By David Ma.
It’s easy to forget that OutKast were only eighteen when they released Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in 1994 — the pair had met only two years prior, were still in high school when their landmark debut dropped, and yet were brimming with promise even at such a young age. Their subsequent rise was so steadfast, so exuberant that we perhaps take them for granted within the pantheon of prodigies who’ve held long careers. Two decades, six Grammys, numerous charting singles, and a plethora of monster guest verses later, their stature both in tandem and as soloists continues to impress. Says Big Boi: “We went through all these albums and all these stages man… But we’re just creative cats. I personally don’t think I could stop producing art or making music.”
On his last solo effort ( Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors ) Big Boi concisely raps: “Operation grind and stack ‘cause these rappers out of touch/ Or like a rabbit that just lost one foot to a keychain, out of luck.” His latest direction has nothing to do with luck or kismet and is a collaborative work with Brooklyn art-house darlings, Phantogram . Aptly called Big Grams , the EP finds all three members showing cavernous sounds and undertones characteristic of their independent works. But it’s Big Boi’s adeptness for keeping precise tempo, or switching to rubato cadences, that guides the melancholy — and at times ethereal — backdrops along. “We had worked together in the past and the time was just perfect to do an official project,” say Big Boi.
Delivering sharp, distinct rhymes wrought with imagery and attitude, Big Boi’s vocal velocity remarkably hasn’t degraded some 21-years after Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik . Effusive yet measured, here he details a few of the recordings that profoundly affected his work through the last decades of major success.
1. Kate Bush – The Kick Inside (EMI, 1978)
Big Boi: This was the soundtrack of my youth. It was a record that my uncle put me on to. He was a skateboarder and was just a character [ laughs ] but he was also super into music. I was in the sixth or seventh grade and I would ride my bike to school listening to this everyday. And I always loved it because it was dark and eerie. And her voice was real haunting. I consider Kate Bush as my top artist of all time; Kate Bush then Bob Marley.
2. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Natural Mystic (Island/Tuff Gong, 1995)
Big Boi: I’ve always been really into this album. I mean, it’s a compilation but I just really, really love all of the low riding basslines throughout. And of course, like all of Bob’s stuff, he always has such a message. “Crazy Baldhead” and “So Much Trouble in This World” are just the best. Love the message in the music. When I saw the Bob Marley documentary that came out a few years ago, I felt like it gave me so much insight on what he was really about as a man, and what his journey was really all about. He was a revolutionary.
3. N.W.A - Efil4zaggin (Ruthless, 1991)
Big Boi: I was in middle school and I was bumping the actual tape from the record store. I remember it clearly too; from the first-play it was in your face. But the production was just so hard and so crazy and everything was so raunchy [ laughs ]! N.W.A has always been in my top five groups of all time. This might be one that my uncle also introduced me to. That right there was just some real gangsta shit.
4. Phantogram - Eyelid Movies (Barsuk, 2010)
Big Boi: It was super dope right away. I Shazam’d them then got the vinyl and also their self-titled, I believe. But it was also refreshing. Josh’s electronic production was dope and hard-hitting and electronic. But then you have Sarah singing over them! She has some of the wickedest vocals ever in my opinion. They had so much chemistry it propelled me to reach out to them. I put their song up as “song on of the week” on my website and it brought us together. This record affected my life a lot for sure.
5. UGK – Dirty Money (Jive, 2001)
Big Boi: What I remember most about this was that Andre and I were in San Francisco when it came out, and we were doing promos and radio shows, just promoting our latest album at the time. I think it was Stankonia . And I remember getting the CD and it was like 3AM in the morning when I finally had a chance to play it—and we played it for three days straight! It was also a huge influence to me as a listener. RIP Pimp C. To me, this album comes from the heart.