On record, Big Boi doesn't hold anything back. The Outkast rapper's latest solo venture, "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors," is filled with tongue-twisting rhymes that expound on everything from his father's death ("Tremendous Damage") to the challenges of married life ("She Hates Me").
In interviews, however, Big Boi, born Antwan Patton 38 years ago, can be tight-lipped and reticent, wary of delivering any sound bite that can be misinterpreted, misconstrued or twisted to serve some other means--particularly when it comes to any talk of reuniting with longtime Outkast partner Andre 3000.
"I don't answer Outkast questions because [the media] takes my words out of context and run 'em any way they want to," said the Georgia-born MC by phone. "That's why I be like, 'Next question.' They'll just try to sensationalize anything. It's crazy."
The rapper was talking about an interview where he was reported to have said Outkast couldn't reunite now because the music would be too advanced for anyone to understand--a statement, he said, was taken out of context.
"Assuming those had been your words," I asked him, "wouldn't that be the perfect reason to reunite now? Then at least our children's children could have an Outkast album that speaks to them, right?"
"For sure, for sure," said the rapper, and laughed. "I dig it."
The ice broken, Big Boi opened up about the driving force behind his work, the most important lesson he learned from his late father and why his children still make the best A&R representatives.
On this new record, you have songs that touch on your father's death and the ups and downs of married life. Why did you decide to drop your guard a bit more this time around?
It's a form of healing for me. I guess it's therapeutic to get things off your chest. I know there are lots of other people going through the same things, and they might be able to relate to it. These are real feelings and emotions, and that's what music is supposed to evoke.
What's one thing you learned from your father that you hope to pass on to your own children?
To really find a sense of inner peace. Once you have that inner peace, you can achieve whatever you want.
You initially envisioned the album as a heavy funk exploration. Why'd you opt to take a musical direction more influenced by electro and indie rock?
Funk is always at the base of it, but, for me, I just really wanted to experiment with these new grooves and sounds. It's gonna always be funky, but it's not always going to be recognizable funk. Sometimes it's going to be the new millennium funk. Franken-funk.
You've headlined a number of festivals alongside indie rock and electronic acts. Was there a sense those influences started bleeding into your own music?
I mean, it could have. Just being out there and hearing new sounds and things like that, yeah. I'm a music lover, so I'm inspired by everything. The other day my daughter was listening to some Lykke Li, and that [bleep] was jamming. I had to go out and get the song.
How often do your kids turn you on to new music?
All the time. They play music when they're doing homework and I'm like, "Damn, everything they're playing I've never heard before." When I take them to school, I use them as my little junior A&R. I'll put some music on and they'll be like, "You need to get on that song, dad! You gotta put some words on that one right there dad!"
At this point, you've spent more than two decades making music. Do you still feel like you have something to prove?
Naw, I ain't gotta prove nothing. I done did everything there is to do. Won every award. Sold the most records. Right now, it's just all about the music and living a happy life and getting here with the fans and touring and having fun, man. But there's definitely nothing to prove.
Listening to the record, it still sounds like something is driving you, though.
Yeah, the music. I love the music, man. The music, to me, that is the driving force. You can still hear the passion. If I didn't have that I wouldn't do it.
In Outkast, critics always wanted to paint you as the straight man, a perception your solo albums have all but obliterated at this point.
That was something the label started with the Player and the Poet, and all this other [bleep]. It definitely didn't bother me. The music speaks for itself. When you think I'm going to go this direction I go that direction.
The title of "Vicious Lies" comes from the name your grandmother wanted to give her autobiography, which she never got around to writing. What title would you give your autobiography at this point?
"Everything Big: We Don't Do Nothing Small."
Big Boi, 8 p.m. May 1 at Park West. $27