Big Boi Talks "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors"
Fri, 18 Jan 2013 08:49:54
"I'm trying to take people to new places," declares Big Boi. "I'm tired of the same old shit."
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors definitely elevates hip hop to a new plateau. So Big Boi's accomplished that mission. In the process, he also has crafted his most potent, powerful, and poignant work to date. Of course sly and sexy rhymes abound, but the legendary MC gets personal here, opening up like never before. In that respect, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is as focused as it is funky. Big Boi's dropped a milestone for himself and rap music with this one…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, legendary OutKast MC Big Boi dives deep into the story behind Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, talks writing lyrics, what he's listening to, and so much more.
Every album, you find a way to break new ground.
I really appreciate it, man. It means a lot. That's what it's all about. You're supposed to keep yourself inspired and inspire others. To chart off into different territories and make new sounds and grooves rejuvenates me and restores my faith in music. I'm a music lover anyway. I listen to everything. To create something genre-bending that people have never heard before is what I get a kick off of.
Did you approach the album with one overarching vision in mind or did it come together song by song in the studio?
Every record is an experimentation process. It's like Doctor Frankenstein stitching together grooves and tapestries of funk to make one whole, full sonic adventure. That's how it's been from album number one. It's never planned out. I know I don't want to hear something I've done before. I want it to be fresh and new. It's good that it came out that way.
What ties this record together?
It's the overall moods and, sonically, the sounds. I think this is my most personal album. I opened up about a lot. There's honesty in the music.
Was there something that encouraged you to open up more?
It was just grieving loved ones from my father to my grandparents. Getting in and doing music is a form of self-medicating for me. It helps me with the healing process. This one really put a lot of things to bed for me. With songs like "Descending" and "Tremendous Damage", I got it all out.
What's the story behind "Descending"?
That's definitely my favorite song. It was really soft and emotional in the booth. There were a lot of tears. I was more so wailing than singing and getting the feeling out. There were sporadic shots of emotion, and it gelled correctly with the beat. Those were my real feelings. I was in the dark booth really just grieving. Music is supposed to make you feel a certain way. The beat brought out all of the emotion. I went for broke. There was a lot of crying and cutting loose like that. It came across as the most honest, I guess, an artist could be in a song.
Do you physically write all of your lyrics out?
Yeah, most of the time, I sit down and write. Sometimes, it takes a long time. I might need a melody, and the words come through after the fact. Songs like "Raspberries" were like that. I'd get the melody first and the words would come. As far as rhyming, I'd sit down and write it. I've got to have a pen and a pad. I don't do that new wave phone shit [Laughs]. I have physical lyrics. If they cut these phones off, all of this shit would be lost forever [Laughs].
Do you have notebooks going all the way back to the first Outkast record?
Exactly! I surely do! I'm waiting for the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame baby!
Do you ever look back at them?
All the time…I just stack them up. A lot of them are at my mom's house. I keep them dry and in a safe place. It's dope to see all of the lines that are scratched out and rewritten. In the notebooks, I'd always write a start time. It's whatever time I'd begin writing until the time I stopped writing. From that, I could gauge whatever my best writing hours are. This is mostly a night time record because all of the words would come after midnight until about six in the morning. I'd sit in the studio at six in the evening, and no words would come out until midnight. I like to let the beats soak in my brain for a while.
Did this record come together quickly overall?
It definitely came together quicker. I had a lot of the beats and production all ready. When I was on tour, I'd listen to the beats and I'd have them memorized in my brain. When it came time to rap on them and I got to Stankonia to record, they'd just come out.
Was there an instant connection with Phantogram?
Yeah, once I invited them down to Stankonia, we camped out for like a week or so. We bond together. We've even got a group called "Big Grams". It's me and Phantogram. We've got a project we're going to work on as soon as they finish their record. It's just creative minds. Joshua Carter and Sarah Barthel are two of the dopest. You add in Daddy Fat Sax, and you've got something special. It comes across great.
