Big Boi is one cool dude. There's no denying that. When he came in the game as one-half of legendary rap group Outkast in the early '90s, we all took notice of his style. There was something slick about him that went beyond the brilliance of his bars. Maybe it was his precise pronunciation, or the slight tilt of his brim. Regardless, he was just that cat. Straight up and down.
Almost two decades later, Big Boi is now killing it as a solo artist, most recently with the release of his second official solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. And just as he did on his last solo effort, and throughout the untouchable Outkast catalog, he displays his wide range of musical influences song after song.
We got on the horn with Daddy Fat Sax right before the holidays to find out exactly what jams he listens to in order to inspire such an eclectic sound. He broke down his 25 favorite albums for us, which includes LPs by his top two artists of all time, Kate Bush and Bob Marley, hip-hop joints by everyone from 2 Live Crew to Mobb Deep, a fair share of rock and soul, and a healthy sprinkling of his own personal flavor, too.
This is not your average, run-of-the-mill list of faves, but that was to be expected. Dig it.
As told to Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Funkadelic, Cosmic Slop (1973)
Big Boi: "All the Funkadelic albums were kind of scattered, and they were like abstract funk. Just to hear them build on the songs, from 'Cosmic Slop' on down. The instrumentation on the records were just crazy. And the music is just free-forming. And he has some of the dopest album covers ever.
"I grew up on this. My grandmother listened to everything from Funkadelic to The Police to Bob Marley. She would send us to the store to go buy 45s every weekend, and we'd buy whatever the new record that was out for her. And she'd play that shit and wash clothes and clean the house and take care of us. I was exposed to a lot of music. That's why I can use everything, because I hear everything for what it is. If it's dope, it's dope."
Bootsy's Rubber Band, Ahh... The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! (1977)
Label: Warner Bros.
Big Boi: "This is one of the albums that I really listened to and got deep with when we were working on SouthernPlayalistic. We were really into the funk back then, and still are. As far as Bootsy goes, he's the funkmaster, along with George [Clinton]. And the melodies he would use in the songs [are incredible]. There was a lot of flair on that record. Even the costumes they would perform in. I still got that on my iPod to this day."
Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear (1978)
Big Boi: "That was a deep album. It was at the time when he was going through a divorce from his wife, and he was doing the album like, 'Here, my dear, take this, and all the proceeds from it.' And he was talking about his feelings. One of my favorite songs on that album is 'When Did You Stop Loving Me.' It's deep, man. He was talking about going to court with her, and at first how they fell in love, and now he's got the court system in their business. It's reality music."
Kate Bush, The Dreaming (1982)
Big Boi: "This is one of the first [Kate Bush albums] I was introduced to when I was in the sixth grade. It's kind of a dark album. My favorite song on that album was 'Pull Out the Pin.' Man, her vocal range is incredible. And the music. Once again, me being a producer, I listen to all aspects of the music, and take the product as a whole. It was just a well put-together record. She killed it.
"This is a good place to start [if you're not familiar with Kate Bush's catalog]. This, Hounds of Love, Lionheart. Her first four or five albums are crazy. The new stuff, like Aerial, is still her, but it's more polished. This is like, dirty."
Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)
Big Boi: "Exactly. Nine songs on there. And actually, the nickname for Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors was The Nigga Thriller. Like, another dimension of Michael Jackson Thriller. I was gonna give them nine songs, but I knew they would've been so thirsty. But, every song has to be power music. And for my album, I wanted it to be the same thing, where every song hits you in a different way. That's like the greatest album of all time to me. He's the king, and there ain't gonna be another one. That be it, yo. Ain't no 'the next Michael Jackson.' Just like there ain't no 'next Outkast.' Ain't no 'next Beatles.' There ain't no next."
