Ahead of his show at the Georgia Theatre with Killer Mike, Atlanta rapper Big Boi spoke to Flagpole about Bootsy Collins, unreleased OutKast and undulated triggerfish.
Flagpole: OutKast used to be billed as “the player and the poet,” as if [André 3000] was the experimental half of things and you were the street half. But in the last few years, and especially on the new record [Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors], it seems like it isn’t that simple anymore.
Big Boi: The whole “player and poet” thing has been a misconception. That shit wasn’t true—that was just a title that was used as a marketing ploy. I’ve always been a street-smart and book-smart guy… You can’t judge a book by its cover, you know? I do everything. I’m a music guy; I love making all types of music. I love crossing over into uncharted territory, never doing the same thing twice. That’s why none of our records have sequels. It’s always going to be an original piece of work with us.
FP: When your last album [Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty] came out, people worried you weren’t getting the respect you deserved from Atlanta radio. Has that changed?
BB: The radio’s still the radio. They still play the same five songs, day in and day out. I listen to satellite radio, you know? As long as there are bodies at my concerts and they stay sold out, that’s what it’s all about. With the Internet and things like that, we’re not even dependent on commercialized radio anymore. My songs don’t have to be channeled into people’s heads a hundred times a day for them to like them. They call it radio programming for a reason: people are being programmed.
FP: We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. What is it like to hear that stuff now?
BB: It’s dope. I got that young, adolescent throat. Those are timeless classics, though, they’ll never get dated.
FP: Is it strange to be one of the only Atlanta artists from those days still doing it?
BB: It’s just destiny, man. When you love doing what you do and you stay creative, you always stay ahead of the curve. Also, it’s about creating new sounds. I keep myself excited about making music. There’s no time limit on it, no time stamp. I’m still young with a cute face—no facial lines, got a strong back. I’m still good. We started out young, we were 16 years old. We’d probably done more as teenagers than most rappers do today. So, there’s nothing to prove—it’s just all about the music. Supply and demand.
FP: Anybody from back then that you wish more people knew about?
BB: I really wish Kilo [Ali] would have blown up nationally like he was supposed to. I can hear a lot of his influence on records today. He was a very talented guy, I don’t know what happened to him [sings part of Kilo’s “Cocaine (America Has a Problem)”].
FP: Did Ghetto Mafia really steal your car [as they claimed on “In Decatur”]?
BB: Man, that was fantasy. I never met them; they don’t know me. They must have been talking about somebody else. They sure wasn’t talking about me. You would’ve heard something about that. Never. Not ever. Never ever.
FP: I remember reading you guys recorded something like twice the number of songs that ended up on ATLiens. Think that stuff will ever get released?
BB: I got music in the vault. It’s loaded with unreleased stuff, unfinished beats—all kinds of things. You never know, man, it’s up to y’all. Like Santa Claus, it’s if y’all are naughty or nice. So be good.
FP: You’ve met a lot of your own heroes over the years. Who made the biggest impression?
BB: Kate Bush was big. I haven’t met her yet, but we spoke on the phone. George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, definitely. Those were two of my heroes, and I’ve gotten the chance to perform with them both. I met George Clinton when we did “Synthesizer,” and it was just a dope experience, and then I got another chance to work him on “For Your Sorrows.” I met Bootsy at a photo shoot in New York, and he was cool as hell too. That was around the time that we were working on “Hey Ya,” so we was all just sitting around the spot singing [sings part of “Hey Ya”] and just jamming to the beat with Bootsy.
FP: How’s the tour coming together?
BB: I’ll be doing everything from Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik up to Vicious Lies, so the fans get a real treat with this tour. I put them in a time machine and we time jump from era to era. We got a live band, we got Killer Mike out there with me for the first time in years, so I’m excited. We’re gonna start it off right in our backyard of Athens. I thought we burned the Georgia Theatre back down after our show a couple of years ago, so we’re gonna come back and set hot fire to the building.
FP: How’s your shark?
BB: The shark died. Rest in peace to the shark.
FP: Sorry to hear that.
BB: I had got these triggerfish called undulated triggers, and they was chewing on him. Those motherfuckers are like piranhas, and they made him jump out of the water.
BB: Yeah. Undulated triggers, they’re nasty. They small, but they bad. Cool as hell.
WHO: Big Boi Shoes For Running 2013 World Tour w/ Killer Mike
WHERE: Georgia Theatre
WHEN: Thursday, Apr. 18, 8 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $26