Catching Up With Big Boi
As the Dec. 11 release date approaches, anticipation for Big Boi’s second solo album continues to build. After teasing fans with the release of his single “Mama Told Me,” a collaboration with Kelly Rowland, he followed up by releasing “In the A” with fellow Atlanta resident T.I. last week.
Now, the hype continues to build with the debut of his new song “She Hates Me,” which features Kid Cudi and fuses the distinctive styles of the two hip-top artists. The entire tracklisting for Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is littered with guest appearances ranging from Phantogram to Modest Mouse and A$AP Rocky, crossing genres to make this release an exciting one for several different fan bases.
Paste got the chance to catch up with Big Boi at Stankonia Studios Atlanta, Ga., at the listening party for VLDR.
Paste: You’ve been working in the Atlanta music scene since the beginning of your career. How has the music scene in Atlanta changed since you first got out there?
Big Boi: It’s expanded. You have new, up-and-coming artists with the Atlanta sound whether it be dance music or music-music with lyrics and the whole nine To me it keeps the craft going because these guys go to Europe and Japan and Australia. They have fans across the world too, just keeping the art form alive and I congratulate everybody. I never player hate. I extend my hand and congratulate.
Paste: That makes sense, especially with all the collaborations you have on this album. How do you feel like having your own studio in Atlanta contributed to the dynamic of the recording process?
Big Boi: It’s been good. It’s been very comforting. We did our first album here so I’m comfortable with the vibe and I feel right at home. It’s like being in your own living room. To have Little Dragon or Phantogram or A$AP Rocky or T.I. come through and jam with me, it’s just like playing host at your home. The vibe is here. We’ve got the ghost of Bobby Brown that pops up every now and then. It’s a beautiful thing, you know. One of the best investments I’ve made in my whole career was this right here.
Paste: Well, what is it that makes an artist someone you want to collaborate with?
Big Boi: It just depends. Like with A$AP Rocky, I bumped into him at the radio station, and I was like, “Come into the studio.” And that was dope. We made the song “Lines.” Phantogram came in for like a week and we did a bunch of records with them. The whole thing is just about capturing the essence of the vibe. Like I say, it’s organically created, never genetically modified. So it’s not like we’re trying to “make” a certain song. The artists I collaborate with, I dig their music and what they’re doing. So when we made this record I wanted it to sound like nothing else.
Paste: You keep saying that these collaborations came along organically, but what was the biggest challenge in making this album?
Big Boi: It’s just a heavy writing load. Even with the last record, being in a group you split writing up. You write a verse, I write a verse, we’ll split one. But now all the writing is on me, and plus I’m a producer, too. I co-produce every record on the album, as well as the writing. So it’s just more writing and more producing that’s on me. But it works out for the best because the songs are jammin’.
Paste: So what are the different challenges to producing an album versus just the writing you’ve done in the past?
Big Boi: It’s pretty much the same. As far as a writer, you’re just looking for the dopest words to come out and as far as a producer, you’re looking for the dopest grooves. It’s like trying to unlock a combination to a safe. So you can sit there sometimes days, weeks at a time, stuck on one song. So my whole method is that I work on all the songs at the same time. So if I’m on this record, I might go to a different record and catch a different vibe. Like a surfer does a wave, basically.
Paste: So it seems like when you’re in town you stay pretty busy. You have a foundation for kids here in Atlanta—how involved are you with that?
Big Boi: Yeah, the Big Kidz Foundation. It’s been going for like six, seven years, and it’s about empowering kids through the arts. We don’t just give out toys and turkeys. We have programs set up for the kids for the arts and dance and music and public speaking, and we’re actually moving into the realm of traveling right now. One thing about me is that when I was a kid I learned how small I was in the world and how big the world was and how you have to think further than your own block. It’s easier to mold a young mind than it is to repair an older one, so you start them off young and you have productive citizens. You know, live out your dreams.
Paste: Is that how it happened for you? Who influenced you when you were young?
Big Boi: My mom and my grandmothers and my great-grandparents, actually. Lot of wisdom. My mom used to send us to my great-grandparents’ house to go to church and then summer school for the summertime. My grandmother kept us cause my mom worked. My grandmother Edna, rest in peace, that’s where I got the title Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. From her. You learn from your elders. Pass it down. Each one teach one, all day.
Paste: So you say you got the album title Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors from your grandmother. What do you mean?
Big Boi: That was going to be the title of her book and she was like, “If I put this book out it’s going to fuck everybody in the family. I’m gonna tell where the bodies are buried, everything.” So it was really a search for the truth. I look at it like this, too: It’s the age of information, so whether you want to know something about fitness, politics, history the world is so connected, you have so much factual information at just the click of a button. And it’s two-fold. You have social networking, and somebody can say something that’s not actually the truth, and that can spread like wildfire, too, so it’s up to you to go out there and find it.
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is out on Dec. 11 on Def Jam Records.