Big Boi's organic creations
The ATLien talks about his quest for originality, collaboration, and Stankonia's bowling team
Big Boi hasn't slowed down since releasing his masterful solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot, in July 2010. The one-time OutKast wordsmith has toured throughout the world for the better part of the past two years, playing everywhere from international festivals such as Glastonbury in the U.K. to college homecoming shows at the Tabernacle.
Along the way, Big Boi has slowly pieced together his lush, nuanced follow-up record, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. For his latest 14-song effort, he tapped the old Dungeon Family vanguard as well as some of indie rock's most promising talents. As a result, he's connected Killer Mike to Little Dragon, paired B.o.B with Wavves, and hooked up A$AP Rocky and Phantogram on respective tracks. It's this fusion of retro sonic styling and fresh faces that colors Big Boi's workmanlike consistency on Vicious Lies, which he frequently refers to as being "organically created" and "never genetically modified." Before dropping Vicious Lies on Dec. 11, Big Boi took a few minutes to talk about the album's creation, as well as his fascination with Kate Bush and Mumford & Sons.
You've mentioned this idea of "building a house" on Vicious Lies, constructing a whole album from start to finish. At the same time, you've been on the road for the past two years. Does your live show ever inform your recording process?
Not really, I just look forward to performing the songs — you know what I'm saying? I like to mix songs first and then see where they fall when the songs line up, like it'd be cool to, you know, put them in a show. Like you said, as the show being a medley, when you've got a catalogue that spans 20 years, all the people want to hear some of everything. It's going to be kind of crazy, with this record in particular, to squeeze all these songs into the same set, like an hour-and-a-half set.
OutKast's 20-year anniversary is approaching. What's similar and what's different in your musical approach?
It's digital mostly, it's instant. I can record a song tonight and mix it and have it on the radio by the morning if I wanted to. The studio is automatic because the simple fact of me using social media ... everything is so quick. You just really got to have the bullets in a row. As far as writing things, you just have to go in and do it. That's what I do. I don't want no two songs on my album to sound alike. It's like a lock and safe, and trying to get that perfect combination. When you find it, it's very gratifying.
How do you know which collaborations are the right ones?
There's a certain vibe you get, I mean, there's some artists where everything's organically created, never genetically modified. I get in a certain creative space with certain artists, I love Little Dragon's music. I love Phantogram's music. I love A$AP's stuff. T.I. and Luda, I've got major respect for. I either have to be a fan of your music or it just has to be some kind of magical moment.
You ran into A$AP Rocky at V-103's studio. Had you heard of him before then and how did you end up working together from there?
My Godbrother showed me some videos. I was looking at some of his stuff and I was like, damn, he sounds like he's from Texas ... that Goldie record, this shit is banging. I bumped into him at the radio station and he wanted to come jam and within a couple hours of me meeting him he was in the booth working on my album.
He's 24 and B.o.B's 24. When OutKast released their first record they both were relatively young, and were probably looking up to you and Andre 3000.
We were 17 on our first record. 17 and 18.
What's it like working with artists looking up to you? I'm sure you've done it in the past, but probably the age gap is more so than at any other point.
There's no such thing as an age gap. I think there's a seniority rank type of thing, where they grew up on the music so they already know my music and respect what I do and to be working with me. I'm honored to work with them just as they are honored to work with me. There's a mutual respect. Me? I still consider myself a student in the game. I'm always learning and it's just cool to have artists out here that admire what you're doing and you can put them in a certain light when people haven't heard of them before.
You also have the Dungeon Family regulars on Vicious Lies. Obviously, you'll never distance yourself fully from Dungeon Family, but to what degree do you want them on your records? Does that feeling ever waver?
It's always Dungeon Family for life, you know? I always work with Organized Noize on every record. You got Killer Mike, you got Sleepy Brown on this record all day long. ... The Family is so spread out, you have Cee Lo Green who's in L.A. and you got Dre who's off shooting a movie and things like that, so it's who comes by the studio. It just naturally happens. It's Dungeon Family for life, I could never distance myself from the Family, all you got is your family.
I didn't mean ditching your family, but you're talking about this driving factor of not making the same thing twice.
No, I dig that, but I mean, it's a different type of record. If it calls for it, they can be on it. But Vicious Lies sounds totally different than what we've done before.
How important is it for you, as the whole Family grows and continues their separate ways, to help promote Killer Mike like you've done or everyone else's music that isn't as big as you?
It's definitely important to work together. Killer Mike was just at my house last night. ... He was coming around and hanging out. That's how we made "Tom Pettie" with Little Dragon — he was around the studio the time we were recording. To anybody in the Family that's keeping the sound going and that just wants to work, man I'm here. My door is always open if anyone wants to come through and jam.
Obviously a lot of rumored collaborators made the final record, but what happened with Kate Bush? Did anything ever come to light with that?
Actually, I sent Kate Bush "Tremendous Damage" and another song called "Green Grass," which was probably going to be on my next album. She loves them, and we're just waiting for a chance to go to London and have a sit down with her and have crumpets and tea so we can kind of get more familiar with each other. Hopefully in the near future that can happen — we're just looking for that little tea date.
Are there any others artists out there that you still haven't worked with that you would like to, besides Kate?
Shit, only Kate. Only Kate.
Recently, there was a video posted of you bowling with Little Dragon. Who's the best bowler out of the group?
I am, of course laughs. You know I got the highest average on the bowling team. We bowl in the league every Wednesday. That's one thing I do to feel camaraderie among the people, the engineers, and the producers. We have to respect the bowling team, and so once we're working on a project or in between two days or whatever. We always bowl, and that just builds a team spirit.
What does Big Boi bowl on average? Over 200?
About a 180.
180, That's not bad.
I got my own ball and my own shoes. I ain't too savvy, you know, but I do a little something, something.
What are some of your favorite records this year, besides from artists that you worked with on your record?
"All Gold Everything" off of Don't Be S.A.F.E. - anything that Trinidad James did, loved that. But one of my favorite albums out this year is Mumford & Sons' Babel. I loved that album.
Really? Were you a fan of the last album, Sigh No More? What about them appeals to you?
Definitely, the first album was my jam actually. I can remember the first time me hearing the whole album, my grandmother who gave me the title [for Vicious Lies in my car. We were in a funeral procession and I was listening to the Sigh No More record and like it just kind of blew me away. So definitely when Babel came out, I went and got that.
I actually ran into Mumford & Sons at Glastonbury. I was trying to get some work done, and you know in the near future, who knows?
Last question for you — I know you tweet about the Falcons a lot. What are your expectations for the Falcons moving forward?
As long as they play in the A, in the Dome, they can get us all the way to the Super Bowl. You can't help but score touchdowns, catch passes, and run 10 yards for a first down ... every time they hear that record playing, you know. We sent the music to the Dome and to Philips Arena for the Hawks, too, so hopefully we get a couple winning seasons out of this music.
I hope that happens. Who's your favorite player, out of curiosity?
Right now? Coach Mike Smith laughs. He's got five winning seasons in a row with the Falcons, he broke franchise history, he knows how to coach.