In Advance of His House of Blues Concert, Outkast's Big Boi Talks About His Latest Solo Effort

click to enlarge In Advance of His House of Blues Concert, Outkast's Big Boi Talks About His Latest Solo Effort
Epic Records
If we’ve calculated correctly, next year, Outkast, the incredibly inventive hip-hop duo that formed in Atlanta in 1991, will be eligible for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The group’s penultimate studio effort, 2003’s double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, would launch solo careers for the group’s two masterminds, rappers André "André 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. Benjamin wrote and produced the tunes on The Love Below, and Patton wrote and produced the tracks on Speakerboxxx. The album also yielded huge hits with the jittery, funky-as-hell "Hey Ya!" and "The Way You Move." It would take home a Grammy and produce multi-platinum sales.

When we ask Patton, who performs a solo show at House of Blues at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, if the group belongs in the Rock Hall, he doesn’t hesitate to answer in the affirmative.

“Yeah, I think we belong in the Rock Hall,” he says via phone, “for all the accomplishments that we had and being the only hip-hop group to win Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. We’ve done it all and on top of that going diamond, which is ten times platinum. I think the legacy speaks for itself.”

Patton released his first official solo album in 2010 and has regularly toured and recorded since then. He says he started writing the tunes for his latest effort, Boomiverse, about four years ago. He would take a break from the tunes to tour and record with Big Grams, a side project featuring the members of the indie rock outfit Phantogram.

“I never stop recording,” he explains, adding that on this tour he’s performing under one of his aliases, Daddy Fat Saxxx. “We started the songs for Boomiverse before that Big Grams album but we just let the beats marinate. Sometimes, we sit on beats for five or six years before we put them out. It was like four years in the making. My thing is that you have to evolve every time you write songs. I don’t want the albums to sound the same. Even on Boomiverse, no two songs sound alike. That’s the ingredients and formula that made me who I am today. I try to be a true artist.”

He says he regularly aims to “make music people have never heard before.”

“The vibes are different, and it should evoke emotion,” he says. “Lyrical content is something we pride ourselves on. Every line is studied and really, really thought out to make the songs gel together as one cohesive project.”

He says the title Boomiverse references the Big Bang Theory.

“It’s about starting over,” he explains when asked if the album has a concept. “It’s about the graduation and evolution of Big Boi. If you don’t find yourself getting better and better, then why are you doing it? I get turned on by finding new rhyme patterns and approaching songwriting and production differently. I’m old-fashioned. I’m interested in making albums. It’s all killer and no filler every time we drop.”

Album opener “Da Next Day,” makes use of samples of strings and features a trippy interlude from Big Rube, who delivers a deep-voiced spoken word bit. “True fusion only occurs at the heart of the star,” he says in a gravelly, ominous sounding voice.

“That’s just a song I wrote after the day after the election,” says Patton. “It wasn’t about politics or anything like that. It was just me in the studio just lyrically destroying shit, and Big Rube comes in with his bit about where music is today. He’s like the voice of God over the track. It’s almost like a narrator who opens it up and sets the stage for what’s going on."

With its hiccupping backing vocals and aggressive vocals, “Kill Jill,” a tune that features cameos from rappers Killer Mike and Jeezy, deviates from the album’s other tracks, which draw more from funk and soul than rap. Patton says the deviation is intentional.

“It’s one of the hardest rap songs ever made,” he says. “The beat was super stupid hard and the way you have to attack that track is challenging because you want to be ferocious. We call it Jedi rap shit. We’re also students and always learning. To feed off the energy of Killer Mike and Jeezy made for a perfect storm.”

Patton and Snoop Dogg complement each other nicely on “Get Wit It,” a song that Patton says came together on the fly.

“It was a lot of fun,” Patton says of the recording session. “Organized Noize produced the track. I had the idea for Snoop to be on it because it sounded like a West Coast song. Snoop had a listening party at my studio one night, and he told my engineer that he wanted to do a song with me. I told him, ‘I have the perfect song.’ He said, ‘Give me 20 fuckin’ minutes.’ He got on there and blessed the track on the spot.”

“In the South,” a track which features a hook from the late Pimp C, serves as a tribute to Patton’s upbringing.

“It’s about Southern pride,” he says. “The South is heavy in music right now. We all make music right now but not the same type of music. At the same time, we give the people what they want, which is a traditional Southern funk jam. That shit will tear your speakers up.”

Infectious, poppy tunes such as “All Night,” “Freakanomics” and “Chocolate” successfully capture that freewheeling sensibility that came so naturally to Outkast.

Between his solo albums and Outkast, Patton possesses a pretty deep catalog at this point. How does he decide which songs go into the live set?

“Man, in the song lineup, I put like 30 records in there,” he says. “We get up there and go. There’s a visual component to the whole thing that makes it three-dimensional too. We don’t do a lot of talking. It’s an hour plus of nothing but jams and music.”

Big Boi, 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $30-$40,

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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