Big Grams: Big Boi and Phantogram Join Forces
Like maple and bacon, a pairing unlikely but with a resulting flavor so deliciously flawless, Big Grams leaves you wondering why no one thought to put the two together earlier. Their separate ingredients – Big Boi, one half of the epic hip-hop duo OutKast who “put Atlanta (and thus Southern rap) on the map” and Phantogram, an indie electro-pop duo that mixes in slowed down, rock-influenced beats with sultry, breathy vocals and – combine effortlessly in their 2015 Self-Titled EP.
As it turns out, the pairing is not so unlikely after all. As Sarah Barthel of Phantogram tells Rolling Stone, “When Josh [the other member of Phantogram] and I were growing up, we idolized OutKast and based our whole goal of innovative and fresh-sounding music [on them].” So, when Big Boi happened upon their music online and asked them to work with him, it was a no-brainer.
Big Boi is no stranger to orchestrating collaborations both ordinary and extraordinary. Throughout over two decades of music industry influence, he’s worked with everyone from Missy Elliott, Beyoncé, and Killer Mike to Little Dragon, A$AP Rocky, and even the Atlanta Ballet. The Atlanta rapper, who often took a backseat in OutKast to the heavily praised Andre 3000, seems more focused even as a solo artist on charting new territory and experimenting with others than finally being front-and-center.
when people with disparate ideas, backgrounds, and talents come together to complement each other to come up with something innovative and exciting.
Big Grams is a prime example of collaboration gone right – when people with disparate ideas, backgrounds, and talents come together to complement each other to come up with something innovative and exciting. In their Rolling Stone interview, Barthel continues “It’s a new project. It’s not Phantogram; it’s not Big Boi. It’s a whole new idea. …We wanted to experiment and have fun with it. The main focus of wanting to do this project was to do things we wouldn’t normally do anywhere else.”
On some songs it works better than others. “Put It On Her” sounds a lot more like a throwback to OutKast than something new, and “Goldmine Junkie,” while good, sounds more like a mash-up of the two than a collaboration where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But then you have tracks like “Fell in the Sun” where the two melt together so flawlessly it’s hard to believe they were ever separate acts, and “Run For Your Life”, a song uniquely Big Grams, makes it obvious that neither of them could have produced this sound alone.
Their chemistry is undeniable. Now all that’s left is to watch the sparks fly in person. The group will finally do some live shows this summer as part of the festival circuit, performing at both Lollapalooza in late July and Outside Lands in early August.