During the past couple years, Outkast's Andre 3000 has been making headlines and G.O.A.T. lists (rightfully) by returning to rhyming form. His partner Big Boi never stopped being a consistently excellent MC, but since it's easy to take consistency for granted, recently Big Boi has played Jan Brady to Andre's Marcia. It turns out that's just fine by Big Boi. He says, "I just don't need attention. That's not what I want. I just want people to hear what I'm saying."
Big Boi will get his wish with the release of his first official solo album, Sir Luscious Left Foot ... Son of Chico Dusty, which comes out via La Face/Zomba this fall. It features production from Big Boi himself as well as longtime Outkast collaborators Organized Noize, Scott Storch, and Lil Jon, as well as guest spots from Andre 3000 and Raekwon (on "Royal Flush"), Mary J. Blige (on "Something's Gotta Give"), George Clinton, T.I., and Too $hort.
In a recent phone conversation, I talked to Big Boi about Sir Luscious Left Foot, the writing process, the next Outkast album, and "Big", his show with the Atlanta Ballet. He also shared the not-so-guilty pleasure of listening to Conway Twitty.
Pitchfork: How are you doing?
Big Boi: I'm doing better than excellent. How you doing?
Pitchfork: Very well. Tell me about Sir Luscious Left Foot.
BB: Sir Luscious Left Foot is just the grown version of Big Boi. I started out young-- 15, 16 in the game-- and now I'm older, so I'm your knight in rhyming armor. I got my knighthood and am just, lyrically and musically, as sharp as I want to be right now. So he's fierce about his music and takes it dead seriously. That's why you've got to address him as "Sir" Luscious.
Pitchfork: Are Daddy Fat Sacks or any of your other alter egos on the album?
BB: You also got Daddy Fat Sacks, he's on the album. Also, General Patton's on there as well, but, you know, Luscious is gonna take the forefront this time, just to let 'em know what's going on.
Pitchfork: Do you actually differentiate between these personas?
BB: No, Dre's [Andre 3000 --Ed.] been doing it for years. It's just different personas and different moods, actually, when you feel different ways. It's just different parts of you. I mean, I might be borderline schizophrenic sometimes...
BB: You never know. This is where we're at right now.
Pitchfork: Who are some of the guests and producers on the record? I know you worked with Organized Noize a little bit, right?
BB: Always, with every album. We always work with Organized Noize. I actually got a chance to co-produce with them on the songs that they did on this record. I co-produced the whole record with all the producers. I mainly wanted to focus on the lyrical content and the melodies and things, so I co-produced. Some songs I produced with the producers that are in my stable with Boom Boom Room Productions. I got production from newcomer Scott Storch and also Lil Jon. Those are the DJs on there. You know, the usual suspects. I just threw in Storch and Lil Jon because they had specific tracks that they had tailor-made for me and just been holding.
As far as artists that I've worked with on this album, of course Raekwon and Andre. Mary J. Blige on "Something's Gotta Give". I did a song with T.I. that's crazy, for the ladies. I also did a song with George Clinton and Too $hort. That shit's funky. It's called "Fo' Your Sorrows". It's gonna be like a cannabis cup anthem. What else we got on the album? Dungeon Family, most definitely. But, you know, it's mostly just me, bustin', killin' shit.
Pitchfork: Do you ever get writer's block?
BB: Sometimes. Yeah, sometimes you do get writer's block. This album right here took-- I started picking out the beats for it like four years ago, and I started recording actual lyrics 19 months ago. I started on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday just for that power and that spirit.
Sometimes it pours out, and sometimes you've got to drop with it. It's gonna take longer when you're slow-cookin' it, like soul food, you know? Anybody can easily go in the studio in three months, throw together some bullshit, have one or two songs, and the rest of it be some bullshit and do that. But we take pride in the music that we make and making albums that you can push play from the beginning and just let that shit ride.
Pitchfork: So you do write? You're not one of those guys who takes pride in going into the booth and spitting everything off the dome?
BB: A lot of times, that is a bunch of bullshit. I mean, you can tell when shit comes spit straight off the dome because it's like, [affects funny voice] "What are you talkin' about?"
BB: [Laughs] Yeah, it definitely takes time, thought, and effort to put into these songs that we write.
