24 Feb 2018

Big Boi: cooler than a polar bear's toenails

From RNZ Music, 2:05 pm on 24 February 2018

Big Boi AKA Sir Luscious Leftfoot AKA Daddy Fat Sax AKA one half of Outkast AKA the man who invented being cooler than a polar bear's toenails is visiting New Zealand to play two shows in mid-March.

Big Boi

Big Boi Photo: supplied

Once upon a time, two boys named Andre ‘3000’ Benjamin and Antwan ‘Big Boi’ Patton went to high school together in a small suburb of Atlanta, Georgia called East Point.

Like Lennon and McCartney before them, these two lads formed a bond over music and songwriting, and eventually started a band. The band was called Outkast and they became one of the most successful hip-hop acts in history. 

Speakerboxx/The Love Below – their last album, which came out in 2003, sold 5.5 million copies and won six Grammy awards including Record of the Year, Album of the Year and best Rap Album.

Stankonia, the duo's previous album, released in 2000, is widely regarded as one of the best albums of that decade. It spawned the hits 'So Fresh, So Clean' and 'Ms Jackson', two of the biggest songs of the early-2000s

Big Boi may be the second best rapper in OutKast (most people consider Andre 3000 to be one of the best rappers in the world), but he ain't no slouch: he's still an incredible rapper in his own right, not to mention producer and businessman; and father. He's a prolific musician who's shaped the careers of many other artists.

Big Boi is due in New Zealand in March for shows in Auckland and Wellington (skip to tour details). Alex Behan spoke to him about fatherhood, the Atlanta hip-hop scene and polar bears' tonails.

Big Boi AKA Sir Lucious Leftfoot AKA Daddy fat Sax AKA one half of the most successful hip hop group of all time, coiner of the phrase 'cooler than a polar bear’s toenails', it is a privilege to speak with you. We have limited time and I don’t care what we talk about – let’s start with current events: Happy Birthday for the other day, walk me through a Big Boi birthday celebration. 

Oh man. It was good. We did a little pre-game at the studio then we went to [rapper] T.I’s strip club, Be Live and we just took the club over. Then ... the next day me and my wife got a suite at the Mandarin, Oriental [a luxury triple 5-star hotel in Las Vegas] for three or four days, and we just had a good time. Just being grown people. You know. Thankful for life and our kids and our careers and just reflecting and enjoying each other.

How do you juggle that strip club life with family life?

I don’t go to the strip club as much, it’s got to be a special occasion like somebody’s birthday. There’s got to be something going on. I mean we used to go like every day ... and now, we’ve done it so much, there’s got to be a special occasion.

We just go out to get some drinks and have some fun man. [Rapper] Killer Mike came out, a lot of my close friends and we just had a good time. The [hop/R&B production team] Organized Noize boys, Sleepy and Ray, they all came down – it was a family affair.

That’s a beautiful thing, I know that you’re a family man. You’ve spoken about it openly throughout your career whether you’re talking about your son Bamboo or giving advice: “Can’t raise no baby on that dope money, might not always be sufficient.”

(Whoops with delight)

One of my favourite lyrics of all time. I see your son is playing football.

Yeah he’s been playing since he was five and right now he’s just turned seventeen. He’s at highschool and heading into his senior year and he’s a monster. It’s his passion and things are looking really good for the kid, he’s a running back.

That must make you incredibly proud, and it must be somewhat amazing to have a seventeen-year-old.

Yeah I mean I started to have my kids early cos I didn’t want to be old as hell and can’t play with them and can’t run the ball with them you know what I mean? So I started early, I was a teenage father and it worked out pretty good cos I measured it out right. I wanted to be just at the right age where my kids can’t whip my ass.

Being a teenage dad, a lot of people would have looked at that like a prison sentence.

Nah well, I counted it as joy. My daughter, right now she’s at university, she’s a psychology major. She graduates this year. You know, being there from the beginning, to marrying my wife whom I’ve been with for 23 years ... I can sit back now and enjoy life and all the fruits of my labour and watch my kids grow and be there as a dad.

For my whole family too, my brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews. I got extended family. Family is always first for me.

Your family and your career has put Atlanta on the map and we now know that Atlanta is the international capital of hip-hop. But if you go back to '95 when you got Best New Artist at the Source Awards, back then it was all East Coast vs. West Coast. You started to put the south on the map. Dungeon Family, Organized Noize – the success of OutKast opened doors for all those people. I have this picture of you walking around Atlanta and people treating you like royalty.

I’m a humble cat man. I’m proud of the city, I’m proud of the artists, I’m proud of everyone repping Atlanta. Everybody pays their respects and everybody appreciates one another. One thing I can say about Atlanta is that we all work together. Power in numbers. Anybody of the who’s who could be in the studio together and there’s not a lot of beef.

Everybody kind of salutes each other. We see each other on the streets, ain’t nowhere to hide out here so if you’ve got a problem with somebody you’re gonna have to deal with it.

The Atlanta collective is incredible. The producers, the MC’s that are coming out: Young Thug, Future etc. I remember when I first heard of Killer Mike, it was because he was on an Outkast song, and now you’re winning Grammy’s guesting on one of his songs.

That’s what I’m saying man, it’s brotherhood. Two of my proudest accomplishments musically outside of OutKast are signing Killer Mike and Janelle Monae, and to see their careers flourish and to grow to where they are today, it’s very gratifying to me. They call me the king of giving people a chance, the king of putting people on.

Janelle Monae is fire.


Big Boi: Wait a minute he’s got one more question don’t cut him off like that.

OK, well I was just going to reference that line 'cooler than a polar bears toenails' because I just went on genius.com and I see that you're annotating your own lyrics, pointing out that polar bears don’t actually have toenails.

That’s right. It’s claws.

It’s Claws!


You design a lyric that good that lasts for all time and it turns out it’s factually inaccurate!

Crazy. It’s crazy. It’s slang right we say toenails almost like it’s that southern slang so … some say claws, we say toenails. Some people got toes that look like claws. Shit.

Who: Big Boi

What: Boomiverse tour


  • Friday, March 16, Studio, Auckland
  • Saturday, March 17, Meow, Wellington

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