Big Boi Talks New Album, Outkast Plans, Playing Bill Clinton at Coachella Party

Alexandra Wyman/Invision for Levi Strauss/AP Images

Rapper credits keeping an open mind for reunion with partner Andre 3000.

Last weekend marked the first of dozens of tour dates for the recently reunited Outkast. The duo – Big Boi and Andre 3000 – headlined the first evening of Coachella, launching what will be a busy year for the rappers. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg for Big Boi, who told THR last night during a Coachella party at Levi’s Haus of Strauss in Los Angeles that he has big plans beyond the tour dates with the duo.

The rapper, who DJed last night’s party to a crowd that included Solange Knowles, members of Odd Future and Joe Jonas, said his primary focus is his third solo effort. The album, still untitled, will be the follow-up to 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors and will feature various guest appearances that Big Boi is keeping a secret for the moment.

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“I’m just working on it now,” the rapper said. “I’ve got a lot of music, but it ain’t done until you turn it in. We’re about to do 40-something more concerts, so [I’ll be] recording on the road and traveling.” He hopes to finish that work this year but isn’t sure if his rigorous tour schedule, which also includes solo dates, will allow for it. “I’m shooting for this year,” he added. “You’ll definitely get a couple of songs before the end of the year. Whether the project is done or not just depends on how wild this road gets.”

Big Boi didn’t have much to say about the Outkast reunion, which has only just gotten underway. For him, getting back onstage with Andre 3000 to play the rap duo’s songs is about keeping an open mind. “It’s been good,” Big Boi said. “It’s been fun. It’s been one date so far. A lot of family and friends came out. We just jumped into the deep end of the pool like, ‘Let’s do it!’ Friday is round two and we gotta crank it back up again.”

The duo may vary their setlist slightly from last Friday, but seem eager to continue revisiting both Outkast songs and solo material during these upcoming shows. “It might be slightly different,” Big Boi says of this Friday’s performance. “What happened was our set got cut by like five songs. We had to cut ‘Player’s Ball’ and ‘Chronomentrophobia’ because of the time constraints. But there’s probably a couple songs [fans] didn’t hear then they’re gonna hear this time.”

Meanwhile, Big Boi is also working on a full collaborative release with New York band Phantogram, titled Big Grams. At present, the release is an EP, but Big Boi is open to it becoming a larger, full-length effort. Either way, it likely won’t emerge until after the rapper’s next solo album. “We’ve got songs which were already recorded when we were working on my last record,” he said. “They come down to Stankonia and we camp out for like a week and trade vibes. They go back to New York, then they come back down and we just keep the process going.”

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Big Boi, who cites Montreal indie pop duo Majical Cloudz as his latest musical discovery, is interested in these sorts of unusual partnerships. He uses Shazam and Soundhound in restaurants and department stores to find new music and seeks out the unexpected. “[I’m looking for] just a sonically different sound than what’s out there,” he said. “I don’t go for the artists that everybody’s using or get somebody just for the name.”

One of these collaborations has been between the rapper and Modest Mouse, but the three songs the indie rock act recorded with Big Boi at Stankonia a few years back haven’t yet seen the light of day. “I’ve been asking [lead singer] Isaac [Brock] when they gonna do it, man,” Big Boi said. “We’ve got these songs they’ve been sitting on forever. I saw him a couple months ago and they’re working on some additions to what we did. I don’t know. It’s a crazy camp over there. It’s coming. Talk to him! He’s the boss.”

The rapper also recently announced his signing with Jordan Feldstein’s Career Artist Management, a move he feels will help move him to the next level. One of the major goals of the signing is to move Big Boi further into the TV and film worlds. After the rapper releases his solo album, he says the focus will move to acting. “Once the ink’s on paper, then I’ll let people know what’s happening,” Big Boi said. “I’ve been turning down roles for a while now because music is my first passion but there’s been a lot of calls for me to do film.”

One role he really wants? “I wanna play Bill Clinton,” the rapper said. “I’d play the shit outta that.”