Pitchfork: Have you ever had a notebook stolen?
BB: No, never had a notebook stolen.
Pitchfork: Do you keep your stuff in notebooks?
BB: I keep them. I mean, pieces of tissue, any little piece of paper-- I might have ideas and write them down on just about anything. We got the studio Stankonia in Atlanta, and when I finish a session, I just lock everything in the vault.
Pitchfork: A lot of your best lyrics tend to be narrative, like your verse on "Spottieottiedopaliscious". Have you ever thought to yourself, "I'm out of stories," or "I forgot how to tell a good story"? Do you ever feel a temporary blank like that?
BB: Sometimes your mind might go blank, but you don't forget how to do it. You might not feel it on certain days, but you never forget because it's a God-given talent. It's just like, when you feel it, you feel it, and you go and record. The beauty of having a studio is I can go in and record any time I want to, so you can always put down your ideas or whatever. You use your voice recorder and, you know, take your voice notes down and just preserve all the little jewels and gems when you're in there, putting that song together.
Pitchfork: What do you consider to be the elements of a good story?
BB: The elements of a good story are most definitely details, little bitty details. That does it, especially when you're describing, when you're setting the scene and everything. It's like you're painting a picture, so details are very important. Also, the music gotta be right. The music can really set the tone for the story and let you know what the story is gonna be about, but definitely, it's the vibe in the place where you at and the detail.
Pitchfork: When you're starting to write, what do you do to get your creative juices flowing? What music do you listen to? Do you read?
BB: Of course. Me, personally, I don't listen to a lot of rap music. I listen to a lot of old school rap music, or I really listen to things like Bob Marley. I'm a Kate Bush fan. She's like number one on my list. She's my favorite. Anything from Guns N' Roses all the way down to Too $hort, Geto Boys, UGK-- I listen to stuff like that. Right now, I definitely listen to some Jeffrey Osborne. I listen to a lot of old soul and funk music.
Pitchfork: You're not a fan of any really embarrassing show tunes or anything like that?
BB: I don't know, maybe Conway Twitty. I listen to some Conway Twitty, but that's not really embarrassing because to get your dick sucked to a Conway Twitty record is something else.
Pitchfork: [Laughs] I can imagine.
BB: [Sings "Hello Darlin'"] "Hello darlin'/ How ya doing?/ I'm doing just fi-iiine!" [Laughs] That's how you do it! I like to have fun in my life. I don't know what these other dudes are doing out here, but I like to have fun.
Pitchfork: What's the last good thing you read?
BB: The last good thing I read was, I guess the newspaper. I was reading-- in Atlanta they were talking about this whole construction thing they've got going on downtown that has been causing a lot of traffic jams and stuff like that, and, you know, just trying to see what's going on in my city for a minute.
Pitchfork: That makes sense, since you've said your record is going to address things like the recession and gas prices and stuff like that, right?
BB: I mean, just on a song or so. My album is not about the recession. I don't know. Someone took that quote and ran with it. Somebody needs to slap the fuck out of whoever said that. I did an interview for another publication, and they heard the song with me and Mary [J. Blige], "Something's Gotta Give", and they was like, "Hey man, this song is like a recession special." And I was like, "Word, that's dope," but then somebody else took it and was like, "My album is a recession special."
We jamming the whole way, you know. You can't be preachy. I hate being preachy. Nobody wants to hear somebody being preachy. It's all about really educating people on what's happening, but we do it in such a specific way. If you ever really got any Outkast albums, you'd know how we do it. The record is all over the place. It's like different songs you take different things from.
Pitchfork: A lot of the Outkast albums tend to be really long. Have you ever thought about releasing a shorter one?
BB: It just depends, man. It's like: whenever it's done, it's done, depending on how many songs and how long the songs are and all. It's like a feeling that it's complete, that you've covered everything you wanted to speak about and gotten your whole complete thought out. We don't try to make them purposefully long. But I think my album is a little bit over an hour long, and it's great.
Pitchfork: You have your solo record coming out, and then Andre's got his solo record coming out...
