Outkast's Big Boi Shines Solo at Brooklyn Bowl
BY MEGHAN BLALOCK
Big Boi reads his own Twitter feed.
I know this because I’m sitting next to him on his tour bus after an incredible Labor Day show at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, watching him retrieve his iPhone from his pocket so he can accurately list the artists he’s currently listening to. After sliding his thumb across the screen to unlock, it opens to his Twitter feed. I can’t quite make out the exact number of loading news feed items and “@” replies he has left to read, but it’s clearly a lot.
Just a couple hours earlier, I stood in the crowd as he opened with a medley that incorporated a little-known song from the 2003 album Speakerboxx (easily the sound track of my senior year of high school) before his DJ spun through a few more songs and into “Rosa Parks.” Already bursting with energy, the crowd grew ecstatic to the chorus of “un-huh, baby.” “Big,” as his friends affectionately refer to him, plowed through without missing a beat.
At rap shows it’s not uncommon for the verses to get buried beneath a symphony of synth melodies and 808 bass drops, and Monday night was, to a certain degree, no exception. I was standing near a large speaker, and I found myself lost in several glorious hip-hop moments—the kind that cause an entire mass of people to bang their deuces and their heads in unison. Then I would look up to the stage—during tracks like “So Fresh, So Clean,” “Bombs Over Baghdad,” “Ghettomusick” and “The Way You Move”—and see Big grinning from ear to ear, mic gripped in his right hand, spitting verses tirelessly. His eyes, concealed by his trademark “A” cap and sunglasses, were no doubt sparkling.
A shining moment came during “Daddy Fat Sax,” the second track on his solo debut album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, which debuted in July. Suddenly the DJ lay back, the bass disappeared and C-Bone, a longtime member of Big Boi’s label, Purple Ribbon, who had been Big’s backup, grew silent. Big was all by himself as the lights dimmed and a spotlight shone on the man who put out arguably the best rap album so far this year. He spat one of the last verses of the song at twice the speed it appears on the album. The crowd stood in awe. Then, from the collective gut of a room filled with people of all races and ages and with one thing in common—a true love for Outkast, Big Boi, funk and amazing music—came a pure, raw scream.
After the show I found myself standing outside Big’s tour bus. I had a notepad and a recorder in my hand, and a photographer at my side. Soon a man emerged and escorted me onto the bus. Big was sitting with his wife, Sherlita, and his son Cross Patton, who had basically stolen the show with his dance moves during several of his dad’s songs. Now he was sitting with one leg tucked beneath him, absorbed in a handheld video game. Everyone smiled at me as I shook Big’s hand and introduced myself.
GOTHAM: How did the show feel? How was the audience?
BIG BOI: It felt good! It always feels good. It’s like a family reunion whenever I get on stage. We have legions and legions of fans, so to get up there and have a chance to do new material as well as classics—it’s good energy, good vibrations all around.
You’ve gotten nothing but amazing reviews for your album. How does it feel to put out a solo effort and have everyone rave?
It feels great, you know what I’m saying? When you work a couple of years on something and put your heart and soul in it…for it to be appreciated by the fans and just people that dig music, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about spreading the funk and keeping the funk alive and just keeping integrity inside the music. For the critics to love it and the fans to dig it, it’s just motivation to go back in and do some more.
How long did it take you to finish it?
Two years plus. I could have probably done it in a year and a half, but due to differences between me and the label, we had a lot of red tape. But everything worked out. Now I’m at Def Jam with a three-album deal—this is the first one—and you know, just havin’ fun. I’m still signed as Outkast to Jive Records, so I got two deals. So it’s all about just putting out ideas and flushing music out to the people.
What mainly inspired you for this album?
Life, you know? Every album is inspired by life experiences. Just to get back in the studio and have fun—music is really what makes me tick, and to create the perfect groove or just have that perfect batch of funk, that’s how I get off. To be able to share that with the world is a gift. I’m gonna keep recording and having fun, and as long as people wanna keep hearing it, I’m gonna keep giving it to ’em.
What’s your favorite song on the album?
It changes from day to day. Today? My favorite song today might be, um, “Tangerine.” Maybe.
I love “Tangerine.”
“Tangerine” is a good song. “Tangerine,” “Fo Yo Sorrows,” “You Ain’t No DJ.” It just changes from day to day, it depends on what mood you’re in. The whole body of work, to be able to play the whole unit from beginning to end, is what it’s all about. For sure.
My favorite song on the album is “Hustle Blood.” It’s slow, smooth—more of a jam. How did your collaboration with Jamie Foxx come about?
I got the beat from Lil’ Jon about five or six years ago. He does a lot of recording in our studios, Stankonia Studios, so I had the beats, like, five years before I even recorded on it. I was just looking for the perfect person to do it. I hooked up with Sean Garrett, actually, and he wrote Jamie Foxx’s lyrics for it. I came in, annihilated the verses, and we brought Jamie Foxx in. Just really telling it from a hustler’s point of view, like almost: Daddy don’t want his daughter to get involved with a hustla, ’cuz you know how that can get.
What’s on your iPod right now?
I’m listening to some Little Dragon, some MGMT, some new Bun B., listening to a little bit of everything. A little Metallica. Let me look at my phone—I got a little somethin’ of everything on here. I just switch it up. Some Air, Alice in Chains, Anthony Hamilton, some Björk, Bob Marley, Brandy, Coldplay, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Funkadelic, George Benson, Gil Scott-Heron. It’s just a hodgepodge, you know what I’m sayin? I listen to everything.
How has your experience in New York been overall?
I love New York, the birthplace of hip-hop. Just being a pioneer and a leader in the art form, it’s good to come to the heartland where it was all at, and rock and get love from the crowd like we were from here. It’s all about love and positive vibrations. That’s all it’s about.
I wanted to do something fun with you—a word association game. So I’ll say a word, and I’m gonna do 10 of them, and you just say whatever word comes to your mind first.
Don’t waste it.
For Big Boi tour dates, visit here.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JENNY ANDERSON
Gotham Magazine hosted its latest issue featuring the current cast of Saturday Night Live at the Four Seasons Hotel on Monday, February 23.