Southern hip-hop legend Big Boi has a new album, Boomiverse, and it features an all-star lineup of Atlanta talent. There’s “In The South” with Gucci Mane, “Kill Jill” with Killer Mike and Jeezy, and help from long-time collaborators Organized Noize (a local production company composed of Rico Wade, Ray Murray, and Sleepy Brown).
The album drops June 16, but Big Boi hosted a listening party at Stankonia Studios this past Tuesday evening. After bopping our heads, watching Scar Smith dance up the joint, and enjoying the chicken wings on offer, we checked in with the rapper to talk about the album, the state of hip-hop in Atlanta, and his favorite local spots.
It is I!
Congrats on Boomiverse. What did you want to say with this music?
The music speaks for itself, man. We’re pioneers of the southern rap movement, we’re trailblazers, we’re here, and we ain’t going anywhere. Ever!
Do you have any favorites on the album?
The whole body of work. It took me so long to make it because I really wanted to take people on a ride. You know when you go on a roller coaster, you gotta enjoy the whole thing—and you want to be on there when that 50-foot drop happens.
Who is impressing you in Atlanta’s hip-hop scene today?
Janelle Monáe and Killer Mike! Two of my most proudest accomplishments was signing them to my record label (Purple Ribbon All-Stars). Now [Janelle’s] in movies like Moonlight, which is incredible, and you’ve got Killer Mike starting Run the Jewels. It’s a testament to my ear and my generally knowing talent when I see it.
Southern rap has been at the top of the hip-hop game for over ten years now; you and Andre 3000 started that with Outkast. What kind of work you want to do next? What kind of music you want to put out there?
We like to do something new every time we start. When we make music, it’s always to be apart from the norm. So always expect the unexpected. We never try to repeat or play it safe or recreate. I have a musical addiction; I like to find new flows, cadences, melodies, instrumentals. All that turns me on.
Do you think there’s any threat to the local hip-hop music scene?
Nah. Atlanta, just keep doing you. There’s a certain brotherhood among all the artists here. Everybody’s cool with everybody. The city is so spread out but it’s also so small, so you bump into each other everywhere. So we just keep it cool and collaborate, make hit records together.
Atlanta is still your home base. What do you love about it?
Yeah, I live in Sandy Springs. Atlanta is like big city living but you can speed it up or slow it down at your will. You can go into the city and enjoy the nightlife or go home and get the peace and tranquility that you wouldn’t get in a bigger city. It’s still preserved, in a way. And I’m loving all the trees and vegetation.
Where do you like to go out at night?
I like the El Bar, MJQ, Blue Flame, Magic City, Stilettos, Strokers . . .
Okay, okay, I get the picture . . .
It’s when I go out with Killer Mike! He likes to go to the strip clubs.
What about restaurants?
I love Spondivits. I’m a seafood lover—I haven’t eaten pork or beef for over 20 years—so I love Spondivits. I stick to seafood, chicken, turkey, and tofu. And over on Howell Mill called there’s this place called Marcel that is absolutely delicious.
But that’s a steakhouse!
No, they’ve got this chicken that . . . I don’t want to know what sauce it is or what’s in it, but that shit is fucking devious. And their crab legs. And the sides are great—I eat a lot of vegetables.
Why did you stop eating beef and pork?
When we were the Dungeon [Family, a Southern hip-hop collective in Atlanta], we were reading up and learned that a pig will eat anything. You don’t want to consume something that will eat anything. And cows—beef stays in your system too long. Plus it’s good for your skin; less meat makes your skin look better.
Will you be voting for Atlanta mayor this fall? Who are you favoring?
I think Killer Mike might run for mayor, and I’ll run for governor, and then we’ll run this whole state! Hey, if Jesse Ventura can do it, why can’t we? But for now, we still got a lot of rapping and acting to do.
You and your brother breed French bulldogs. How did you get into dog breeding?
My grandfather was a hunter. He would hunt deer, and we had hunting dogs we would care for at home. Then we would find stray dogs that would have mange and we’d get some oil and watch their fur grow back. We got into it early. So now we have a pit bull kennel that my brother runs on 40 acres out by Six Flags. It’s an indoor/outdoor facility, and it’s the freshest kennel in the world! We got the Ritz Carlton for dogs! We started with the pit bulls and then wanted to have smaller dogs, too, so we got into Frenchies. They’re like living teddy bears; they’re so sweet.
Do you ever find it hard to give them up?
Yeah, I had to stop getting attached. I used to want to keep every dog we had, so I had to step back and let my brother start handling it.
What else is going on for you right now?
I just signed a million-dollar deal for a cartoon called Hotlanta Waxx. We’ve been working on this for nine years now and finally got a deal. Organized Noize is the music supervisor. It’s all about a retired CIA agent who buys a car shop located on ancient burial ground. It’s kind of a sci-fi comedy. There are dinosaurs aliens, zombie strippers. We just started production a couple months ago.
You do have this sci-fi, kind of psychedelic aesthetic. You can see it in your music videos. Where does that come from?
I’m a dreamer. I’ve always been into collecting comic books and baseball cards, I was into X-Men and the Fantastic Four and stuff since I was in high school. I just have a vivid imagination. I’m a dreamer.