V Books: Big Boi Cites Dick Gregory’s ‘Ni**er’ And Miguel Ruiz’s ‘The Four Elements’ As Two Of His Favorite Books

Big Boi and Andre 3000 have made careers out of keeping verses loaded with principles, moral guidance, euphemisms, and book knowledge. The #SouthenPlayaListicTeachings of OutKast enters into the universe through tubes of organically creative and thought-provoking raps, equating to prolific careers that spans longer than two decades.

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“Go back to our first album, we read a lot of stuff – Behold a Pale Horse — and that type of stuff,” Big Boi shared during an interview with VIBE.

Behold a Pale Horse was written by former Naval Intelligence Briefing Team member, Bill Cooper. This [un]popular read, especially among hip-hop heads, reveals information about AIDS, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the War on Drugs, among other complex topics, which Cooper alleges were plots meant to further hinder minorities, and has been withheld and kept secret in government files.

“We were 16 years old. Big Rube, and the rest of the Dungeon [Family] brothers were four years older than us, so they were teaching us this stuff,” Big Boi said.

It’s no secret that formal education is important, but schooling doesn’t always pique the interest of poverty-stricken people of color. The experiences of poor folks are profoundly unique, spilling over with valid qualms about the mythical and elusive American Dream. Education that speaks to the worries and concerns of minorities are important — even if they are supposed conspiracy theories. Whether they’re fruitless schemes or valid and grave concerns, issues that concern people of color are rarely discussed in public school systems. With this, Big Boi offers an alternative form of education that speaks to the conditions of poor blacks.

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In addition to narrating gangsta-soul noir, Big Boi helped create sorrowful, and at times soul-tugging songs about lascivious women; songs that urged souls to think twice about the popular “bit**es ain’t sh*t” slogan that’s been firmly planted in the center of average and top-notch rap songs. Over tear-jerking production, songs like “Jazzy Belle” and “The Art of Storytelling (Pt. 1),” are just two examples of Daddy Fat Sacks’ rapping skills about mentally damaged women who use sex in an effort to heal life’s discomforts. Big Boi even rapped about the men who took advantage of morally loose women — minus the braggadocio. “Jazzy Belle” and “The Art of Storytelling” stir supremely emotional connections to women with mental health issues.

“You have to tell both sides of it. Susie Q and Sasha Thumper (characters in “The Art of Storytelling”), these are two types of women and this is how we dealt with them. “Jazzy Belle” was a harlot. But the message is showing what can happen, and unfortunately, what does happen when you don’t think highly of yourself,” explained Big Boi.

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The light feminist themes that Big Boi plays with make sense too. Women have been instrumental in his life. There’s no need to go into detail about his feelings toward his mother and daughter, Jordan Patton, who’s a psychology major at Auburn University. The rapper, born Antwan Patton, recognized early in his career that his now wife of seventeen years, Sherlita Patton, has been the zephyr of peace that has ameliorated Big Boi’s universe. Despite this recognition, hardships forced the Pattons to file for divorce in 2013, however, the two love birds worked through their complications and eventually saved their marriage.

“She helped me because I would’ve been wild,” Big Boi, 42, said of Mrs. Patton. “I was 19. Me and my wife been together for 22 years. We’ve been married, about to be, seventeen years. She’s my anchor. My foundation. I was wild in high school. It’s like Dre said: ‘Big was forced to mature before the first tour.’ She saved me from going too far. That’s what women do. They save us. Look at Denzel Washington and Will Smith. They are great men, but look at their wives.”

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The idea of masculinity has always been twisted and contorted inside corporate offices, organizations and even in the ‘hood. The idea of manhood has always been a badge of honor in hip-hop. But it makes sense. Hip-hop was birthed in the midst of super aggressive and gang-infested spaces of the south Bronx. Many men have developed a false idea that men, or big boys, don’t cry or show emotions. It may be true that women don’t want an overly sensitive man, but as Big Boi learned early on, encroachment isn’t necessarily attractive to women, nor is it necessarily needed to cuff a prom queen. Mrs. Patton’s tightly knit moral compass wasn’t accepting of Big Boi’s unrefined masculinity.

“I knew she was the one. I was too aggressive,” Big Boi recalled. “The sh*t that worked with everyone else didn’t work with her. She was beautiful. She was smart. Independent. Mentally mature. She didn’t fall for my mess. She was really God-send.”

