“If you’re not getting better at it, then why are you doing it?”, Big Boi says, at one point of our call with him. Veritably, “Getting better at it” is the overarching theme of his career – from his work as one-half of Outkast, where he awe-inspiringly helped catalyse the next-level trajectory of rap itself, to his three solo records since then, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010), Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours (2012) and Boomiverse, which was released in June this year, the rap legend has consistently transcended himself. In this age of thirst-driven viral hits, where fancies are more fickle than ever, Big Boi has furnished a zeitgeist-blasting masterclass on how to make immortal work which confounds the fads of the day. The 12-track, hook-suffused, purpose-charged Boomiverse is another testament to his deathless appeal. Rap is a battleground and while most of its recent records are stacked with trending, of-the-moment rappers, Boomiverse‘s ranks feature only OGs including Gucci Mane, Killer Mike and Jeezy as well a very at-home Adam Levine. But as always, Big Boi’s on top of it. In what is a historic, illuminating interview, he shares more on how he’s continually made a boom.
Hey, Big Boi! At this stage of your career, what does Boomiverse mean to you?
I’m thankful for making the best music possible and sharing it with the world. It brings me joy. Music is passion, touring and travelling the world and playing in front of crowds. My favourite part of the whole process is seeing people enjoying it – it makes me want to keep making more.
In a recent interview, you described Boomiverse as your “graduation” record. Why?
Every record that you do is supposed to be an elevation from the last one. At this point, from doing Outkast records to then going off and doing some all-star stuff with people like Killer Mike and then going off and doing Big Grams, and all the other solo work, I feel like the sky’s the limit now. Music matters to people and I’m a man of the people, so I want to give back to the community. And besides all that, it’s fun!
“I don’t stay in one realm of music. I listen to everything from Kate Bush to N.W.A – my spectrum is so wide. That’s why there are no boundaries to what I can create.”
Let’s talk about the lead single “Mic Jack”, which features Adam Levine. Was working with him any different from working with your hardcore rap peers?
We actually have the same manager. The first time I hooked up with Adam was when I did the “Animals” remix a couple of years ago. Scar, who’s also on the song, thought that Adam would crush it. We played it for him and he loved it. I have Adam and Sleepy Brown singing on it in unison, making up that one sonic voice. Scar has a real soulful voice and then there’s Sleepy Brown with his funk and Adam with his crispy-clean vocals, all meshed together to make one dope sound. He was a nice element to the song and he took it to another dimension.
It wasn’t any different working with him. When you’re working with someone, you feed off each other’s energy and hit it off. You might send them a song and it’s either right or wrong but he got it in the first take. I sent it to him and he turned it around quick. These people are professionals; they’re passionate about music. When you’re at the top of the game, you can’t get nothing but the cream of the crop.
As an MC, what do you look for in a beat?
Sometimes, it could start out with a bass lick or keys or a cowbell, whatever the rhythm is. It really doesn’t matter as long as the first skeleton of the beat brings it out of me. I’ll just start mumbling words when the beats comes on while I’m vibing with it. With this album, for whichever song I gravitated towards first, I put pen to paper and got the lyrics out.
The second single “Kill Jill” is widely regarded as one of the best bangers 2017. How did it come together?
Killer Mike brought me a track in the middle of the night a couple of years ago and he was like, “I got this song; it’s perfect for you, man. But you gotta let me get on it”. I was like, “Sure, sure”. So I played it and it was banging. Organized Noize got to tinkering with it and brought a bass player and a couple of guitar players in and layering the music. I wanted it to be an A-Town anthem, so I had to get Jeezy on it. He came in and knocked out the hook. It’s straightforward lyricism; lyrical prowess to the extreme. It’s a hardcore banger. You’ve got ladies bouncing in carseats to it and people in the gym working out to it. That’s what a tough-ass hip-hop song is. That’s what we’re about.
How does Boomiverse stand in relation to your previous two solo records?
This is my most fun record yet. If you’re not getting better at it, then why are you doing it? I feel like I’ve mastered the art of making music and I have to push myself to go into unchartered waters every time I make an album. To make a complete body of work, from top to bottom, is a task in itself. And not only am I a master at it now, I’m also a student – I’m still learning and experimenting. The music turns out how it does because of that. That’s why I’m very proud of Boomiverse.
With collaborations with artists such as Phantogram, Wavves and Little Dragon, you’re one of the few OGs who operates beyond just rap. Is that important to you?
It’s always been that way, man. Of course, I’m an MC first. That’s how I started but past that, I don’t to stay in one realm of music. I listen to everything, from Kate Bush to N.W.A. – my spectrum is so wide. That’s why there are no boundaries to what I can create. I can work with whoever I want and bring the best out of them, just as they bring the best out of me. When you add these types of ingredients into the musical pot, you never know what you’re going to come up with and I like a gamble like that.
It’s obvious now that the South has won and that Atlanta is the hip-hop mecca of the world. How does that make you feel?
I feel like Atlanta is at the forefront because there’s a lot of camaraderie here. A lot of artists and producers frequent the same clubs and meet in the same streets; we jam together. There’s power in numbers. We’re from down South. There are so many different variations of hip-hop and soul music here that are going to keep driving the culture.
What would you say is your secret to endurance?
Thanks, man. You have to keep evolving. Keep your ears to the street and your eyes to the sky. Stay true to what you do but at the same time, always look for what’s next. You can’t stay in the same place for too long. I know I can’t – I get bored. Music is an emotionally charged form of expression. So, know who you are and reach out further.
And in closing, can we expect you in Singapore sometime soon?
Tell somebody to call me. I’ve never been to Singapore so I’d love to be there. I’ll have my people call your people and get the bag.