Big Boi has been putting out music since 1994, when Outkast released their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, and 25 years later he continues to remain a major name in Atlanta hip-hop as a solo act.
Big Boi has released three solo albums since 2010, most recently Boomiverse in 2017, as well as the collaboration EP Big Grams with Phantogram in 2015, and has been a staple of the music festival circuit in recent years. The hip-hop legend has also found himself building his acting portfolio along with his musical catalogue, beginning with ATL and Idlewild and most recently including a recurring role on BET’s The Quad and being cast in the upcoming remake of Superfly.
Outside of his career, Big Boi has also found himself as the father of a football recruit as his son Cross Patton, a running back at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, recently received his first major college offer from USC. That experience gives him a unique perspective when it comes to his role as Lenny Jenkins, the father of a star recruit, on The Quad. Ahead of Tuesday night’s episode, airing at 10 p.m. ET on BET, we spoke with Big Boi about what he’s learned about the recruiting process, the things his son has taught him about self-promotion, using LaVar Ball as something of a case study for his role, his dream acting role and more.
UPROXX: First, congrats to Cross on the USC offer. What was the vibe like in the house when that letter came?
Big Boi: It was actually a call. It was dope. I was so happy to… He’d been working so hard. He got his first offer when he was in the 10th grade, he’s a junior now, in high school. But, he got his first offer from Eastern Virginia University, last year. Then I just told him to keep working hard and you’re going to get to where you need to be. So, he also wants to be an architect, so he was looking at Georgia Tech, and Georgia Tech has been looking at him and stuff. So when the USC offer came in, man, he was just so proud of himself, and I was so proud of him, too. You know, he’s been working hard. It’s the first of more to come, I mean, the second of more to come.
What’s something that you’ve learned from the recruiting process and all that, that kind of surprised you coming into this for the first time as a parent?
Nothing really surprised me, I kind of knew about it ’cause I got friends that have gone through it and some of my godchildren play college football as well, so through my homeboys, they’ve been kind of telling me about this for years. My son’s been playing football since he’s been five years old, so, he’s had a chance to see some of his cousins go to Ole Miss and things like that. So, we talk as a family and they just let us know it’s real out here, you know? I just told him to keep praying, and working hard, you’ll get to where you want to be.
Now, especially, with the internet, all the recruiting sites, and Hudl highlight films, there’s a lot of self promotion that goes into recruiting. Were you able to give him some advice? Because it seems like in music you’ve got to do the same kinds of things to get discovered. Were you able to give him some advice on best practices there and kind of how to promote himself?
No, actually he was the one telling me what to do. You know what I mean? I knew about the Hudl, he would edit his own videos. Every time you get the ball, you make a play. Like, he’s an all-purpose player so he plays… He was playing corner, he was playing running back, punt return, he played a little bit of everything, slot receiver. So, he’s like an all around back. I had him first, he was playing football and then we wrestled for two years, and then we ran track, and we’re running track again this year, got fast, went to a lot of football camps. He’s doing the Cam Newton football camp right now. He’s been getting invited to all kinds of different camps around the country, so he’s been making a name for himself. He’ll edit a video like, “put this up daddy, put this on your Twitter. Put this on your Facebook. I edited it.” He put music to it, all kinds of… He’s got Tech N9ne playing in the background, and shit. I be amazed [laughs]. He’s a smart kid too, he’s got a 3.98 grade point average. I mean, as bad as he is on the field is as dope as he is in the classroom too, so that’s what a lot of coaches like about him.
Your character on The Quad, Lenny Jenkins, how similar or how different is he from you as Cross’s dad in this whole recruiting thing?
He’s similar in the fact that he has a son that plays football and is sought after. He’s different in ways that Lenny Jenkins is kind of overbearing, he’s very obnoxious. I’m more laid back, you know what I mean? I don’t do a lot of hoopla unless my boy’s scoring a touchdown and he’s running down the field, then I get crazy, but, you know, I kind of let the coaches coach and I just give my kid advice, and make sure I’m steering him in the right place as far as training and diet goes.
Did you take any inspiration from LaVar Ball for the role? Have you studied any LaVar tape to help get in that mindset?
I don’t think you really got to study LaVar’s tape. You just gotta look at the interviews [laughs]. You know what I mean, I might have tried to mimic that walk when he was at the WWF when I first walked in, you know the deal, that shit was hilarious to me. But, yeah man, Lenny Jenkins is that guy, you know. He’s the guy that wears the Dwight Jenkins coat, t-shirt, and the Dwight Jenkins hat in the stand. You know what I mean? He’s that guy, so, we put on for the city.
What are your thoughts on LaVar and how he’s found the way to just always stay in the new cycle, market his sons, kind of get them out there constantly?
Really, that ain’t none of my business. That’s just a parent and everybody’s got different parenting skills, you know. Those are his kids. If the kids ain’t got a problem with it, you know, I mean everybody around might not agree with what he’s doing, but he must be doing something right. Everybody keep talking about him.
Right. How would you say you’ve grown as an actor since ATL, I think that was your first, kind of, big role on the screen? What would you say you’ve learned about being an actor?
I think its, well, actually my first big role was Idlewild, but ATL came out before Idlewild did. But, just to grow as an actor and, kind of, pace yourself and to become that person, you know what I’m saying? Like, I have fun, like, being the bad guy, like being Marcus in ATL. My dream role would be like a Christian Bale in American Psycho, the hood version, you know what I mean? Not like a Jeffery Dahmer killer, like eating people, but like I accidentally kill somebody, then I’ve got to kill somebody else, and then kill somebody else. Like a dark, dark comedic serial killer type role.
Okay, you’ve got the Superfly remake coming up. What are you looking forward to most about being in that?
I can’t wait to see what the whole movie turns out. I know the original Superfly was about the lifestyle, it was fast, and was going on at the time and we needed the soundtrack to really, it kinda really went hand in hand with that movie. You know what I mean, Curtis Mayfield killed that shit. So, just to see how they put it all together, put the pieces together, I can’t wait to see how they tell the story.
You’ve done some soundtrack work, what is that like? What is the process of trying to make music that fits the vibe of a movie, and kind of, the tone of the film? What is that process like as an artist that’s maybe different from just making music your own album?
It’s… to kind of score a film, when you see it being shot, you know what the sound is supposed to be. You know what I mean? As opposed to when you’re working on an album, like when I start working on an album, I can’t tell you what it’s going to sound like when I’m finished cause it’s always “expect the unexpected” but to score a film, I could… there’s so much that you could do with that, man. To set the tone of a certain scenes. And one day I hope that I’ll be able to do that.
As an artist, what’s a project that you, yourself, are most proud of over your career?
All of ’em. I mean that with a capital A, All of ’em. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and time, and hard work, and a lot of gratification too for what the finished product sounded like. It’s all a part of me, like, the music is like a time capsule, so it captures the essence of the life since the last time we listened to it, and it’s going on 25 years and still out here killing it at a high level, man, that ain’t nothing but a blessing. I gotta thank the most high for that.