Eight minutes with Big Boi | Bleader

Friday, June 10, 2011

Eight minutes with Big Boi

Posted By on 06.10.11 at 09:35 AM

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Tuesday night hip-hop trailblazer Big Boi was in Chicago to play a show sponsored by Crown Royal. Before the gig, he conducted a few interviews in a very nice suite at the James Hotel consisting of what seemed to be half conference rooms, half party pads. While waiting for my turn, I helped myself to some really tasty hors d'oeuvres and watched Big Boi's entourage play pool.

Whenever Big Boi finished an interview he'd emit a startlingly loud guffaw that sounded like Nelson Muntz's "haw haw" delivered by someone who was also doing a Paul Bunyan impression. A guy in the entourage rolled his eyes each time. "He's been doing this all day," he said, sighing.

After hearing a couple of these "Viking laughs," as I later learned Big Boi calls them, I had my own one-on-one. Though our conversation was only eight minutes long, it was interesting and fun and managed to cover everything from his massive Kate Bush fandom to his many works in progress to how after almost 20 years in the game he's still absolutely psyched about making music.

Hit the jump to read the transcript:

I just saw recently an article in the New Yorker about the new Kate Bush record and it mentioned that you're on record as being a pretty big Kate Bush fan. It seems like people are surprised sometimes that a rapper is into that wide a range of music.

Because I'm not just a rapper. That's the thing. I'm just a soul funk crusader, man. I happen to be a lyricist, but my top two artists of all time are Kate Bush and Bob Marley, tied for first. I've been listening to Kate Bush since I was in the sixth grade. I got turned on to her by my uncle and I've been a fan ever since. I'm trying to get a collaboration going with her. That's my dream collaboration. Out of anybody in the whole universe, I want to do a song with Kate Bush.

That would probably sound insane.

That would be dope, man. That's what a lot of people are saying about the Modest Mouse records that we just did. It's all about a certain type of energy that you get when two artists come together and kind of morph into one thing instead of being on two separate sides of the fence. Just rapping on something that might be out of character, just making grooves. You gotta jam out.

It seems like you try a lot of different experiments. Is that a way for you to keep excited or keep moving?

Oh yeah, definitely, man. The whole process is experimentation all day long. It's like a mad scientist. From different sounds to sound-effects modules, just to create that ultimate vibe. It'd be easy just to sit in there and go with simple licks or just take somebody's whole song and do a record over it. But to find that new sound, that's where you get the thrill from.

I just did a record with Jimmy Cliff. The legendary Jimmy Cliff. He came out and camped out with us for three days after Modest Mouse did.

What's Jimmy Cliff like as a dude?

Man, he's cool as hell, man. He's 60-some years old but he doesn't looks 60. He jams. He came in and I had a couple of beats for him already and he picked one and went to work, wrote the whole song in one day, and came back and we tweaked it out and it's a jam.

Some of his 60s stuff is so perfect, top to bottom.

He's still phenomenal. Phenomenal. I can't wait for the world to hear.

You've gotten a lot of credit for helping open hip-hop's ears to more sounds and more personalities. And I think you deserve it. It seems like as a solo artist and with Outkast you've really opened up things.

It's all about being an inspiration to somebody, and being inspired, you know? Music is what makes me tick. It's what I love to do. If I'm not on the road touring then I'm in the studio. It's trying to find the thrill of that new sound. To make a song at four in the morning and go to sleep and wake up at four in the afternoon and the shit's still jammin', that's what it's all about.

Music right now, it's not in a perfect state, but there are people out here that making some great music. You can't knock the whole game. My favorites right now, I'm digging Mumford & Sons. Also the group Phoenix that's from France, I love their new stuff. Weeknd. Little Dragon, who's doing production on my new record. They just sent me some bangers.

Could you imagine a time in your life where you'd just hang it up?

Not really, man. The only thing I could see is that they want me in these movies bad. They're sending me so many scripts. I'd act in movies, but I'd score the movies too. But I mean the stage is where it's at. You know George Clinton's over 60 years old and he's still doing 200 dates a year. That's what it’s about. Seeing your fans, that reunion that you get every time you go to a city and you see people that you haven't seen in a year and you're jamming new material, that's what it's about.

[A Crown Royal rep pokes his head into the room to tell us we have just a couple of questions left, and to ask us to talk about Crown Royal's Crown Life promotion.]

So, um, lay it on me.

[Big Boi collapses into a fit of giggles.]

Oh shit!

[He regains his composure and turns to the bottle of Crown Royal Black on the table between us, which sits in a black velvet bag adorned with a silver embroidered crest.]

The Crown Life, it's a collaboration I did with Crown Royal Black. What I liked about it is that I gave the bag a fresh new look. You know the original, the purple and gold? They let me give it my own spin, so I gave it the Lucious Left Foot crest.

Did you get to pick out the fabric of the bag?

They picked the fabric out. I ain't picked the fabric.

It looks pretty dope.

I appreciate it.

I know you do a lot for your fans. A friend of mine, when you were playing Pitchfork Festival, you walked by him on your way to the stage and he wanted to take a picture and your manager was like "You gotta get onstage" and you were like "I gotta do this picture."

It's not like I'm going to see you tomorrow. [Laughs.] That's how I approach it. Man, these are the fans.

What do you get back from them?

It's a lot. From personal stories to suggestions about the music, or they tell you what their favorites are. It's almost like a survey you just get automatically when you see your fans. Certain things stick with you. Like, I could tell you now that 80 to 90 percent of Outkast fans' favorite Outkast album is ATLiens.

[He cuts loose with a very loud Viking laugh.]

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