written by Biba Adams

“For me, the difference with Atlanta is that we work together. There’s a certain sort of brotherhood, a pride. None of that infighting you get elsewhere. The studios are in one sector of the city and, me having one myself, anyone can bump into anyone else, whether in the club or the studio or whatever and be like, ‘Hey man, we recording tonight’, and they’ll be like ‘Oh s**t, we’re coming through, then’. -Big Boi, “The Difference with Atlanta is that we work together.” The Irish Times, June 16, 2017_

We call it Atlanta Magic. It’s the invisible essence that swirls around the city. You can’t see it, but you can feel it. It’s when you randomly see Usher at a gas station. It’s what makes the bottom of the tracks and the women so heavy. It’s what they put on lemon pepper wings. And if you stay longer than two weeks, it’s what will probably get you scammed out of your credit card number.

Interview | Big Boi

June 2011. The first time I met Big Boi was at Stankonia [Studio]. There was a random get together at Stankonia, what we in ATL would call a kickback. It was my first time at the studio and the night before my birthday, I heard about it from a friend and we went. My brother was in town and my homeboy Al was still living there too. There were a few rappers, producers, writers and some regular folks just hanging out. As you would expect, Stankonia has a warm and creative vibe. The walls are adorned with Outkast art, most notably scenes from Idlewild—the duo’s 2006 film and their last album together. We all hung out and thanks to his endorsement at the time by Crown Royal Black, Big poured generous red cups. I vaguely remember saying, “This is one of the greatest nights of my life!” and a crazy hangover at my birthday dinner at Justin’s.

I’ve always been a Big Boi fan. I’ve been a hip-hop writer for almost 20 years, and a hip-hop fan a lot longer than that. Aquemini (1998) is my favorite ‘Kast album (and song). For me, it was the line “For real/you go on chill out and still build/ let your paper stack/instead of going into overkill/pay your fuckin’ beeper bill, bitch.” With that line and his amazing turns in ATL, Idlewild, and even Who’s Your Caddy? I was convinced. While the Gemini Three Stacks was the more enigmatic of the two, Big Boi – the Aquarius – was the more consistent rapper and definitely the better actor.

December 2011. The second time I met Big Boi was also at Stankonia. He was set to release his second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. He held a listening party at Stankonia, and Atlanta came out to support him partying in the cavernous main room with its stage and two open bars. Private interviews, including mine, were in Studio A where Big Boi sat with his publicist and two sons, Bamboo and Cross.

We talked about how his solo projects were not a deviation from Outkast, but instead a natural evolution. “I’m a team player, man. It’s tattooed on my skin. It’s Dungeon Family for life. We’ve laid so much foundation in the music that we’ve been doing. It’s a blessing, and I don’t take that lightly. It’s not just for monetary reasons. It’s really because I’m having fun. You can tell I’m having fun making the music, and that’s what it’s about, living a fulfilling life. That’s really what it boils down to.”

In Atlanta, working together isn’t just a concept that applies to the rap stars. But they are the prototype. In the A, hairstylists, publicists, writers, producers, actors, hell… even teachers work together. It’s the nature of the city that during the Civil Rights Movement dubbed itself “The City too Busy to Hate.” That still applies. Atlanta Magic is why the city is overcrowded full of black people pursuing dreams in all kinds of fields. It’s a place where you can buy a big, beautiful home for a decent price. Where your kids can go to decent schools, and you can’t beat the weather. In return, you get the traffic.

April 2012. The third time I met Big Boi was at Masquerade. My homegirl Traci was in town visiting and Future was having his release party. Before we left, I warned Traci about Atlanta Magic and how it might show up and make her want to move in. We got to the party, walked to the backstage, expecting that there would be a big crowd backstage. Instead we only found Big Boi, DJ Drama, T.I., and Jeezy. It would be too awkward to leave, so instead we sat down and talked a little bit for a few minutes then leaving for the bar. Atlanta Magic had worked again. Traci did move down, leaving less than a year later, because Atlanta Magic can wear off in Atlanta traffic.

When you got people working together on their songs, and putting out the magnitude, the quality and volume of records from one place, you’re gonna get a lot of hits out of that. Because there are no egos; people just come in and wanna jam together.” -Big Boi, The Irish Times.

May 2017. The fourth time I met Big Boi was a couple months ago at a listening party for Organized Noize. Still close to his fans, the rapper has an active Instagram account with over 485K fans on the social channel. Currently living in Harlem it was my first time back home in a while, and social media was my main way to stay in touch with all my folks. I was excited to go out with my homegirl and listen to great hip-hop. The Organized Noize EP was dope and I spotted Big on the way out, and went over to say hello. We hugged and I told him how I wished I brought my business cards, but that I would find a way to reach out to him to write about Boomiverse. He replied, “You ain’t gotta find me. Give me your phone.” And he put his cell number in it.

In the book, The Art of the Interview: Lessons from a Master of the Craft, Lawrence Grobel describes how to get a great interview. “You must converse like a talk show host, think like a writer, understand subtext like a psychiatrist, have an ear like a musician, be able to select the best parts like a book editor and know how to piece it together dramatically like a playwright.” All of that is true. But, thanks to Atlanta Magic, in the A… you really only gotta gotdamn keep it 100, and folk will keep it 100 with you.