On a hot July day in Mayfair, London back in 2006, Sarah J. Edwards met again with OutKast's Andre 3000 and Big Boi. This time for their debut BLAG cover. Sarah encouraged Andre and Big to discuss each other – infront of each other, learned more about their joint debut film 'Idlewild' and created hysteria amongst the pair with the BLAG Word Game.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 2 Nø 6 print edition in 2006, this is an edited version.
Interview and Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
Art Direction by Sally A. Edwards
Location: West End, London
OutKast really don’t need an introduction, we all know they’re one of the best groups in music. So, we thought we would let you know what happened when we met André and Big Boi again. There was a power cut, a card game, fresh fruit and herbal tea, plus a whole lot of laughter. We also let Big Boi and André control aspects of their piece and gave them the opportunity to state a few facts and set aside the fiction. So, we’d hand-on-heart recommend you read the following.
‘Idlewild’, in case you haven’t heard, is the title of OutKast’s latest album and film. This time around André and Big Boi have set the ideas and creativity bar even higher. The album sails fantastically through blues, soul, jazz, funk and hip hop genres like they were meant to be together. The film is a 1930s musical extravaganza, in which Big Boi plays ‘Rooster’, a popular club owner, and André plays ‘Percival’, a quiet piano player by night and assistant at his father’s funeral parlour by day. It’s a story of reaching goals, love, murder and heartbreak and not only that, it also makes you imagine tracks like ‘The Way You Move’ and ‘Bowtie’ really could’ve been the kind of music our forefathers and mothers got down to.
It is a sunny Saturday afternoon in central London, and we converge on the Metropolitan Hotel from different places. Upstairs we’re greeted by OutKast’s publicist Chloe and taken to the conference room where the shoot will take place. Later a power cut will blow the photographic lights, but we’ll put the magazine’s name to use to borrow some more.
The shoot will be animated by André’s cheeky sense of humour and soundtracked by Big’s roll to rap every thought he is having to a backing track of Organized Noize beats.
But first the interview takes place across the hall.
Seated perfectly opposite each other are Big Boi and André. Big to my left, André to my right – both looking ultra healthy, stunning and stylish. In the centre is a small table where I place nine BLAG cards, face down. Anyone who read our Beastie Boys issue knows the drill. The cards each contain a random word and our subjects, Big and André, are asked to pick a card and incorporate the word into a question to ask the other. This runs along with some regular BLAG questions...
Sarah: André, please can you describe Big Boi’s sense of humour, his style and most notable saying?
André: Err, Sense of humour. His sense of humour is spontaneous, he likes to have fun with everybody even if he don’t know you. Um, style is spontaneous as well, he just likes to stay hip. Stay hip to what’s going on, be ahead of the game really and he basically turn a lot of people onto a lot of stuff too. A lot of styles, like new stuff. Um, what’s the last one?
Sarah: Most notable saying?
André: Most notable saying, um.... [speeds up] ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Ha ha!
Big: Ha, hell yeah.
Sarah: Please can you describe André’s sense of humour, best traits and most original dance move?
Big: Sense of humour is in the sense of like, it’s dark comedy almost. He’s like a wise guy, like sometimes he’ll sneak up on you and you don’t know it, ‘cause he’ll do it with a straight face.
[André is creasing up.]
Big: What’s the second one?
Sarah: Best traits.
Big: Best traits, er, best traits I gotta say is, his mind. It’s like he’s got an expanded memory bank. A creative memory bank where he can just go, he just dives into different universes. Like he can just transport in a time machine from whatever he wants to do, from place to place and be in whatever state of mind he wants to be in. And the last one?
Sarah: Most original dance move?
Big: Most original dance move, gotta be that crooked booty. [Demos] That crooked booty been around since before that Dungeon Family album.
André: [sings] ‘Now everybody do the crooked booty.’
Big: Yeah, the crooked booty.
André shouts: The crooked booty!
