Big Boi Breaks Down Entire Outkast Catalog

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t’s a challenging predicament that sooner or later all the greats must stare down. How do you live up to the grandiose, groundbreaking achievements of your past? If you’re Outkast’s Big Boi, you stick to your guns through label battles, industry doubt and ever-evolving musical tastes and release one of 2010’s most intriguing works. The fact that the sonically and lyrically rich Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty can be mentioned with the classic likes of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Aquemeni, Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below without a hint of sarcasm is an achievement within itself. Big Boi proves that he can more than carry the artistic load without his universally lauded partner Andre 3000. But the long journey to his surprising coup still must be told. Big Boi takes you behind the Outkast curtain and beyond. —Keith Murphy

 

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)

“This was boot camp for myself and Dre. On our first record we were strictly MC’s. All we wanted to do was rap [laughs]. Organized Noize was responsible for all our production, so our whole aim mainly was to let everyone know that we were about lyricism. We just wanted to annihilate every track; destroy every song that was put in front of us. I don’t think we understood how good we were. We were so young. But we knew we had a raw camp and there were niggas who were dead serious about their art.” 

ATLiens (1996) 

“This is the album where Outkast started getting into the production side of things. There was a lot of experimenting with beats and of course we were still working with Organize Noize. We were on the road two years before ATLiens was released, so we didn’t have a lot of studio time. After the tour, we camped out at a hotel and then jumped back into the Dungeon studio to start work on the album. You could hear the natural progression.

We were serious about our craft and niggas were getting better with expressing themselves. We started to get a little respect from the East and the West Coast. But there was still that little stigma of, ‘Yeah, all those dudes from the south can’t rap, except for Outkast [laughs].’  ATLiens was a darker album. It was harder and represented more so myself and Dre’s style. I think the best moment on there is “Mainstream.” Khujo Goodie and T-Mo [from Goodie Mob] killed it. When I think about this album I always remember wintertime, which was our favorite season to record. We were in this little pod of a basement studio in Atlanta just being absorbed by the music.”

Aquemini (1998)

“Aquemini was the last album in which we were in the studio together, all the time. By then we had started mastering our own production. I would start doing things on my own and Dre would start doing things on his own, so we had more to bring to the table. That individuality became more [prominent] on the next album. But you know what was crazy? Shooting that “Rosa Parks” video. It was a family affair because we had everybody out there including Dre’s future father-in-law, pastor Hodo, who played the harmonica.

Then we had our dancers, The Crowd Pleasers, to come out and support. When you have high power music like that, it makes people want to move in different kinds of ways. Just to showcase different styles of Atlanta dancing, we were all about that. We used to do the talent shows at the high schools and dancing was a big part of the whole music culture in Atlanta from the Bankhead Bounce on out. That shit was crunk! To me that’s what hip-hop is all about: dancing, graffiti art, DJing and rhyming. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that our image matched the energy of the music. This is when Dre started experimenting with his clothes. His thing was ‘I want to look like the music.’ He was all about making his look more psychedelic and having fun with it. Style is all about personal preference. We didn’t give a fuck what people were saying about how we dressed.” 

Stankonia (2000)“Stankonia represented a wild time for us. We were coming into 1999 and we thought the world was going to end, so we were like, ‘Fuck it…we are going all out!’ You can hear that on “B.O.B.” The first time I heard that track, it made me feel a certain way. It’s unexplainable. The time changes in the song sent shivers through me; it made me feel invincible. “B.O.B.” is that shit that just recharges you; shocks the shit out of your ass. When that song comes on it’s like, ‘Clear!!!’

By Stankonia we had defined our individual styles. You can hear more of a melodic aspect on the songs. I’ve always been incorporating singing into my rhymes ever since “Elevators.” But Dre wanted to take it a step further. He wanted to experiment more with the melodies. It just added another element to the music to where people started saying Dre is singing more and Big is rhyming crazy. Verse wise, I just wanted to be devastating on the mic. When I picked up the microphone, I wanted niggas to know I was the boogeyman [laughs]. I’m a true MC at heart. And Dre? You can’t fuck with him on the mic.

Still, it was important to get other talented [voices] involved. The guys I was bringing in were the people I was cool with. We couldn’t listen to a whole album with just my voice and Dre’s voice. So, instead of going out and getting whoever was hot to jump on a song, we got some niggas who was right around the way that was busting. Niggas around my way can rhyme. That’s where the Killer Mike’s and Slim Calhoun’s come from. Outkast, Goodie Mob, Witchdoctor and Cool Breeze were not the only MC’s that had talent. To me, we were all a part of the whole southern movement. Just letting other regions know, ‘Okay, these boys’ lyrical ability is off the chart and they are serious about what they are rapping about.’” 

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