Interview: Big Boi talks new solo album, Gucci Mane and philanthropy before Tampa show

He plays Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park on December 10.

Nearly two dozen Christmases have passed since Antwan Patton and his high school friend André Benjamin released “Player's Ball.” The 1993 single, created with production crew Organized Noize in a dank Atlanta basement lined with red-dirt walls, first appeared on a La Face Records holiday compilation, and put southern hip-hop on the map. Patton — better known as Big Boi — knew that he and his friends were on to something back then, but there’s no way he could’ve predicted the way his and Benjamin’s work in Outkast would change music forever.


To this day, the group’s 2003 double LP Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is the only rap album to ever win a Grammy for Album of the Year. Not even Kendrick Lamar, one of the most important figures in modern hip-hop with 20 nominations and seven awards of his own, can say that he’s done what Outkast did. Before his performance at the Winter Wonder Ride in downtown Tampa, Patton called CL Tampa to talk about those accomplishments and this new solo LP the hip-hop world keeps talking about. But first, the Atlanta-resident and sports lover is addressing the Falcons’ first-place tie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South division of the NFL.

“I don’t know man, we have a high-powered offense. You could say it’s [offensive coordinator Kyle] Shanahan. Maybe the defense didn’t hold up. I don’t know man,” Patton, 41, said.

He’s been watching football at home all day, and is immediately disarming over the line. Mr. Boi truly lives up to the 1996 lyric from ATLiens in which he raps about being “cooler than a polar bear’s toenails.” He loves talking about his kids. Apparently his daughter Jordan, who is finishing up at Auburn, turned him on to singer Leon Bridges and HBO’s Westworld, and he turned her on to Stranger Things. He admits to having a pretty sweet life, but doesn’t turn a blind eye to the current state of affairs. He’s stoked on the recent decision to essentially re-route the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, yet still leery of the follow-up.

“Believe half of what you hear and none of what you see, basically,” he said. He spoke eloquently about sentencing when the subject of Keith Scott (a 43-year-old who was fatally shot by a Charlotte police officer in September) comes up. Patton admits that he had to talk to his sons, who’ll be getting driver's licenses soon, about protocol if they get pulled over.

“I told them to keep it cool. They’re supposed to call me before it happens and after it ends. When it’s happening, it’s ‘no sir, yes sir,’ hands on the wheel or dashboard and that’s it,” Patton said. “It’s a shame you have to do that these days, but that’s just real life.” He lauded Gary Johnson’s libertarian ideals in 2012, but wouldn’t say who he voted for this time, simply answering, “I ain’t gonna reveal it.” He won’t say if his forthcoming solo LP is political either, instead calling it a time capsule and diary of his life.

“You can’t preach. You have to entertain and educate at the same time,” Patton said. “Keep that shit jammin’, you know — I don’t give a damn what you’re saying, if it don’t sound good over the music, then they ain’t gonna hear that shit at all.” The world might know soon what that new stuff sounds like, too. Patton is devoted to getting the still-untitled album out, and even cancelled the last few months of his Vegas residency so that he could complete the effort. He says it’s about 80 percent finished.

“I’ll probably be done by the end of January,” he told CL, adding that Gucci Mane’s recent Snapchat saying he was working on an “Outkast” record was just misplaced excitement. “I do have Gucci on this album. He was just excited because the song was jammin’ like a motherfucker.”

He joked that he’d have to send someone to knock us off if he revealed any more, and concedes that he just wants all of it to be a surprise. In Outkast, Patton said they would finish a song and take it to the strip club on the same day to see the reaction from the built-in crowd. These days, his kids are the focus group and get to hear music right after it’s produced in the studio. 

“They grew up listening to Metallica, Guns N' Roses, N.W.A. — everything I listen to, they listen to, so their taste in music is vast,” Patton said. He said the kids have been doing this since “Bombs Over Baghdad” and ‘Ms. Jackson,” and expects to test new songs in Tampa.“I go crazy with the shit. I play new stuff, I get on the mic. I DJ, spin, rock the party play some new shit, do some classic shit.” He is audibly hyped at this point, but the mission of onbikes (a Tampa nonprofit that uses proceeds from Winter Wonder Ride to give at-risk youth their first bikes) is not lost on Patton, who run his own Big Kidz youth outreach effort back home

“I was one of those at-risk kids. I just wanna make sure they have someone to talk to,” he said. “We do these gigs for the cause, not the applause, you know what I mean?”

Read more excerpts from our interview here. Big Boi headlines the Winter Wonder Ride post-ride concert. DJ Fresh opens. Curtis Hixon Park opens at 2 p.m., and the ride will depart at 4:30 p.m. with music to follow. More information on the event is available at

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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