Sarah: What has been your best overseas discovery, something that the US doesn’t have?
Sally to Big: Yours is Absinthe isn’t it?
Big: Absinthe, yeah.
Sarah: Mmm, you could answer what’s been the best story that you’ve taken back to Atlanta?
André: The best story.
Big: Take back to Atlanta?
Sally: Could’ve been some food, a person, a shop?
André: We don’t have that Hakassan in the states.
Sarah: Ok, tell us three questions you never want to be asked again?
Big: Are y’all breaking up?
André: Are y’all breaking up?
Big: Why y’all don’t work in the studio together?
André: Did Erykah Badu make you dress like that? Ha ha ha!
Big: Did y’all turn down Oprah Winfrey?
André: Yeah, that’s the new one. Have you heard that one?
Sarah: Yeah. I felt quote honoured when I read that, I thought ‘and you’re going to do BLAG?’ Wow, thanks.
André: I mean, that’s totally not true, she turned us down. But they flipped it, on some flip shit.
Big: Flippin’ it, you know how they do it.
André: That’s alright though.
Sarah: Big, do you want to pick a card?
Big: Yes. I’ll take the middle, I’ll take the middle square for $300.
André: [Reading the card] ‘Style tips’.
Big: What style tips can you give to a person who doesn’t know how to tie a real bow tie?
André: Style tips to a person that doesn’t know how to tie a real bow tie. For one, just from my experience, the books that show you how to tie a bow tie, they do not work, because it’s hard to follow the diagram. That style of taking the tie on your knee, that doesn’t work either. You’re going to have to get you an old man or another gentleman that knows how to tie a bow tie and for him to stand by you and show you how to do it.
Big: Like side by side.
André: Y’all gotta look in the mirror and do it. It’s the only way.
Sarah: Ok, I’ve got questions about the film and the album and general stuff, so shall I skip to them?
André: Whatever you want to do. Whatever you want to do, Miss Lady.
Big: It’s your world.
Sarah: André, did you do your piano lessons that you were talking about?
André: [as if told off] No, no I didn’t.
Sarah: You were studying the clarinet and saxophone last time we met.
André: Yeah, that’s where I’m still at, I kinda jump around, but I’m really focusing on that right now. That singular note instrument.
Sarah: Big, can you tell us about Purple Ribbon? We really love Scar and Janelle.
Big: Oh, it’s coming, it’s going down in a special way.
Sally: We wanted to do a piece with them actually, here look in INTRODUCING...
Big: So, this y’all book? This some quality stuff, you’re some gangsters! You’re not sitting on nothing, look! Oh hell yeah, let’s do it.
André: [Speaking really fast] Let me see that, let me see that, let me see that, let me see that.
Big: Scar and Janelle, Purple Ribbon, right now. Their records, both records...Janelle Monáe’s record is called ‘Metropolis’, Scar’s record is called ‘Scard 4 Life’ and both albums are like 95% done. I’m just waiting to put the icing on the cake when I get back to Atlanta, once I’ve finished this promo tour. You’ll be getting that real soon. I mean, we’ve been working on them for two plus years, on each album, so everything's coming. It’s time to, you know, get the crop. But I also got Koncrete coming. Bubba Sparxxx is out. I got Sleepy Brown coming out with his album ‘Mr. Brown’. Killer Mike, you know, just really keeping busy, you know.
Sarah: André, you told us you wanted to move to London, when we last met and you actually came here to film ‘Revolver’ didn’t you...
Sarah: How did you find it? And would you want to spend anymore time here?
André: Yeah, I’ve been thinking too, like, I think I need to take a trip somewhere at least for about six months to a year. Kind of just like a getaway, kinda like a time stay. Not really just move, move, but I’ve been thinking either Australia or here. But Australia is a loooonnng trip. It may end up being here. You know, just to get some fresh faces, you know.
Sarah: London’s really bubbly at the moment isn’t it?