"In the a" felt old school, but there's still an element of futurism.
Definitely! I'm a fan of lyricism, and I've got T.I. and Ludacris on there—two MCs I respect. It's one of those songs that makes you want to punch a baby in the mouth [Laughs]. You've really got to get rowdy. We had fun. I call it "Jedi rap shit". It's elite street.
When you work with B.o.B and A$AP Rocky, did they grow up as fans of yours?
B.o.B and A$AP were fans of the music. I bumped into A$AP at the radio station. I was finishing up an interview, and he was coming in. He asked where I was going. I said I was going to Stankonia, and he said he would come over. Within two or three hours of me meeting him in person, he was in the booth rapping on my album. That was the first time I met him [Laughs]. That's why I like to say my music is organically created and never genetically modified. Everything has to have that certain type of feeling. It can't be contrived or forced. I'm not going to just get whoever the hottest rapper is and put him on a song just because he's hot at the moment. I like guys who have substance in their music and bring something new to the table. I can work with B.o.B or A$AP Rocky because I dig their movements and what they're talking about.
Where did the title Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors come from?
It's all about the search for the truth. It was going to be the title of my grandmother's book. She was going to write a book, but she didn't because she said she would destroy everybody's family within the family. She was going to tell on everybody—where all of the extra babies were at [Laughs]. The music is the undisputed truth. It's twofold. Being that this is the age of information, you can go online and research anything you want to whether it's pet grooming, politics, world history, fitness, or whatever. It's all right there because the world is connected. That's twofold because you've got social networking where rumors and slander can also be perceived as truth. You've got to get out there and find it. You can't take everything at face value.
The best way to find that truth is through creating. Through creating, you learn more about yourself.
Exactly! That's what it's all about. Discovery…
Do you watch a lot of movies or read a lot?
I definitely watch a lot of movies. I look at a ton of documentaries on YouTube or whatever. I try to feed my brain on different things. I read a lot of newspapers as well. You have to take the information in, process it, let your brain compute it, and see what it means to you at the time. I'm all about people being independent thinkers. The day of the "Sheeple" is almost over. People need to wake up and think for themselves. It's about self-respect and self-expression. I'm on the outskirts. I don't want to be in the in-crowd. I'm all about promoting individuality. That's what it's all about.
People need that message in this day and age.
That's my biggest piece of advice to new artists, "Be yourself and be original". If you're trying to get discovered, don't try to be like the guy who's hot on the radio. Bring something new to the table and you'll stick out of the crowd. Be true to your art and what you're trying to convey to the people, and you'll get that.
Has this been a prolific time?
You've got to keep recording. It's like The Beverly Hillbillies. Once you strike that oil well, it's a plethora of vibes, and you've got to stay into it. I'm in the studio now about nine or ten songs into the next record. I'm trying to build that skeleton so while I'm on the road I can put together the songs. I'm doing a couple of films next year so I'm trying to carve out time to do acting and music.
Are acting and making music two completely different thought processes?
They're two separate things. As the artist and producer, you have to create everything. As an actor, you're recreating what the screenwriters wrote and you're becoming something they created. One is playing a role, and the other is creating role. It's different. Movies aren't more work than doing music. With music, you don't have everything written out for you.
What are you listening to now?
I've got 13,000 songs on my iPod. It's everything. I've got some Kate Bush "All The Love". Bob Marley is on here. I've got some Goodie Mob on here. There's Norah Jones and Phoenix. I put it on shuffle, and it plays. It's all genres of music. I never hardly hear the same song twice.
If this album were a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
It'd be the "Big Bubble Butt Brazilian Orgy". That's what I'd compare it to [Laughs]. It's wild, freaky, and unpredictable. At the same time, it's cinematic. There's a lot of skin baby! You can get lucky to this one [Laughs].
What's your favorite Big Boi song?