn about. Like Adam Levine, we got the same man­ager. He heard the record and was like ‘Man, I have to play this for Adam, this is some dance­able s**t, my guy might wanna get down’. Adam loved it and got on the track.”

Big Boi is adamant that his rep­u­ta­tion makes the dif­fer­ence. “The mu­sic is or­gan­i­cally created, never ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied, you know? Peo­ple trust my judg­ment and the qual­ity of mu­sic I put out, so peo­ple want to be a part of it.

“No­body ever says no,” he says, be­fore giv­ing an art­ful ex- am­ple. “Killer Mike will come down, he’ll be on tour with Run the Jewels and he won’t even come home first, he’ll come by the stu­dio, and what­ever’s play­ing, he’ll be like ‘Mind if I try some­thing?’ He writes re­ally fast, and what­ever it is, it’ll be bang­ing. Me and him, we got a lot of stuff to­gether, maybe 40 records wait­ing to come out of the vaults.”

In fact, Big Boi says he has so much ex­tra ma­te­rial recorded,

Boomi­verse is merely the first part of a two-al­bum work. “When I stop this record at last song with Cur­rency and Killer Mike, it ac­tu­ally con­tin­ues on. I could have kept the al­bum play­ing a dozen more tracks and we’d have still been up there jam- ming to the party. But I had to stop it be­cause this is Boom

iverse Side 1, and y’all wait­ing for Side 2. Now, I don’t know if Side 2 will be called Boomi­verse 2 or some­thing else, but it’s com­ing.”

Is there’s a risk that hoard­ing all those tunes could see them get old or dated in the mean­time? Big Boi scoffs at this; he be­lieves the re­verse is more likely true. “Nah man, the mu­sic is never old – never! This mu­sic is ac­tu­ally far ahead of its time, be­cause we do so much wild s**t. Some of these tracks are years old and, to be hon­est, I still feel like y’all ain’t ready for this s**t.”

Photograph: Rick Di­a­mond/Getty Im­age

Big Boi’s stuff “The Boomi­verse is like the sci­en­tific con­cept of the big bang

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.