The first time I ever cared about Ducks football was earlier this year, when I found out that Big Boi, from legendary Atlanta rap duo Outkast, had a son who played on the team.
Visions of Big Boi, real name Antwon Patton, gracing local stages on a weekly basis flashed through my mind. I imagined running into him at House of Records, or seeing him at Saturday Market with an oversized fur coat and gold chains. I pictured an Outkast reunion at Autzen stadium, where most of the students would lazily fumble through the last verse in “Roses,” and only know the chorus to “Mrs. Jackson.”
It’s a privilege for Eugene to have a small connection to Atlanta rap royalty — and that connection is finally paying off for fans on Friday, Nov. 29, at the McDonald Theatre, where Big Boi will grace the stage in Eugene for the first time since his son, Cross Patton, began playing for the Ducks earlier this year.
Big Boi’s career spans the better part of three decades. As Outkast, he and Andre 3000 released five studio albums between 1994 and 2006. In 2010, Big Boi would release his first debut album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, which managed the near-impossible task of satiating both mainstream critics and underground hip-hop fans, who want nothing more than slick talk and bone-rattling bass.
The same experimentation that gave Outkast its stripes in the late ’90s is evident on Big Boi’s later solo material as well. In 2015, he released Big Grams, a collaborative album with alternative darlings Phantogram, where Big Boi took a stab at psych-pop and mostly succeeded. This eclectic love for any sound that makes people move is what distinguishes Big Boi from other aging hip-hop acts.
Big Boi’s longevity as a relevant hip-hop artist is a testament to his strength as a lyricist. He seems to be everything at once: witty, cunning, funny, aware. He never sold out because he never had to. This authenticity has allowed Big Boi to seamlessly transition into an elder statesman of hip-hop. He even managed to perform at this year’s Superbowl halftime show and have it not be corny or controversial — something not many artists pull off.
Big Boi’s DNA can be found in almost every subgenre of Atlanta rap. He was only one piece of the larger puzzle that is The Dungeon Family, a rap collective from the ‘90s that featured future rap luminaries Goodie Mob, Cee-Lo Green, Killer Mike, Sleepy Brown and an innumerable number of associated acts and offshoots. Through colorful lyrics and intoxicating southern slang, The Dungeon Family defined the sounds of Atlanta hip-hop before trap music gained momentum in the early 2000s.
But one can’t exist without the other. The tragedy and hedonism we all love from our trap music is evident in early Outkast records as well. Big Boi has never shied away from the harsh realities that still plague the community he grew up in. In 2006 he launched a non profit organization to help youth in Atlanta called the Big Kidz Foundation. In 2010 he expanded the foundation to Savannah, Georgia.
Unlike the reclusive Andre 3000, Big Boi continues to release new music, with an album hopefully around the corner. Earlier this year, he released two new songs With Dungeon Family alum Sleepy Brown and Killer Mike. Yes, it’s true. The chances of a 2019 Outkast reunion in Tracktown U.S.A. seem slim to none, However, the chances of Big Boi putting on a one-of-a-kind show in the home of the Ducks is overwhelmingly high.
Via email, Big Boi had this to say about his upcoming performance in Eugene: “Eugene is like a second home. I’ve been waiting to perform for the Ducks crowd. Sco Ducks!!!!”
Big Boi plays 8 pm Friday, Nov. 29, at the McDonald Theatre; $35 advance, $40 door.