Slick Rick, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988)
Label: Def Jam, Columbia, CBS
Big Boi: "He was one of my favorite MCs coming up. I had that tape as well. I might've been in the 5th or 6th grade or something like that, and he was just the coolest rapper on the planet. Him and Big Daddy Kane were just the coolest guys ever. And not just for the roast. He spit game. He was one of the greatest storytellers of all time, when it comes to hip-hop music. And that was just a great record. You could visualize the words and things he was saying. He was so cool. I'm all about the cool shit.
"Yeah, he was on 'Da Art of Storytellin'' remix, and then me and him did 'Street Talkin'' for his record. We were like, 'Who better to get on this remix than the greatest ever to tell a story?' And we did it, recorded it, went out to L.A. to shoot the video, and everybody had fur coats to the floor. I had my hair permed-out, pressed down flat like a pimp, ya' feel me? That was a real good time. We had the puppets in the video, too. It was real good. They tried to charge me 40 goddamn thousand dollars for one of them puppets."
New Edition, Heart Break (1988)
Big Boi: "That was like the last album that they put out. 'Can You Stand the Rain,' 'I'm Comin' Home.' That's the one based on them going on tour. 'If It Isn't Love.' Come on man, that's just some real feel-good music. That album right there kind of brought me in touch with my loverboy side. Really serenading a young lady, really talking to 'em. You know, moistening 'em up. That was a really romantic album. You could tongue kiss to that record, you feel me?
"It's all some cool shit. We ain't about the bullshit. Girls before guns all day. But you still need these guns for these fools out here, though. You might have to bust a nigga head."
2 Live Crew, As Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989)
Label: Luke, Atlantic Records
Big Boi: "That is one of the first albums that I ever got an ass-whooping for listening to. Me and my brother were listening to it. We had that, and we had Eazy-E's Eazy-Duz-Italbum. And my mom came home from work, and she heard us listening to that through the door, and we got our ass whooped. We still kept listening to it though, but not in the house.
"You know, it's like when a little kid is not supposed to do something and they still do it. Like, we used to have a little cousin who was like five or six, and we used to make him repeat shit like, 'Your ass, bitch,' and record him saying curse words. Shit was raunchy. Plus the beats, the bass music. That's where a lot of the influence came from, the 808s and stuff like that. So, gotta give a shout out to Uncle Luke for puttin' it down."
Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever (1989)
Big Boi: "One of my favorite lines off that is, 'You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down.' I mean, come on man, he must've been foolish in love with this girl. I just liked Tom Petty. I guess I was into this when I was in middle school.
"Hence the slang term, 'Tom Petty that hoe.' 'Free Fallin'' with me, we say that around the studio like, when you leave the house, you don't know where you're gonna end up the next day. So that's 'Tom Petty.' You don't know what's gonna happen. That's like on some Hangover Part 6, Part 7, 8, 9, and 10 type shit."
A Tribe Called Quest, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990)
Label: Jive, RCA
Big Boi: "I like this album because it was their first record. It was the first one. And I'm into the breakout stuff, and what made me fall in love with the group. You know, 'I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,' man Tribe was just cool as hell. Of course, I could've went The Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, but I don't go with what everybody else do. I listen to all of the music.
"And then, 'Bonita Applebum' was on that record. How you gonna not get past 'Bonita Applebum?' Come on now. You know they play that shit in the club every Friday."
Tony! Toni! Tone!, The Revival (1990)
N.W.A, Niggaz4Life (1991)
Label: Ruthless, Priority
Big Boi: "That's one of my favorites because of the production, and how it was put together. Dr. Dre really killed it, and it was an adventure. From the skits, and how they tied them into all the songs and everything. It was one of the first tapes I ever bought in my life, and the beats were so hard. Them boys were going off."
Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill (1991)
Label: Ruffhouse, Columbia, SME
Big Boi: "This the motherfuckin' jam. Them hard-ass eses from the west coast. I was really into Cypress Hill. They were like renegades to me. Songs like 'How I Could Just Kill A Man,' 'Hand on the Pump.' 'Stoned Is The Way of the Walk' is like my favorite shit. I actually played with Cypress Hill in Berlin last year, and it was my first time being at a live Cypress Hill concert, and that shit is fuckin' incredible. From Bobo on the percussions, to B-Real and Sen Dog, it's dope.