BB: And then we're going to put out the next Outkast album. That's the plan. That's definitely the plan. At the same time, when I turn this record in right here, while Dre's working on his solo album, I'll be working with the Outkast album and, also, probably starting on my next album after this one. It's like you've got so many thoughts and feelings and emotions, you want to get them all out. And you just record while you feel it. So there's going to be plenty of music coming from us in the coming years. Believe that.
Pitchfork: When it comes to Outkast, it seems like Andre's been getting most of the attention recently. Do you feel underrated by people?
BB: Not really underrated. I just play the back, you know? I've never really come out with my own thing nor was one to date the famous girl. I always got my own girl, my own life. My family life really took a front seat to all this stuff. I love making music, and I go out and do shows and stuff, but I'm not seen on the scene like that because I don't really get out like that.
Pitchfork: Speaking of your kids, did they see "Big", the performance you did with the Atlanta Ballet?
BB: You damn right they saw it.
Pitchfork: Did they like it?
BB: They loved it, just like everybody else did. Six shows, standing ovations every night. That was another barrier that was kicked down, another door that was blasted open by the B-I-G, and we're going to take that on the road, worldwide, as well. I do things, but I just don't need attention. That's not what I want. I just want people to hear what I'm saying. I guess when I put this record out then they'll see what's really going on, what's happening. Did you see the ballet?
Pitchfork: I only saw YouTube clips.
BB: You really had to be there, man, because if you wasn't there, you wasn't really knowing. It was definitely all the way me, and the dancers were just choreographed to my music, which was great because both music and dance are forms of art and expression, and we put them together to make one funky-ass movement. I had fun.
Pitchfork: Did you do any dancing yourself?
BB: The same sort of dancing I do onstage at a concert. There was nothing choreographed for me. I think the only time I ever really interacted with the dancers was when they lifted me up high and put me on my throne. That was fun.
Pitchfork: You had an actual throne?
BB: Yeah, it was high up on the wall, and at the end of the set-- I think it was after we did "B.O.B."-- everybody comes and grabs me and whisks me away to the back wall and puts me on the throne.
Pitchfork: Did you get to talk to any of the dancers? Were they fans?
BB: They were definitely big fans. We've been around here for a minute, so we've got some people that grew up on our music that are die-hard fans. We got a chance to have a little mixer, like when I was doing rehearsals, the whole ballet troupe came out to my band rehearsals and kind of jammed, and my band and the ballet all became like family. After we did the last show in Atlanta we threw a big party at Stankonia, and it was like everyone is fam right now.
Pitchfork: It must be strange to go from rapping with your best friend in high school to hanging out with a ballet troupe who's performing your songs.
BB: Not really, because people are people. It just depends on who's in the room. I still hang out with my buddies and everything, and the whole ballet thing, that was something experimental and groundbreaking. I documented the whole thing, DVD-style, and I closed the ballet out with one of the songs from [Sir Luscious Left Foot]. There's going to be a live version of that that I'm going out put out for the fans real soon.
Pitchfork: Is it going to be a single?
BB: It may be. I have like 10 singles on a 15-song album, maybe 14.
Pitchfork: So this is your Thriller, basically?
BB: Not really. It's just dope, just to see it, because it's never been done like that.
Pitchfork: Your career has been such a wild ride.
BB: It's great, man, if it's you, if you're true to it. I love it: people being themselves. That's the problem right now: You've got a lot of people out here acting like somebody else.
Pitchfork: I wanted to ask you about your acting career. People talk about Idlewild, but I'm actually more interested in the not-directly-Outkast-related movies. You played the hero in Who's Your Caddy? and a villain in ATL. What's next? Is there a next? Do you like that stuff?
BB: Oh yeah, most definitely. And Hollywood's been calling. The phone's been ringing off the hook ever since I did Idlewild. Who's Your Caddy? was a funny-as-hell movie.
Pitchfork: What I've seen was really funny.
BB: It's ridiculous. You've got to watch the whole thing. It's hilarious as a motherfucker. I actually put the movies on hold so I could finish my record, but as soon as I get the album out and get out here touring and really talking to people, kissing the babies and shaking hands... I've got a couple of projects lined up, and I'm definitely going to be back on the big screen and on the small screen, so y'all just look forward and stay informed and in tune with what Big Boi's doing. 'Cause I'ma stay in your baby mama's jaw, you know what I'm talking about?