Features | Festivals

Big Boi

By Colin McGowan | 24 July 2010

Even for the most fervent ‘Kast devotee, it’s easy to forget just how sweltering their discography is. The number of enthralling singles and memorable hooks in their oeuvre stretch well into the double digits. Big Boi did his damndest to remind us of the depth of that discography last Sunday as the sun set on the annual gathering of skinny jeans, bad haircuts, and sundresses in Union Park. For a crowd of festival-goers so self-aware and posturing, it was something of a release to give in to inhibition and awkwardly nod, bounce, and shake along to Mr. Patton’s collection of jams. We sang along, woefully out-of-tune, to “Ms. Jackson”‘s refrain; we smiled at strangers; I inadvertently elbowed Clay’s girlfriend in the face. For the first time all weekend, the insistent, groaning “I” that whines in the background of the festival transformed to a roaring “We”; homogeneity didn’t seem like such a bad thing.

Big Boi met this enthusiasm and newfound communion with a coy smile and some dance moves that no Caucasian should ever attempt (I’m confident he pulled off the coolest cross-stage shimmy in history towards the end of “Rosa Parks”). While many mid-‘90s rappers demand their audiences know the full sixteen bars and respond at appropriate decibel levels to inane call-and-response bullshit—last year, Pharaohe Monch made the crowd fucking beg for “Simon Says”—Luscious Left Foot was content to turn the thing into a rollicking barbecue. Which is the way it should be, really. Of all the old guys in hip-hop, I have only seen Q-Tip and Big Boi pull off this premise successfully: live band, play a bunch of hits, and eat up every ounce of love the crowd throws your way. It seems a simple blueprint, but many MCs still lean on the “love me unequivocally or get the fuck out” approach.

Along with Freddie Gibbs’ furiously awesome set, it was the best show of the festival. What set it apart from the sparsely-attended Gary rapper’s performance was that everyone was in on the fun this go round. In a brief glance behind the stage, I realized the crowd ran thousands deep and that everyone seemed to be in on the hooks and bouncing off each other enthusiastically. Which is when the second deceptive fact about OutKast smacked me in the face: everyone loves OutKast. In a musical climate that’s increasingly fractured and niche-oriented, that’s oddly refreshing. There was a huge crowd at the Pavement show, but I know more than a few people who feel lukewarm about the indie heroes. But OutKast—your Mom loves OutKast. And I’m sure she had a great time basking in the glow of Big Boi’s charisma.