"These are some of the groups that we looked up to coming up. Buying the t-shirts out of Peppermint's [record store] and things like that."
Dr. Dre, The Chronic (1992)
Various Artists, Boomerang (Soundtrack) (1992)
Big Boi: "LaFace Records, man. We were part of the team back then. This was right around the time when we were getting our record deal. To hear how they put that thing together, from 'Love Shoulda Brought You Home' to A Tribe Called Quest 'Hot Sex,' which was my favorite song on that album. It was well-rounded.
"That's when they were calling LaFace 'the Motown of the South.' And to be a part of that movement, and [affiliated with a label that put out] such a great album [was an honor]. That's one of the dope records that I always play in my car."
The Isley Brothers, Beautiful Ballads (1994)
Big Boi: "This was around the time when I met my wife, actually. And this was like the soundtrack to my life. Back in the Southernplayalistic days, when we were touring, we used to do in-stores at the Mom & Pop stores, and we'd go CD or record shopping after that. And that was one of the gems that we picked up. There's a lot of Isley Brothers classics on that. Nothing but red lights and incense. That's all I can see when I listen to that music. They don't do it like that no more."
Mobb Deep, The Infamous (1995)
Label: Loud, RCA, BMG
Big Boi: "I love the album for the production. It was dark. Hard, too. This was around the time we were working on our second record. It was two dudes from New York, and the beats were crazy, and they were just spittin'. They were New York dudes, with some heavy 808s, and some crazy chopped up samples. They really got down on that.
"There was a mutual respect [between us and artists from New York]. These were like the Civil Rights days of music, when the South was looked at as not being lyrical, or whatever. Of course you had Scarface, but they didn't give him all his recognition. But for us to come in, and really be bustin', and letting them know that the South had something to say, it just [led to] a mutual respect and admiration for the music."
Bob Marley & The Wailers, Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On (1995)
Label: Tuff Gong, Island
Big Boi: "[Bob Marley and Kate Bush] are my favorite artists of all time. It's the social commentary in the music. Bob stood for something. He stood for people. And he was definitely against injustice. And I'm the same way. I've been reading these bogus-ass article headlines like, 'Big Boi Slams Obama.' They said I slammed Obama because I said I'm pro-freedom and I'm pro-civil rights. They try to take your words and twist them up. That's the whole thing behind Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.
"But Bob is definitely for the people, and I'm for the people. I feel like I definitely have a voice, and I want to touch people across the world, and teach and enlighten people on what's going on. And encourage people to think for themselves. I love independent thinkers. And that's what Bob Marley is to me.
"The title track is definitely [one of my favorites]. 'Crazy Baldheads' is one of my favorites, 'So Much Trouble,' and another one of my favorites is 'Sun Is Shining.'"
Dungeon Family, Even In Darkness (2001)
Big Boi: "This was like ten years ahead of its time. Twenty years ahead of its time. The whole squad is on there. Outkast, Goodie Mob, Organized Noize. It's a whole group effort. Dungeon Family was on the rise, so we just kind of wanted to do a whole album together, and have some fun. And we put together a great record.
"A lot of the music we do is advanced, so it's not going to be the same standard, cookie cutter stuff they play on the radio a hundred times a day. You're not gonna get that. We take pride in making music that people can feel. There's definitely a lot of emotion on that record. No two songs sound alike on that record."
Kate Bush, Aerial (2005)
Label: EMI, Columbia
Big Boi: "The quality of the production was incredible. And one of the things I loved most about her when I first got introduced to her music [by my uncle] was the stories she would tell in her music. And it wasn't like right in your face. You would kind of have to decipher what she was saying. There was a long gap between the time she released the album before this one and when this one came out, and it just had some jams on it. It was like real vibey.
"I didn't get a chance to make it across the waters to sit down with her [for Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors], but in the future we'll sit down over crumpets and tea and get it hashed it out. [She's familiar with my music], and she's cool. We spoke on the phone a few times."
Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
Label: V2, Loyaute, Glassnote
Big Boi: "Once again, I got into Phoenix from when I saw a live performance of the song 'Lisztomania' on MTV. And that song just makes you feel really good. Music is supposed to make you feel a certain type of way. And how he sang it, and the progression of the bass line and the song, it's a beautiful record. So when I saw that song, I Shazamed it, and it took me to the album. Another one of my favorites is 'Rome.'
"Original music is where it's at. And the lead singer doesn't sing typical melodies. The way he sings, it's against the grain. And it makes for a unique sound. I think they got an album coming out [in 2013], too."
John Frusciante, The Empyrean (2009)
Label: Record Collection
Big Boi: "He's the guitar player for the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. He went and did his own solo album thing, and there's a song on the album called 'Before The Beginning,' and it's his interpretation of the song 'Maggot Brain.' And it's a dope record. You'll fuck around and get a baby off of that record if you've got the right girl in front of you, I'm telling you.
"I think this might've come on TV or in a movie or something, and I used my Shazam. That Shazam is the shit. It recognizes [the song you are listening to]. Then I went to YouTube and checked out the story behind it, and it was deep, man. He was going through a lot of stuff, and he really put it down with that one. The guitar solos are insane. There's like no words on that album, it's just him playing the guitar. Crazy. Talking with that motherfucker."
"I don't play the guitar. I play a little bit of banjo. Light banjo. I picked it up not too long ago. Just a little bit. [Laughs.]"
Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010)
Label: Purple Ribbon, Def Jam
Big Boi: "[I included this] because of the journey I took to make it. Coming off of Idlewild, and getting back in the studio, I was just really tapping into a new stream of sounds, and really completing a thought. It was my first [solo] album that wasn't tied to an Outkast album, so it meant a lot. Lyrically, it was on some kill shit. I really just took it out on the music.
"When I perform the songs at a show, that's when I get total gratification, because people love this music. Even to this day, if I do a concert that's an hour and a half, the catalog is so vast that trying to pick the songs that I will use is crazy. I got so much music from Southernplayalistic all the way up to now Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. It's one hellified show. My band kills shit."
Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid (2010)
Label: Wondaland Arts Society, Bad Boy
Big Boi: "Janelle Monae is one of the few artists that I've signed, besides Killer Mike and Vonnegutt. I like to develop artists and all that, but one thing about her and that whole Wondaland crew is that they had vision. And the way they put the songs together, the whole album is like a movie. And just to be a part of the whole project, and introduce her to the world, I feel really blessed. And I'm actually co-executive producing this next record of hers, too. She's signed to me, so I did a joint deal with Bad Boy with her.
"[When I first met her], she was singing background for this guy Scar that I had signed to Purple Ribbon, and she would be around Stankonia. A little cute little girl, with a little afro. And I caught her at an open mic night at Justin's one night, and told her I wanted her to be on the team. She said, "Yes, Daddy."
Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (2012)
Label: Purple Ribbon, Def Jam
Big Boi: "I love it, man. I feel like this is my best work to date. I'm still a student of the music. All of it is an experimentation process. So, this new record, I got to do everything I wanted to do on there, and just really take the music in a different direction, where not everything has to be just rapping, but more melodies. And this is my most honest album, where I really opened up to the world about what's been happening. It's stripped down. And I love that everyone loves it. It's a good thing.
"It's so easy to make songs that are like verse, hook, verse, hook, gone. You gotta get into the instrumentation, and the whole feel of the points you're trying to convey. I had a lot of fun making this record, and I'm glad people want to hear some new shit, without the same four people on every song. That's crazy.
"Even with my last record. I didn't just load my album with a lot of big time names. I don't need big time names to sell my records. I rely on the music. No bells and whistles. No controversy. Just me and the music. Sometimes people get distracted, because they're looking for something extra to go along with it. But as it saturates, they get it. They realize that the shit is timeless classics. You could put this shit in five, ten years from now, and it'll still be like that."