Big Boi needs little introduction. One half of OutKast, one hell of a solo artist, Big Boi, 45, has crafted and refined a definition of cool for nearly 30 years. Born Antwan Patton, the Georgia legend is responsible for some of your favorite verses starting in the 1990s all the way up to his star-studded third solo studio album, BOOMIVERSE, released in 2017. Every Big Boi verse is marked by a fresh and glimmering feel, and every rowdy song livens the mood. Big Boi does not simply elevate the party—he is the party.
Across his long and celebrated career, Big Boi has existed as a timeless beacon of stylistic genius. There will never be another one like him. We caught up with the man himself to break down his 10 tips for finding a signature sound and staying cool in hip-hop.
Listen to everything, and write often. “I grew up with my grandmothers, uncles, and aunties, who listened to Bob Marley and Kate Bush. So, my musical taste was expanded. I always listened to music. Always loved it. First rap I ever wrote was a ‘Say No To Drugs’ rap when I was eight or nine years old. You know, when you have to do a little something at school. From there, I just started writing in the journal, writing poetry. By the time I met my partner, who had similar interests, it energized the spirit of music in both of us.”
Find your path. “I look at it two ways: Some are gifted, and some apply themselves. I truly know this is what I was put on this earth [to do]: make music and move people. I wanted to go to school to be a child psychiatrist and to start early with kids and mold young brains. The music allowed me to do that on a broader scale. I teach through music and help people through life, through music. That established my path.”
Cool comes from within. “I’m the people’s person. I love people. I love positive energy. I like to see people smile! The definition of ‘cool,’ to me, is just being yourself. God gave you one fingerprint for you to leave an imprint on this world. With me, I just took my gift seriously, and coolness came down in the bloodline. I was raised by pimps, hustlers, and my grandma was a gangsta. My mom is a black belt in karate, and [I have] a strong military background. There was a sense of discipline—I instilled that in my children as well.”
Remember to reinvent yourself. “It’s all about reinvention. You gotta reinvent yourself every time you step out. Every time I’m in the studio—when you want to create—I never try to reference something I’ve done. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but I wanna sound different. I don’t wanna repeat a cadence. I don’t wanna repeat a line. I always want to dig and find something new.”
Stay excited. “That’s what keeps me excited about music—a new creation sparks something inside of me. You stay on that path, and you just keep on digging.”
Always be creating. One of the key things, too, is I’m constantly recording. If I feel it, I put my ideas down. I don’t care what it is. I might hum a melody to a beat I had for 10 years and ride with it. It’s constantly having something on the canvas when you record, and then embark on that journey.”
Keep it organic. “I don’t force it. I don’t record every single day, but I listen to music every single day. Music, to me, is like sunshine to a plant. I wake up, and I turn it on, whether I’m washing clothes, doing dishes, or organizing my closet. The music make the day go better.”
Don’t forget the emotion. “The music has to have emotion. It’s not programmed. Music today, you can’t tell what rapper is which rapper because of the same cadence or producer they use. We still use live instrumentation, and that makes the music free-flowing. You can take it anywhere you wanna take it.”
Look towards the future. “I know what we’ve done, but you always gotta look forward to what’s on the horizon. That’s how you don’t get stuck. It’s not, ‘I gotta top this!’ I’m a Jedi master, but a master is always a student. I’m always trying to learn. As long as I’m excited to learn about new ways to make music, I’ma do it ‘til I can’t no more.”
Stay grateful. “I feel so blessed and highly favored to be here. I started when I was 16 years old. Platinum albums before I was 21. Now, my children experience my music, and they love it. The new generation is going back and discovering it. We’re still here, making music at a high level. I’m so elated.”