About an hour before he’d dart onto a stage set up in a reconfigured parking lot behind a Wells Fargo, I had five minutes to chat with Big Boi on his tour bus. This was conducted in Denton, Tex., a sleepy college town about 30 minutes north of Dallas where a host of music-loving, community-minded twentysomethings joined together and organized a whole music festival, the 35 Conferette. The fact that one of the most influential, consistent and experimental artists of the past two decades would make his way down to Texas and headline a festival in its fledgling third year speaks to the kind of artist Big Boi is. Five minutes with Big Boi:
In the mid-nineties, Goodie Mob and Outkast seemed to show a lot of people a different type of culture and a different type of sound, with the way hip-hop’s progressing right now, do you think that’s still possible?
BIG BOI: Definitely, man, definitely. It just depends on who you listening to. Coming from Atlanta there so many different type of hip hop acts – if you wanna call it hip hop acts or rap acts or whatever – but, you know, our focus was mainly making the funky music and keeping it lyrically deadly, know what I mean? Dungeon Family was known for lyrics and we are really, truly emcees and that’s just how we do it. It might be a little more lenient these days, but you know, to each his own. It’s still jamming.
What’s your current focus right now, having released the album last year after all those delays?
BB: Our current focus right now is to make the coldest music on the planet man, that’s what I do, you know? Just staying in the studio and keeping it funky, the whole basis of the music is funk and everything after that is whatever you want to do. So, you know, I’m just in there experimenting 24/7. If I’m not on the road I’m in the lab.
There’s a whole slew of rappers who seem to be carving their own niche away from the traditional major-label system. And this isn’t anything new for the genre, per se, but what do you have to say to those younger rappers going that route?
BB: Well, you can do a whole lot of things. You don’t really need labels these days, especially if you’re a made artist because there are so many different outlets, social networking and whatnot that you can use to get your music out there to. But, if you are a new and up and coming artist, there are certain avenues you have to go through to get on your major networks, radio and television that you might not be able to do independent so you might need a major for, know what I mean? But if you make the music hot enough they’ll come to you and you can cut you a nice deal.
On the new record, you’re listed as an associate producer –
Co-producer, yeah, what was that songwriting process like on those tracks?
BB: It’s like, if you’re working with a song and I’m working on a song, nah, we working on it together. You might put the drums, I might put the horns and the keys and the bass, so you know, it’s just a collaborative effort.
How about working with Scott Storch and Lil’ Jon, folks who haven’t been seeing the kind of success lately as they did in the early part of the decade?
BB: With me, man, I don’t care who it is. If it’s jamming it’s jamming. Storch had a beat for me, Lil’ Jon had a beat for me that I had been sitting on for four or five years. So I had that Lil’ Jon record for a long time, and sometimes, certain times come up and you just gotta get on it and deliver.
There seemed to be a few issues with the label allowing Andre to rap on the new album. Is it out of the question for you guys to release music together, what happened with that?
BB: Uh, no, not really. I guess ‘cause us being new to Jive, they didn’t want Def Jam to have ownership of an “Outkast” song, they wanted to keep that on Jive. The funny thing about that whole situation is that the head of Jive is now the head of Def Jam, what the shit is that? So, maybe that shit might happen, you never know.
What’s your view of these grassroots sort of festivals like 35 Denton?
BB: Love it man, some of the best energy, man. Some of the best crowds, they receptive – not that other crowds aren’t, – but it’s just a little more loose. It’s not so stiff and confined to a seat. So these’ll be some of the best venues to do. We’ve done ‘em all the way from Utah to the corn fields in Iowa, you know, for a couple hundred thousand people. It’s some of the best ones, it’s about free-flowing energy and just having a positive experience.
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