Former Outkast member turned solo artist, Big Boi says he loves playing the old hits, but ask him to reminisce about his days touring with Andre 3000, and he’s likely to give you the cold shoulder.
And why shouldn’t he? It’s been a decade since Outkast released an album together, and Big Boi has two critically acclaimed solo albums to his credit.
Still, when Daddy Fat Sax rolls through Charlottesville to play UVA’s Springfest show on April 20, expect there to be plenty of Outkast to go around. Among other things, he told C-VILLE by phone that he’d play “everything the fans want to hear.”
C-VILLE: I want to start by talking a little about Charlottesville. Have you ever been?
Big Boi: “I’m not sure that I have. I mean, I’ve been to Virginia, but I’m not sure that I’ve been to Charlottesville.”
Obviously hip-hop has a history of having fans in college towns. Is that one of the reasons you’re playing here?
“Yeah, I play really all around, but definitely colleges are some of my main venues that I do play by request, and we come through and just jam.”
I know you’re not real political with your rhymes, but occasionally you’ll drop something in. What’s on your mind these days?
“People have to get out there and use the internet and really find the news. On social media, whenever I find pertinent information, I throw it out there for people to read, whether it’s something that has to do with the planet or police brutality.”
Tell me about the Springfest show. Any surprises, any hints at the setlist?
“What I like to do is, I go all the way from Southernplayalistic all the way up to Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.”
“I like to get the crowd and put them in a time machine, and we hyper-jump from era to era and just jam. It’ll probably be about an hour and 15, hour and 20-minute set with the band, and it’s just high energy.”
Singers can sing in different styles, but rappers have to rap. What do you do to keep things interesting?
“As a songwriter, you have to do all aspects of it. It’s not just rapping. You rap, you sing, you use your funk throat, you groove and you vibe.”
“That’s one thing I just hate about certain artists—they sound the same on every song, the same cadence, the same beat, the same 808s, and they talk about the same shit. I hate that. I like every song on my record to sound different.”
On the B-sides of Vicious Lies you get into some singing and more soulful stuff.
“Coming up, I listened to everything, so everything plays a part in the music. There’s no boundaries. There’s no genre that can’t be touched. Whatever the groove inspires, that’s what you give ’em.”
“For me, it’s about making a whole complete body of work where you can push play and let the whole album play out. Nowadays music is too single driven.”
A lot of hip-hop artists over the years come up with alter egos. Where does Sir Lucious, the character you introduced in your first solo album, fit?
“It’s all nicknames for different states of mind. Everybody has different personalities. One day you feel a certain way, the next day you might feel another kind of way. To really get into different character modes, it’s fun. It’s role-playing almost.”
On the new album, you have several collaborations. Is genre fusion something that has become important to you?
“It’s always been there. You bring [other musicians] into your world. For this particular record, I toured with a lot of the guys like Phantogram and Little Dragon, and I invited them back to Stankonia after the tours and we created great stuff. I just like to jam.”
How has getting older affected your writing? What inspires you now that didn’t when you were just a dope boy in a Cadillac?
“Every album is like a time capsule. Music is almost like your personal diary. It’s about emotions and feelings, and it’s just all expressed through sound.”
“As you live, you go through different things. The way different things affect your life affects the way you write. With me, I guess it is more personal now. It’s not so generalized.”
What are you working on now?
“I’m just working on songs. I’ve been in the studio stockpiling records. I’m going to do some film and TV stuff later on in the year after I finish a couple legs of this tour. I just want to have the music ready to quench the thirst of the listeners. So yeah, we are really working it.”
What kind of hip-hop do you listen to these days?
“I have maybe 13,000 songs on my iPod, so there is nothing specifically I’m listening to. I listen to a little bit of everything. I like jams basically. Anything might come on, from Johnny Cash to the Eurythmics, Hall & Oates, The Isley Brothers, Kool and The Gang, Diana Ross. I keep it on shuffle.”
What are you going to do other than the show when you’re in Charlottesville?
“Just get out and see what’s going on in the city. I’d like to check out some soul food joints, maybe a couple bars. We’re gonna invade the city.”