Words by Phelps
One half of Outkast, inarguably the most successful hip-hop duo of all time, will take the stage at Howard Theater tonight as Big Boi rolls through town in support of 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. You wouldn’t blame Andre “Big Boi” Patton for resting on the critical and commercial success he’s enjoyed with 21 platinum records over 2 decades, but hits the road with the fervor of someone with 21 mixtape tracks out and something to prove. While he predictably dodged any questions about an Outkast reunion during our brief conversation, he was cheerful about it and seemed more interested in the solo records he’s been working on for the past 7 years than albums he made as a teenager. As fans, we’ll have to accept Big Boi pushing the envelope musically in as many different directions as he can and forget about the nostalgia for now – unless Marcus Mumford comes calling.
Next April is the 20th anniversary of the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmusik – is that something you’ve been reflecting on lately?
Hell yeah man, it’s crazy you know? Twenty years later and still makin’ some of the coldest music on the planet. We started out, fifteen-years-old, and with all these years we still getting better and better with time.
1994 is considered one of the biggest years in hip-hop ever with you and Dre’s Outkast release, Nas’ Illmatic, Biggie and more – and Nas is performing with the National Symphony Orchestra next spring to celebrate his work. Who would you choose to be your backing bad for something like that?
Mumford and Sons! Hell yeah, put a different twist on it! Them boys be jammin’ live, they’re one of my favorite bands.
You’ve been working with bands you meet out at festivals like Phantogram, Wavves – how do these collaborations originate?
Well, everybody’s in one space, it’s like a family and I’ll go around and watch the performances. Then you’ll meet them at lunch or dinner or whatever and come across people who might be fans of the music. I just invite ’em back to Stankonia!
Down in Atlanta?
I know you had to take a break with the leg injury in the spring and stopped touring. Were you recording at all during that time?
Yea, I’m in the gym as we speak right no on this bike. I’m biking like seven or eight miles a day, gettin’ back into the swing of things. The recording process is continuous, you know? I stopped doing shows for week or two but I’ve been really booked. I’m on the road now finishing the Shoes for Running tour, I’ve been in the studio with Organized Noize and workin’ on some new shit.
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors was a collaboration with many different producers – is that your preferred method at this point or would you consider doing an all Organized Noize record or a record with just one producer?
It’s whatever man with me, the album process is experimentation. It’s like building a Frankenstein, so whatever it costs I’m open to work with just about anybody. It just depends on what the vibe is, you know what I mean? That’s how you come out with the dopest shit, you just experiment and try new things.
It took a minute for Sir Luscious Left Foot to be released after issues with the label but things seem to be going smoother now. As half of the most successful duo in hip-hop history, are you happy with the terms of your success as a solo artist?
It’s been a lot of fun, you know? The name of the game is rockin’ concerts. You put the music out, there’s so many avenues to put it out, and my favorite part of it is the live concerts. I’m playing five-thousand seat venues to fifty, sixty, seventy-thousand people at a festival and that’s what it’s about. Putting the music in front of as many ears as possible, you know what I’m saying?
Is that what keeps you motivated? Why are you still grinding on tours and putting records out?
It makes me happy! You know? Music is what makes me tick, it’s what I’ve been put on earth to do, it’s God’s gift and I just want to share it with the world. If I don’t make or listen to music for long periods of time I tend to get depressed. Music is definitely the soundtrack to my life and something that fulfills my spirit.
Will we see another record in 2013?
Ummmmmmm not a whole record but you gon’ get some more music. Probably get a whole album next year, it’s coming along nicely, got a ton of music in Stankonia. My first two albums could have been double CDs, put it that way!
How do you feel about the state of Atlanta hip-hop right now, for instance young groups like Migos on the mixtape circuit or a veteran like 2 Chainz?
Man, I just embrace, applaud and congratulate everybody. Anybody who’s doin’ their thing and making the music they love to make, that’s great! Everybody’s not gonna’ make the same type of music but the brotherhood is big, I’m always congratulatin’.
Do you think it’s out of the question you’ll do something special for the 20th anniversary of your first record?
Man, next question! (laughs)
You’ve played DC several times over the last few years, is there anything special about the city for you in terms of its history or some significance of playing at the restored Howard Theater?
The Howard Theater, actually, is the first place we ever performed outside of Atlanta. Biggie Smalls opened up for us, right when we first came out, first gig. Almost 20 years ago man!