Q&A: Big Boi on Vicious Lies, Double-Teaming Atlanta, and Jedi Rap

Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic Big Boi

A few months ago, when the buildup began for Big Boi’s second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, I made a pact with myself that if it looked like the project was going to be underwhelming, I just wouldn’t give it any coverage. I’d pretend like it never happened. The idea of the Outkast-related hot streak coming to a crashing halt (again, Idlewild never happened. We all made that up, collectively) was too much to accept, and if bad things were looming, my plan was to simply sit this one out.

But then I realized something else. If it was good, it was going to be awfully hard to write about the project without bias. Beyond the facts that I’m from Atlanta and that my first concert was Outkast opening for Lauryn Hill and that Outkast is easily the most important musical act of my life — beyond all that — there’s nothing I want more in music than a successful Big Boi/Andre/Outkast project.

So, if I were to say, after a week of listening to the album nonstop, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is easily a top-five rap release of 2012, should you take that with a grain of salt (or, if you will, a sprinkle of grits)? Absolutely.

But it is.

And if I were to boast this album as one of the most ambitious mainstream hip-hop records in recent memory, both sonically and in regard to its appropriately diverse collaborations (seeing Big Boi, a live band, A$AP Rocky, and Phantogram share a stage last night for “Lines” proved this), should you be hesitant to take my word for it? Of course.

But it is.

So what now? The only way I saw fit to truly contribute to the dialogue about Antwan “Big Boi” Patton’s new album was to sit down with him for a chat.

So we sat down for a chat.

Last Friday, I walked to 30 Rock, less to catch a glipse of Grizz and Dotcom and more to make my way to Jimmy Fallon’s set. Big Boi was performing that evening, and he was spending the day doing his sound check. With my ice breaker/peace offering of a Braves Starter jacket draping my torso, I made my way to the set, where Big Boi was rehearsing a song off his new album, “Mama Told Me,” with Little Dragon. With his Falcons hat facing forward, he did his trademark side-to-side bounce while Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano sang right next to him. It was his song, on his album, but he seemed more than thrilled to share the stage with someone else. It made sense.

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After they finished, Big Boi and I were introduced and a series of “where should we do this interview” conversations began around me. In the dressing room? Outside? Did he want to sit down? When was Big going to get to smoke his Black & Mild? After about five minutes, we settled on his illegally parked van sitting across the street.

So, Big, I want to talk about three things: the album, Atlanta sports, and Atlanta in general. Let’s start with the album, and the logical place to begin is with the track “In the A.” I noticed when you were talking about it, you said you envisioned it playing at Falcons games. Almost like a rallying cry. What was the process for making this song? How did you know you wanted T.I. and Ludacris on it?

I actually got the beat from my buddy BlackOwned C-Bone. He’s been a longtime partner; he was actually on the song “Kryptonite.”

I’m always eager to give young producers a shot, so I got like two to three brand-new producers on this record. So when he sent it to me, I was like “Man, the shit is banging.” It just sounds like you wanna tear something up. We needed a new A-Town anthem.

It’s like going to the Battle of the Bands.

Exactly. And when I first thought about it, I wanted it to represent Atlanta, wanted some of the top MCs in Atlanta, who better to get than T.I.P. and Luda? And those are two guys who I respect lyrically. I had already been talking to T.I. about doing something anyway. He was on my last record. When I called him, he came to the studio, we camped out for a couple hours. We was sippin’ on a little tequila and some pink lemonade … It was a new drink he had or whatever, and were just kinda talking. He played me some of his record and I played him some of mine, and it was a good time. A brotherhood.

Ludacris was actually over in Europe, shooting The Fast and the Furious 5, 6, 7, 8, whatever one it is, and I told him, “Black got a jam, I want you to get on it.” On his off day from shooting, he recorded it and sent his verse back. It’s good, man, all the music is organically created, never genetically modified, and I wanted something Atlanta could really be proud of. And it turned out really good.

I noticed on the end of a different song (“Objectum Sexuality”), there was a Grand Hustle/DTP/Dungeon Family shout-out. I heard it and it felt like yet another attempt to bond some of the Atlanta veterans. Was that your intention?

In Atlanta, the thing is, it’s a mutual respect between everybody. It’s how we can stay at the forefront of music; guys really deal with each other, really hang out, and we kick it together, so to just show that unity, it’s power in numbers, man.

When I looked at the track listing and saw a song called “Shoes for Running” featuring B.o.B. and Wavves, I couldn’t figure out what was about to happen. And now, for me, it’s one of the standout tracks on the album. Please explain how this song happened.

We went out to California for a week and recorded in Frank Zappa’s studio, Mothership Studio. We were just playing some music, going through some stuff, and when they played that song, with the whistle that was so infectious, and they had the hook on there already, I was like “OK, I love where it’s going.” And to put myself in that environment and let it happen, I was like Who else could feed off of this, and it sounded perfect for B.o.B. to be on the record. Me and B.o.B had just finished recording a song for this video game called Army of Two, which is crazy, on EA Sports. We got a song called “The Darkness,” crazy.