André: Yeah, that’s what I like. That’s what I like about New York, but New York is kinda just too overdone.
Sarah: I feel like it’s more exciting here than in New York right now.
Sally: London’s so big that you can kind of have a bit of privacy. There’s loads of different areas to go, people to meet and different things to do.
André: Right, right. And I think being from somewhere else, being outside of something can probably help you, like, make something new. The same thing as being from Atlanta, because we’re not from New York or LA I think, because we have this... our ear is different you know and we come from a left field.
Sarah: André, please could you improvise a film, incorporating: genre, plot, co-stars, ending, title.
André: The title? Mmmm [long pause]. Let’s make it a musical. A musical about the music industry, it would be called, it would be callllleeeddd....man, this is a hard one.
Sarah: Sorry. Do you want to think about the plot and co-stars first?
André: [let’s out a three second ‘Errrr’, then pauses.] The plot would be a group of guys from a small town, they start this rap group. They have the ability to, like, when they go meet people, when they do instore signings or when they’re at a concert, if they touch any of their fans, they take on all of their fans problems and troubles and put them into songs. So, they kind of suck up their problems and regurgitate it out through a song and so by having that power they actually make the best music ever, ‘cause they actually connect with the people.
Sarah: Ok, cool.
André: How can this end? How can this end? They meet one guy at an instore signing and they shake his hand and something really terrible is going to happen to this guy. Something really terrible is going on in his life and it has the whole group at a low point, because the guy is about to die. But they can’t tell him that, only thing they can do is make a song about it. After their biggest selling album yet, their next album has to be this kind of dark, sinister album. They know it’s not going to sell a lot of records, but they have to go through it, because it’s the only thing they’ve got to give. The band goes through a low point and they start going through it in their own lives, you know, all the members. They start taking all these drugs trying to numb the badness that they feel writing this whole album and they end up killing themselves.
Sarah: [laughs] Oh no.
André: [laughs] And the name of the movie is called ‘From Me To You’.
Sarah: Do you want to talk about co-stars or do you think you’ve kind of got it?
André: I think it would star, T.I, Lil’ Wayne, myself, Terrence Howard and Jeffrey Wright would play our manager. Yeah.
Sarah: What are you both listening to at the moment?
Big: Highland Place Mobsters, it’s old school Dallas Austin, one of the first groups he put out. Yeah, they had a dope album. Kate Bush, the last one. I’m trying to do some stuff with her. A little bit of everything, old soul, Marvin Gaye ‘Here, My Dear’, whatever comes up on the pod, got my shit on super shuffle.
Sarah: That’s the best way.
André: I’m listening to this cat called Son House. He’s dead now, but he was this old blues artist that was a preacher from Mississippi. He was a preacher, but he used to get drunk too. And he used to play blues records in the Sixties. You know, with the big blast of the rival blues, all these record execs would go down to, like, rural places in the country and just find all these old legends and record them. So, these recordings are of him, you know, he got songs talking about ‘don’t you worry about people grinning in your face’.
Big: [laughs] That’s hard as hell.
André: Like an old man. Hard, he be killin’ it though.
Sarah: I’m going to go on to the film now, we saw it by the way and really enjoyed it. I saw it at 10am, so it was really a sort of amazing way to start a day. [Both André and Big get really excited and gesture as if winning a prize] So, I wanted to find out how much input you had, I know that Bryan Barber wrote and directed it, but it just felt like you probably had a lot of involvement in it.
André: We didn’t have anything to do with the script, honestly. But like the original ideas came from two video treatments. We’ve always been behind the scenes pretty much writing the treatment going to a director and saying ‘Ok, how can we do this?’ You know, so, I think some of our sensibility and our taste is going to come through, because we were a part of the beginning of it. It just so happens, well, Bryan, he’s a professional at what he does, he went to school for it. He’s taken writing classes and all that type of stuff. Like, we don’t know nothing about no writing a script too tough. So, you know, he took the original ideas and killed it. I mean, it’s probably just a touch of style that we normally do in there.
