#7. Big Boi, Speakerboxxx (2003)
Other works include: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
Jonathan Mannion: “I shot Outkast for their first The Source cover, ever. We got to really feel each other’s vibe, and—along with Jay-Z—they were my favorites, at that moment. After that, I was able to shoot them again on a couple of occasions, and we developed a rhythm of shooting.
“I shot both he and Dre together for years, but Speakerboxxx was more independent of Dre. I took it for face value. People take different journeys and paths. I didn’t ask about Dre much, but anytime I would, it was always love. The vibe was always good.
“For Speakerboxx, I just tried to give him as much as I possibly could from my vision. I know how to think outside the box, so the ability to sit with him and figure out what we were doing was pretty special. He allowed me to listen to the entire album. That way I could create based off of what he’d created.
I also shot him on a polar bear rug, because ‘Cooler than a polar bear’s toenail’ is one of my favorite lines of all time.
“It was based on the music. So I wanted to build that crazy wall of speakers and put him on the top of them, but I didn’t want to do it in post. I wanted to do it in pre. I wanted a bunch of records, too. So [Outkast's] DJ came by and dropped everything off. It really became kind of like a family effort.
“We kept thinking left-of-center, and that’s how we got the shot of him all hungover, with beer cans everywhere, busted up guitars laying out, naked girls around him, and a microphone on him. This was years before the movie The Hangover came out.
“I also shot him on a polar bear rug, because ‘Cooler than a polar bear’s toenail’ is one of my favorite lines of all time. When I told them I wanted a polar bear rug, they told me it was going to be difficult. It had to have been imported into the United States before 1973, because of some animal extinction act, but I didn’t care. I said I’d pay for it and told them to find it.
“The ability to be so clear with my vision, based on speaking to him and listening to the music, is what allowed us to land in that place. Our relationship is one of the greatest working relationships that I have, because of the access that I get to him and the freedom he gives me.
“Big Boi and I have a really interesting way of working. I’ve done a couple of albums for him now, like Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty. We’ve built our relationship over the years. Not that I use any favors, but if ever I need any information to create with, he’s accessible.
“In this top 25 list, there’s so many people that I really respect and admire, as people and as artists. He’s at the top of that list. He’s one of the coolest dudes on the planet.”