“Shoes for Running” is not the first song I’ve done with B.o.B. We’d just gotten out of the studio, so I was like, “We should do this one right here.” Brought Bob in, and just mashed on the whole beat. You know, just tinkering with the actual song and arranging it to put it together. I like to do things that take an artist out of their safe environment and put them in another one, and Nathan from Wavves was just super dope. And it worked out. The thing is, to be able to create songs and music like that, there are no boundaries to the sound. It’s always an experimentation process. I wanted to use a little bit of everything, and that track in particular stuck out to me and I knew this could fit into the puzzle that is my record. It’s dope.

Switching gears to sports, it’s a great time to be an Atlanta sports fans. Our teams are good. Yes, the Braves got robbed, but it was a good run. We had the Dawgs —


I don’t even want to talk about it. But then there’s the Falcons. How fun has it been to root for them this year, and how do you feel about the lack of respect they’ve gotten so far?

Man, I’m used to it. It’s a parallel, you know. You just got to prove people wrong. They will never give the Falcons anything. They’ll never be like “The Falcons are the shit,” they’ll just be “The other team had a bad game” or “an off day.” We’re whupping ass, man. And I’d really like to tip my hat to — you ask me who my favorite Falcon is, I say coach Mike Smith. Five winning seasons in a row. You can’t beat that. But what we need to do now is get to this championship game. Because, you know, I already got me some Super Bowl tickets, and I just want to be there with my team, ya feel me? The whole thing everyone saying “They ain’t gonna make it in the playoffs,” but you got to deal with playa hatin’ and baller blockin’ in the worst way. It’s ATL all day, and if they play that “In the A,” we going all the way to the ‘SHIP. BEE-LEE DAT.

You had the 49ers and that “Tony Montana” last year, another Atlanta song, and you see how far they got.

I’m in the school of thought that losing a game was a good thing for the Falcons. Even if it was against the Saints. You?

We needed that. To get it out of the way. Because you don’t want to just be concentrating on the perfect season, we need to be concentrating on the goal that is getting a Super Bowl trophy. We already clinched the division, we got the loss out the way, we’re good. But yeah, the Saints, they beat us, we beat them, now what? Bring on the Giants, it’s time to do it.

Are you a Hawks fan also?

Yeah, but haven’t seen any of the games yet. See, when I grew up, I had two teams. Patriots and the Falcons, and then I always had the Celtics and the Hawks. Because my uncles, in the ’80s and ’90s, they’re gamblers. They’d always bet on those other teams. Danny Ainge and Larry Bird and Drew Bledsoe and all them. So people are always like, “How could you love all these teams from Beantown?” Well, I grew up around some pure players, man. Always had a double-team. All day. It’s a win-win for Big, anytime. But I love seeing the home team doin’ it. I haven’t caught any Hawks games yet, but I’ma see what’s going on. When I first get me some time, I’ma go sit down and check them out.

How do you feel about the reception you’ve gotten from the city for continuing to make music?

I’m a Down South Georgia Boy, like Pastor Troy said. I always called Atlanta home, never moved away from there, traveled all over the world, and there’s not a better place to live than Atlanta, except for maybe Sydney, Australia. Maybe. Because it’s just real chill over there. But, to have the type of admiration and respect I get in the city, I love it. I tote the city on my back. And I know it’s like an anomaly, like “How does this guy keep getting better and better at what he’s doing?” It’s because I’m having fun. I’m living life, I’m raising my kids, and I’m making music. I got my studio there, and the vibes are incredible. So, as long as the people keep buying, I’ma keep supplying. Everyone knows the track record of the group I came from, but at the same time, it don’t stop. This is some Jedi rap shit. And to see the way people are receiving the record, I’m definitely humbled and happy, and it’s motivation to make more music.

And I’m nine to 10 songs deep into my next album right now. So, yeah.

The younger crop of Atlanta rappers, do you reach out to them? Do they reach out to you?

Yeah. I know everybody. Future can call me and be like, “Big, I need you on the ‘Ain’t No Way Around It’ remix.” Aight, done. Trinidad James is a new guy, he’s partners with one of my producers that produced a song on my record, “CPU.” Go Dreamer from the Flush. It’s all interconnected. Everybody know everybody. Trinidad James is like, let’s get in the studio, ASAP. We’re working on a song right now. T.I.P., Luda, Jeezy, whoever. I’ma do an “In the A” remix and I’m gonna put the other side on there. We’re gonna go real, real stupid, ignorant with it.

Thanks so much, Big, I really appreciate it. Actually, one final question, and this is something that I’ve long been curious about. Why did you wear a Mets jacket in the “Rosa Parks” video?

My pants was orange, and I wanted some bright-ass colors. I had on the flip-flops and socks and I wanted some bright-ass colors. That’s all. That’s it.

I’ve been wondering this for 12 years.

We’d been wearing the Braves shit the whole time, from “Player’s Ball” and everything, so I just wore the Mets because it was bright. We was always into colors. COLORS. Nothing deeper than that. Just colors.

Filed Under: Music, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Outkast, Grantland Q&A, Rembert Browne

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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