Over the past two decades, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton has received commercial success and critical acclaim for speaking on wax – and in the streets – about social and political issues that directly affect the African-American community. From Atlanta to Savannah, Patton is well-regarded for his activist spirit and philanthropic efforts.
Known internationally as an ambassador and icon of Hip-Hop and one of rap’s great icons, without question, “Big Boi” is Georgia’s beloved native son. AllHipHop.com checked in with him right before the debut of his Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors:
AllHipHop.com: Over the past two decades, you have witnessed Atlanta evolve into a major player in the music arena. What do you consider to be your biggest contribution to this movement?
Big Boi: Well, I guess it's being one of the pioneers in the forefront of the whole music scene in Atlanta. It's definitely a blessing to be here still making music at a high-caliber, high-quality pace and still changing the game. I've been doing my Big Kidz Foundation within the local community for several years. It ties into music, because it's focused on enlightening kids through the arts. It is important to mold young minds because it's easier to mold the young than it is to repair broken ones. Kids involved in the arts do better in school, generally, because you give them something outside of just school work to express themselves.
AllHipHop.com: You founded the Big Kidz Foundation in Atlanta in 2006. In 2010, the organization expanded to Savannah, Georgia. What motivations led to the expansion?
Big Boi: Savannah – that’s my hometown and they really need it down there. So in a way, it was a natural progression. I started in Atlanta because that is where I live. But Savannah is where I was born – and I can't leave them behind. I went down and started registering people for health insurance and things like that. I hope to push it even further in the next couple of years.
AllHipHop.com: As a father, you have a tremendous interest and focus on kids. In fact, the lead single from your second solo project is entitled "Mama Told Me." Is there a particular message that you find yourself reiterating not only to your own children, but also the children engaged in your foundation?
Big Boi: Yes. Be original in everything you do, and learn how to speak your mind to get your point across. Communication is the key to everything – and definitely to understanding. As a parent, I have learned that kids learn different things different ways and different pieces of information stick with them differently. When I used to go to the YMCA when I was younger, they used to have different athletes come and talk to us. Certain things that they said stuck with me, like "chase your dreams," and "if you really want it, go get it." I was told that at a young age, and believed it – and look where I am today.
AllHipHop.com: In 2008, Dr. Cornel West presented you with the Renaissance Award at the National Black Arts Festival. One of the elements of Hip-Hop that receives little attention is the “fifth element” concerning knowledge, respect, and understanding. What early influences – within your family or community – have compelled to you to be an active and vocal member of the local Atlanta community?
Big Boi: I was always taught “family comes first.” Well, God first, and then family – virtually at the same time. You have to take care of our own. At the end of the day, all you have is your family. I had a young mother who worked, and we lived with my grandmother when my mother worked all the time. Sometimes we'd live with my grandmother through the school year, and it was a strong family unit - with all my cousins, aunties and uncles living in the projects in West Savannah, Georgia. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had love and care and we didn't want for nothing. I kind of live like that to this day. My immediate and my extended family, we all still come together on Sunday Funday, and watch football games and cook cheese dip, and sit around and kick it and play games and stuff like that. Family is very important. Community, too.
AllHipHop.com: In many ways, your personal upbringing has influenced and extended into your professional life. Stankonia Studios has become a “community studio,” and it is unique in its widespread support of Atlanta’s “community of artists.” Personally and professionally, what has Stankonia provided for you as an artist?
Big Boi: Well, actually I could start with Bosstown Studios, Bobby Brown's studio. That was the first studio me and Dré ever recorded in. We used to catch the bus up there before we even had a record deal and just kind of knock on the door and wait on Bobby Brown to come out [laughing]. It was kind of crazy—because people still do that stuff to me now [laughing continues]. Bobby Brown came to one of our shows in North Carolina, and he was like: "Hey, man. You all can have that studio." So we told our manager. He was like: "Man, get the f*ck out of here, man. Bobby Brown's gone, man. He’s f*ckin' with you all."
So, we came back to Atlanta, checked into it, and sure enough, the studio was in foreclosure. We actually bought it out of foreclosure and revamped it. It’s owned by me and Dré, but I run the studio. That’s my contribution. I have Mr. DJ in one room. I've got Royal Flush, my producers, and my whole production company, Boom Boom Boom Productions based out of there. I've got Ray from Organized Noize and Chris Carmouche and then my whole team. The guys that are there are just very creative, and we feed off each other. Music is being created 24/7 around the clock. I love up-and-coming talent, and I've got a stable of producers and writers. We've got a place to work out of, and don’t have to worry about it.
AllHipHop.com: Considering the title of your current project, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, as a product of the South, how has the stigma of “Southern rap” affected you personally?
Big Boi: Well, we started out in what I like to say "the civil rights years of the Southern hip-hop movement" – [laughing] – where you couldn't drink out of the same water fountain. There was no respect. They looked at Southern rappers as something less than an MC. It wasn’t until after the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994) – and Goodie Mob's Soul Food (1995) – that we garnered respect. They booed us at Source Awards when we won "Best Rap Duo."
And like Dré said on that stage: “the South got something to say." I congratulate and salute every artist coming out of Atlanta that's living their dreams. Everybody's not going to make the same type of music. Different artists do different types of music. At the same time, the music that they're making is going across the water, too. Whether people like it or not, they go do shows overseas and it still keeps the art form alive. Everybody can't rhyme ferociously, and it ain't about lyrics all the time. Now, it's about who can make the best jam.
AllHipHop.com: From your perspective, as an artist as well as a member of the Hip-Hop community, what's your impression of how rap music has evolved and been received internationally?
Big Boi: It's expanded globally – no doubt. Like over here in the States, they've got us trapped in a box. Like they zombified the music. Many of the mainstream radio stations are playing the same five songs all day long. They drill them into your head. You find yourself singing a song you don’t like because they're programming you. That's why they call it "radio programming." In Europe, all genres of music are played all day long on the radio. You might hear some Big Boi; then you might hear some Metallica. The music is so diverse.
Over here, they’ve got us so boxed in it's ridiculous. The one alternative that we do have out here that's really great is satellite radio. I can say that's the closest thing that we'll get to having freedom on the radio, because the mainstream radio stations that are programming your mind through these songs are playing the same five records all day long - by request or not. So, people have got to call up them and say, "Stop playing that sh*t, man."
AllHipHop.com: You have been very vocal on social media outlets – like Twitter – speaking on the execution of Troy Davis and the murder of Trayvon Martin. What are some creative and unique ways that you see yourself trying to mobilize people in the future? Have you had any discussions with other artists in terms of how to use social media to get people to be more engaged in what's going on?
Big Boi: My slogan is "each one teach one." If you have a bit of information, it's always good to pass it around just to spread awareness of what's going on in the world. You can entertain as well as educate at the same time. KRS-ONE said it the best: "edutainment." So, yeah, my Twitter page ain't just about me, or just what's going on with me. I like to give my followers the world news. A lot of people always comment that my news is better than mainstream media, because I'm going to give you what they're not telling you. You feel me? The mainstream news is programming as well. They're telling you, actually, what they want to tell you.
There are stories happening every day that people never hear about, and if it wasn't for social networking, then people would never even know what's going on the world. So, you've got to do that. I feel it's my responsibility. And who knows, man? In 15 or 20 years, I might run for mayor of Atlanta, or governor. You feel me?
AllHipHop.com: Hey, do that! Do that.
Big Boi: Alright. If Jesse Ventura can do it, sh*t! [laughing] Believe it.
For more information on Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, visit his official website.