Sarah: And then him knowing you as well.
André: Oh yeah.
Sarah: I wanted to talk through different elements, the costume was really amazing. Was it all specifically designed?
Big: I guess for that time period, you’d bring a certain type of class back, but it was great. They had original pieces from the ‘30s in there as well as having Giorgio Armani come in and tailor-make suits for us, for the movie.
Sarah: I know, they looked really good, hand-sewn and really fitted with the era.
André: Gotta give a shout out to Ralph Lauren.
Big: Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani stayed down. As a matter of fact, Shawn Barton the stylist still got some of my own personal footwear and hats, so I need to get that back. I’ve been asking him for that shit for a minute, he gonna put that shit on ebay.
Sarah: The choreography was great inside ‘Soap Church’ and the tap dance scene, which I thought was brilliant.
André: Thank you.
Sarah: I saw that that was Hinton Battle.
André: Hinton Battle, he taught me how to tap dance in two weeks.
Big: He did?
André: Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t like I was out there really killin’ it. I went out and bought some tap shoes too.
Big: How much did you have to do a day, about a couple of hours a day?
André: Yeah, two hours a day. It’s a workout too. With tap dance, you have to work, because you work damn near every muscle. ‘Cause you take for granted how much control you gotta have in your ankles. ‘Cause you’ve got to almost lift yourself up.
Big: That’s gangster as hell.
André: It’s crazy.
Big: That’s some player shit too.
André: That’s why I put some on my shoes, I’d be round the house... [demos a few steps, still seated].
Sarah: I was amazed by the children who played you as youngsters.
André: Yeah, they were really good.
Sarah: [to Big] Yours really freaked me out, because he was like a small man.
André and Big: Yeah, ha ha!
Big: Bobb’e J.
André: Yeah, man. He grown. He grown for his age.
Sarah: I wanted to ask about how you found them and how they learnt about your characteristics. Did they do that?
Big: When Bryan cast Bobb’e J, he wanted somebody to be out going and just have a lot of personality. To play a small version of me, he had to be a little small man. He fit, he fit for real, it was crazy. ‘Praise Jesus’ he was dancing!
André: Oh yeah, that was so funny.
Sarah: And how old is he?
Big: Man, I don’t know.
André: I don’t know. About 30.
Big: He might be 30... 29 or 30.
André: No, I think he’s about eight now, but he’s really small for his age.
Big: He can’t be no more than like nine or 10. Crazy, crazy. He was rapping. I remember he had his little sister on the set, who was bigger than he was, they were doing ‘Roses’. She was doing the background vocals and he was just saying all the words, singing. He’d be like ‘Caroline’ and she’d be like ‘Caroline’. They were just singing back and fourth, that shit was amazing.
Sarah: What was your best experience making the film?
Big: My best experience of making the film was getting fucked up in the back of that Ford with Paula Jai Parker and making out with her. They just gave us a bottle of Hennessey and were like ‘Go for it!’
Sarah: Can you tell us about the process of working with the Morris Brown Marching Band? I actually wanted to ask about the process of the whole song (‘Morris Brown’), because it’s really interesting that you’ve got that contemporary style and just so many different layers to it.
André: Basically I started it with a beat at home, I was messing around, I had just learned how to use the computer to make beats, you know. And I was messing with this drum programme and this keyboard. So, I had this beat going and had the part played by keyboards and just thought it would sound bigger with a live marching band. So, I had a relationship with the Morris Brown band director and he always used to say, ‘If you ever need something, come on down and holler at us.’ So, I took the song down and this was when cassette tapes were still good, ‘cause we did this song a while ago. So, I put the song on a cassette tape and I gave it to the band director and said I want you to write out parts. You know, dictate which instrument would play what. So, he wrote out the band parts, they called and said ‘Ok, we’re ready.’ So, we went in the studio and there was about 50 or 60 kids, they were really excited about it, ‘cause, originally it was supposed to be a record for TLC and they didn’t want to pay up. So we just kept it. Really we had this track that we spent a whole bunch of fucking money on, spent our OutKast G’s on and it was just laying around. And Big Boi had it on CD and Scar, one of his artists, heard the track and he started writing to it. Scar wrote this cool little melody to it and just brought the song back to life, like from out of the depths of nowhere.