These ideas of feminism get deeper, too. Big Boi and Andre 3000 are just a couple of hip-hop heads who’ve suggested that God is a woman. On “God,” an interlude from OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album, 3000 speaks to God and is shocked to find out that she’s a woman. Again, the feminism wordplay from Big and Dre are connected to works such as A Burst of Light and Other Essays (Audre Lorde), Women, Culture and Politics (Angela Y. Davis), All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, (edited by Patricia Bell-Scott and Barbara Smith), among others. So, it makes sense that one of Big Boi’s idols is the late activist/comedian/author and feminist, Dick Gregory.

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Big Boi may not be deep into books on feminism and he doesn’t have to be to be considered a feminist, but his raps spark important conversation about women, even though he does cite Gregory’s Ni**er as one of his favorite books.

“Dick Gregory is one of my favorite people. I got his book, Ni**er, from him,” Big Boi revealed. “He came to the Uptown Comedy club in Atlanta. Me and Killer Mike went to his show, and he was cracking jokes on Killer Mike. Sh*t was crazy. But I’ve been doing research on Dick Gregory for years. When he won the election and they took it back. The health stuff that he did. I thought he was a brilliant guy. He was one of our last real people that was for the people. He cared about people gave it to them straight. That’s why I f**k with it.”

Big Boi held back when discussing lessons gleaned from Gregory for fear that some secret agents or members of a secret society will chop off his finances for unveiling too much information. But the “Kill Jill” rapper did share his admiration for Gregory’s thoroughness as a researcher.

“He would bring newspaper clippings and paperwork to back-up the sh*t he was saying,” admitted Big Boi. “But you know…I don’t want these ni**as to come looking for you or me neither. I got three children. I’ll just keep sprinkling that sh*t in the music (Laughs).”

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Gregory has been labeled as a conspiracy theorist, but Big Boi begged to differ.

“What’s a conspiracy theorist?” Big Boi asked rhetorically. “I call them independent thinkers. So there’s no conspiracy in that. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dr. Sembi. He teaches some powerful stuff too, man. With that being said, free thinkers are my favorite people, and Dick Gregory was that.”

What Big Boi is referring to here is Gregory’s 2001 battle with cancer. After being diagnosed, he refused traditional medical treatment. Instead, Gregory put together a regimen of diet, vitamins, exercise and becoming vegan and the cancer left his body.

“It might sound loopy sometimes with some of the sh*t that he say, but look into that sh*t, I don’t know now,” Big Boi said. “You listen to what he’s saying, and go research. Go down that rabbit hole and see what you come up with.”

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Similar to Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback who may never play football again after deciding to kneel in protest against police brutality during national anthems, Gregory decided to give his life to activism as opposed to exhausting his energies on being one of the biggest comedians ever.

“To me, life is bigger than than titles. It’s about who can you help, whose brain can you feed,” pointed out Big Boi. “I remember the first time I found out how powerful music was. Southernplayalistic. We went on a promo tour, and people were coming up to us thanking us for “Git Up Get Out.” People were telling us: ‘Man, I went back to school and got my degree.’ ‘I got off drugs and got custody of my children.’ ‘I stopped drinking.’ The microphone is powerful. You teach people, you just can’t be preaching.”

In addition to Gregory’s Ni**er, Big Boi credits The Four Elements: A Practical Guide to Living and the Bible as his favorites books also.

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“This book, The Four Elements are spiritual rules to life and happiness. And it’s something outside of the Bible,” he said.

Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Elements uses the ancient Aztec wisdom of Toltec, who have been credited with with inventing medicine and pictographic writing, to discuss the four agreements of life, which are: be impeccable with your word; don’t take anything personally; don’t make assumptions; and always do your best.

“We’re programmed by radio, T.V. and those things tell us how to think. I’ve always been curious. Sometimes I say sh*t that I shouldn’t say. But I keep it real,” Big Boi shared. “I wanted to go to go college and study psychology, so there are certain books — I’d already named one too many, but you know the ones — are important to me. And we got it early.”

After discussing books and Dick Gregory, Big Boi discussed his latest album, Boomiverse and his constant elevation as a MC.

“It’s has to get better and better so this is the best one. One of my favorite parts about doing this is the visuals. So, if I’m making a record in the studio, I’m like: “Oh the video has to be like this.’ So, I’m thinking about the total package when I write,” he said.

“The video has to be a reflection of the music. Even with OutKast, our thing was we wanted it to look like music. People get that. Sometimes muthafu**ers are not going to read to get the details. They look it at, they get it. Sometimes you have to make it easy for them like: ‘Ok, this is who I am. This is what I’m about. And we ain’t bullsh**ting.’”

Big Boi continued, “The thing is. We call ourselves Jedi Masters. We’re also students still. On top of everything we’ve done, if you’re still not trying to learn, you’re stagnant. You don’t know everything. It’s always a different place you can go.”

Tags: Big Boi, V Books