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Album Reviews Q&A: Big Boi

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Mike Diver Mike Diver | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010


Act: Big Boi
Album: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Recommended by: Tim Westwood

Three years in the making, the debut album from Big Boi - the rap moniker of Atlanta-based artist Antwan Patton, until now best known as one half of Outkast - has proved to be one of the success stories of 2010 so far. Its critical reception has been fantastic, review collating website Metacritic currently scoring it 90%, making it the 23rd best-rated album in the site's history. Only two albums from this year have achieved a higher score (so far), Arcade Fire and Janelle Monáe. The record features guest appearances from Monáe, Gucci Mane, Jamie Foxx, George Clinton and B.o.B., but Patton's Outkast partner André '3000' Benjamin only features in a production capacity.

The sonic palette of Sir Lucious seems to be an expansion of, rather than a step away from, that of Speakerboxxx. But you started this solo record quite a while ago, right?
Yeah, it's like a time capsule, and the two records are definitely connected to some respect. Every album captures the essence of your life since the last time the listener heard you. Coming off Speakerboxxx, and then the Idlewild record, I was listening to beats - and I might start listening to beats maybe a year or two before putting anything else on them. So these records, hopefully, stand the test of time, 'cause I just get my bustle on 'em, one at a time.

The first reports of a solo record emerged back in 2007, and a number of songs appeared online between then and now which aren't on the finished album. Did these tracks simply not fit the feel of the record?
Exactly. When you're recording, you don't always know what songs are going to make the final cut. So certain songs might be right at the time, but as I was waiting for the record company to give me the green light, I was trying to quench the thirst of the fans. They wanted music, so I gave them music. You've got to get them to the polls to vote. I did Royal Flush with André 3000 (listen on YouTube) to make the fans go crazy, to let them know that this is what we still do. You've got to have that connection with the fans, to let them know you still care about them.

Would you have liked to have this album out a little sooner, given there were tracks circulating on the internet?
I would've, but I think everything's worked out correctly. I was on Jive Records, and I'm still there for Outkast, but they didn't understand my solo music. They said it was too artsy, that it was a piece of art and they didn't know how to promote that. They wanted more cookie-cutter, typical bubblegum music.

Which seems odd, given Outkast have never really stood for that sort of clichéd, mass-produced music.
Never. But here's what people have to understand: Jive has absolutely nothing to do with our career. We didn't go to Jive because they requested us, or we wanted to go there; we got caught up in a label merger, so really we got forced over to Jive. It was LaFace/Arista, and then there was a merger. So here we are, on a label where nobody knows us, and they don't know how we do music or anything. Trying to get them to understand was hard to do. But they did the honourable thing and let me go, and I'm back with L.A. Reid at Def Jam. He gives me the creative control and freedom to make exactly the kind of music that I want to, and I have to thank Jive for letting me go.

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Big Boi feat. Vonnegutt - Follow Us
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But it's because of the label switch that André can't appear on Sir Lucious, save for a single producer credit?
Yes. There's red tape stopping him from appearing on the record. I don't agree with it, but that's the nature of contracts sometimes. It doesn't feel fair for the fans, for him to not be able to appear as a lyricist on the album, as the producer role isn't the same. But the album's still great, and people now get the chance to experience more of me.

A more collaborative affair with André might have resulted in the opinion that it was another Outkast record in all but name.
That's right, for sure. It definitely reinforces that this is my own vision.

Not that the record's without its share of guests. We've got to mention Janelle Monáe - she's on your album, you're on hers...
She's incredible. She's a true talent, really into her craft. Being able to groom someone like that, and watch them grow - I've been working with her for years - it makes me feel really proud. I feel like the big brother that introduced her to the world. She's going to be around for a long time. I just like to work with people who are that serious about music, and she's very serious about it.

She may have only just released her debut album proper this year, but she's been around a while, earning respect below the mainstream radar. It could be said the same was true of Outkast - you didn't break the UK until your fourth album, Stankonia.
It's all about the hunger - if you're jumping, trying to reach something, for a really long time, then it's going to make your legs stronger. I think it's good for Janelle to have done things the way she has - to drop an EP at first, and then be on my record at the same time her own one is out. There is definitely something risky about new artists breaking through quickly, as a lot of the time they can burn out simply because they lack that experience of working their way up, of reaching for that goal.

Any chance Janelle and yourself might do some dates together?
Well, we just might!

Speaking of the live arena, this October marks the tenth anniversary of Stankonia's release. Any chance you might do some shows to celebrate?
We surely could do it. If André wants to get on stage, we can do just about anything we want to do. So it's all on Mr 3000 - I'm gonna be out here touring Sir Lucious Left Foot, but whenever he gives the word we'll be on that.

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Big Boi feat. Cutty - Shutterbugg
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Back to the album: it's not particularly overloaded with profanity, although there's no doubt it warrants the parental guidance warning on the cover. How do you balance the language used in your music with being a father of young kids? Do they ever hear dad's work?
I'm open about all of that. When I was coming up, I had a lot of my family around me - my grandmother, my mother, my dad, my uncles. Even as kids, they spoke to us as adults. What kids are exposed to now, through television, video games and movies, is a lot worse than what we're doing in music. So I don't think it's a bad thing that they hear my albums, as if they're raised right they'll respect right from wrong, and when this sort of language is appropriate and when it isn't. I'm a very hands-on father - I take my kids to soccer, to piano lessons. I go to recitals, the whole nine yards; I'm always in their lives. So music cannot raise my child.

Finally, any favourite albums of the year so far?
Well, Janelle's album. But my favourite record for the last three weeks is Usher's OMG (from the album Raymond v. Raymond). The thing about music is it's supposed to make you feel a certain way, and the synthesisers alone in that, with the chant, it makes me feel a certain way. I jog two or three miles a day to that music, it gets me so amped up. I know that's just a song, not an album, but that's all I need. But OMG... I dig that.

Read the BBC review of Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Visit Big Boi on MySpace

Read previous Album Reviews Q&A articles:
Foals (Mercury nominee)
Villagers (Mercury nominee)
Rolo Tomassi


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