Sarah: Please could you choose a track each and break them down for us - including production, story, guests?
Big: I’d have to say one of them would be ‘N2U’, produced by Organized Noize.
Sarah: Ah, with Khujo on.
Big: Yeah, Khujo came through about three in the morning and I had got the beat from Rico when I was in LA. I was writing to it. I was like, ‘Man, this is just so funky.’ He already had the hook on there and I thought it was Sleepy on there at first, but it was Mike P. He had the little hook part on there and I was like, ‘Man, the song’s self- explanatory.’ So, you know me, how I approach the game. I just spit two-two, put it down like that and let them know what time it is. Splish splash, taking a bath and now I’m here. Rub-a-dub-dub, we out the tub baby!
Sarah: You want me to type that?
Big: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: Thanks. André, do you want to choose a track please?
André: [starts humming and beatboxing] Um... [In European accent] ‘Chronomentrophobia’, the fear of clocks, the fear of time. ‘Chronomentrophobia’ is a song that’s been in the vault for a while. It was done about four years ago maybe. No, about five or six.
Big: Yeah, try nine, that was for the ATL. That thing has been in the vault, secure.
André: Well, probably about seven I think, probably about seven years. I was messing around with this drum machine, this analogue drum machine. I got some good tight eight-bit sounds on it and ‘Chronomentrophobia’, I don’t know, I saw the word somewhere and I liked the way it sounded. I didn’t know what it meant, so I just wrote it down and then looked it up and came up with the first verse and the chorus maybe like five years ago. And then, because the character Percival in this movie, you know, his whole thing was about time, there’s clocks in everything, so I thought it’d make good sense to bring back for this movie. And last minute we were trying to finish up the album, I was mixing it and we knew it was a great jam, but it just wasn’t done and it’s like, ‘Damn, it’s like a waste of a song’. So, I write raps far and few between so, I was like just trying to dig through old shit, old raps. The rap that I put on there was actually a rap that I wrote for the first album ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’, so that’s an eleven year old rap. And when you hear it now, it just sounds like it’s supposed to be there, like it makes sense. I’ve been trying to put the rap on damn near every album since, but just couldn’t find space. So, that’s actually a vintage rap that nobody’s ever heard and actually where the title ‘ATLiens’ came from, it came from that rap.
THE CARD GAME COMMENCES
André: Alright, ‘School’, if you could go to any school, I mean college, what college would you go to?
Big: Err, man. Let’s see.
André: Any school.
Big: Any school? Shiiit, damn. Hell, I’d go to Harvard or Brown.
André: Alright, there it is.
Big: Cool. [Turns card over] Bam! ‘BLAG’. Ok, I got it. What does blag mean again?
Sarah: To get something for free, clever talk.
André: Alright, let me go and flimflam up in here.
Big: Shit, would you sign two covers of your BLAG covers for my Grandmama and my Mama?
André: Yeah. OK.
Big: That was a question. Come on, we’re gonna finish the game up now.
André: Alright, ‘Essential Packing’. OK, what is essential packing when you going over the water?
Big: Essential packing, you’ve got to have your power converters, your movies and your entertainment. [Turns over the next card] ‘Travel’.
André: Travel, travel, unravel.
Big: What place are we going to travel when we take our trip? When we said we were going to take a trip. Remember we’re going to take a trip. Like on a littleshwoooshwsh.
André: Well, it has to be somewhere tropical.
Big: That’s what I’m sayin’! Hee hee!
And so to the photoshoot.