You recently were able to bring out some of your own southern rap heroes like Eightball & MJG and UGK’s Bun B during your late September homecoming shows in Atlanta. How much of a kick did you and Big Boi get sharing the stage with some of your biggest influences?
We just wanted to bring out people that helped make us. A lot of people don’t know that we were 17-18 years old. And we would skip school and just listen to Eightball & MJG and UGK. We would listen to their music and ride and smoke. These are the people that helped us. Even a group like Odd Squad.
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Yeah, they were dope. They had a blind rapper that could spit.
Yeah and Devin the Dude, too. The blind rapper…that’s what I’m saying! That’s southern rap history. They were so underrated. They were good rappers that a lot of people didn’t know anything about. All these people were a part of us, so we felt that we needed to give people an opportunity. This is Atlanta, so let’s give a lot of the artists that came up that shine.
Did you get emotional when the members of the Dungeon Family joined you onstage?
Not necessarily because I talk to them all the time. I really wish that everybody could have been there, but unfortunately, things don’t always work out.
You gave CeeLo, who is going through some very legal troubles, a shout-out.
Oh yeah…I talk to Cee [Lo], man. We are all supportive. Things happen. It would have been great to see everybody onstage altogether. But Khujo (of the Goodie Mob) is sick. He’s coming along good. He’s going to be alright in his own kind of way. That’s the family. When Gip comes out he represents the Goodie. When T-Mo comes out he represents the Goodie.
Future was a guest performer as well.
Future is genius, man. A lot of people don’t understand that even though he’s in the Trap world he’s a genius in that genre. You have to watch him work. He does all of that stuff off the top. He will tell you that he did “Tony Montana,” “Racks,” and “Turn Off The Lights” all in one night. It’s amazing to watch. I look up to Future. He’s like a ‘hood Prince. Not the artist Prince, but the lineage of a king. And I know his background. He’s authentic.
You recently co-produced Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Nothing Compares To You.” How surreal was that?
I never thought I would work with Aretha Franklin. Never at all. Clive Davis actually called me about that project. He said, “I’m doing an Aretha Franklin album and I would like you to be a part of it.” It was a great opportunity for me, but I honestly still to this day don’t know why he called. It’s not like I had produced anything recently. It probably would have been a better choice at the time to call Pharrell or somebody. Why me?
Were you in the studio with Aretha Franklin?
Yes! And it was amazing. When she got on the microphone and said, “Check, check…” I lost it. I told her if my mama was here she would be tripping right now that I’m in a studio recording Aretha Franklin. And I’m actually a fan. It’s not like I didn’t know anything about Aretha. “Say A Little Prayer” is one of my favorite songs. I actually told her that. That song influenced the time signature of “Hey Ya.”
There have been reports that after the OutKast tour you are going to retire from rapping. Is that still the plan?
Well, I can never say never. But we don’t have any other plans after this tour. I have a certain belief…just me as a fan of artists. I want to catch artists in their prime. I want to catch artist when what’s on their mind is the freshest. I’m not a fan of riding it out until you are 70 or 80 years old. But I think it’s up to the artist.
If you still feel excited and you want to go out there and do it, like Prince who just loves to play, then go for it. It’s just down to the individual. For me it’s an age thing because I feel myself slowing down. Rap is like boxing…it’s a young person’s sport no matter what anyone says. Yeah, you can still punch the bag when you want to, but to be in the ring? The older you get the more you will slow down.
So no OutKast albums in the future?
I can’t say that it’s a main focus. There are artists out there that are older than me like Pharrell and Jay Z who are still going. That’s why I say it’s a personal thing. If you still feel it people can still feel it in you, but my interests just goes. I got to find new things to be excited about. I don’t sit around writing raps. If somebody invites me on their song like a Future at that point it’s a challenge to me. If I feel like I’m not being challenged then it doesn’t work for me.
I didn’t get into music just to make music. I actually started drawing and painting first. I never thought I’d be a music artist, so for me it’s all about creating something and seeing how far I can go with it. If I feel like I’m mimicking or doing the same thing over and over again, it’s not fun for me. It has to be feeding me.
There has been talk that you and Big Boi had to repair your relationship before reuniting for this tour. Do you think the festival gigs help you clear the air on a lot of the issues that weighed heavily on your friendship?
The only thing it did was brought us closer together financially. Me and Big are cool. He gets it. Even if he doesn’t agree he knows what kind of person I am because he’s known me since high school. We’ve never had the rift that was like, “Oh, I don’t fuck him and he don’t fuck with me.” He knows when I feel it, I feel it. Things happen for a reason. Speaker Boxxx and The Love Below was a double album because it had to show other people that Big Boi could be an artist. He’s had a great career so far. He’s two albums in and almost done with the third album. You can clearly tell that he’s still in it. He loves it.
So the OutKast fans should just give it up, huh?
Would other people love to see an OutKast album? Yeah, that would be great. But it all boils down to chemistry and timing. Artists have a certain window, and sometimes fans may not understand what it takes to make those albums. They just think you jump in the studio and give them an album. If that’s the case we would have five more A Tribe Called Quest albums.
You have to be awfully patient with people asking the same question over and over again.
But I get it. It’s like being in a relationship. Sometimes people get divorces, but it’s still cool. Sometimes people take the kids [laughs]. People want you to live up to certain relationships. If you were the cute couple in high school people want you to stay with that person. So it’s more of a romanticized thing. And of course, these OutKast songs have meant a certain thing to people’s lives. I get that. I’ve been a fan of bands. But me being a fan of bands I know that I never want the band that I love to be up there if they ain’t feeling it.