Melissa Walsh

Antwan Patton

Gale Group | 2005 | Antwan Patton

Antwan Patton Black Biography:

Antwan Patton rap musician; entrepreneur; dog breeder

Personal Information

Born Antwan Patton on February 1, 1975, in Savannah, GA; children: Jordan, Bamboo, Cross.

Career

Organized Noize production trio Rico Wade, Patrick "Sleepy" Brown, and Raymond Murray, Atlanta, GA, collaborator, c. 1990s; LaFace record label, recording artist, 1994-; Pitfall Kennel, owner, 2001-; Outkast Clothing line, founder, 2001-.

Life's Work

Compared to his rather flamboyant "partner in rhyme," Outkast's Antwan Patton appears, for lack of a better term, conservative. Fans might consider him a living paradox. That is his appeal. Even his stage alias, Big Boi, contradicts his small stature. And his charismatic wooing of large audiences and skillful building of a music empire contrasts with his self- imposed status as a social outcast. As he seeks to extract music and rhymes from America's fringe groups and not-so-distant past, he finds his work appealing to audiences from mainstream American culture.

Though Patton successfully brings a freshness to rap and hip-hop, his flash is somewhat dimmed by the resplendent glitz and unrestrained pizzazz of Outkast's other half, Andre Benjamin, also known as Andre 3000. What might be flamboyant on the average Joe seems conservative on Big Boi. Entertainment Weekly contributor Will Hermes remarked, "In Outkast's yin and yang, Big Boi is the Everydude--the neighbor you talk football with, who raises pit bulls and admits a fondness for both corny pop ballads and gangsta rap."

Recognized as a Rhyming Hip-Hop Prodigy

Born on February 1, 1975, in Savannah, Georgia, Antwan Andre Patton was the oldest of five children. His mother, Rowena Patton, was only 15, and his father, Tony Kearse, who joined the Marines, was 18, when Patton was born. The young family lived with several extended family members in a three-bedroom colonial in Savannah.

Always an entrepreneur, Patton had an adroitness for money-making schemes. As a young child, he would invite children over to the house, and then charge them a cover. His sister Lolly told VH1's Driven, "Antwan used to write 'When We Get Rich' lists.'" Patton was also rich in friends--black, white, all races and ethnicities. He was well-liked, for his abilities in music, his wit, and his knack for sports, especially football, and academics.

Before rhyming with Benjamin, Patton had not foreseen a music career for himself. "I wanted to be a child psychologist or play football," he told People's Chuck Arnold. But friends and siblings told VH1 that Patton always carried a pen and paper with him, noting rhymes that sprang into his mind. They also commented on Patton's fascination for all music genres. Patton told The Observer, "I consider me and Dre to be funkateers, man. Growing up, we listened to everything and I think that gives us the ability to make a free- flowing type of music. It doesn't matter whether it's country, reggae or rock and roll. Kate Bush is my favorite artist of all time."

Turned America on to the "Dirty South" Sound

Patton met Benjamin at Tri-Cities School for the Performing Arts, an arts-magnet school in the Atlanta borough of East Point. They quickly became freestyle-rhyme rivals at school, where teachers and administrators encouraged such artistic expression. Each discovering the other's zeal for music and savvy for rhyming, they became fast friends. Though Benjamin dropped out of school his junior year, Patton continued as a solid student, who graduated from Tri-Cities with a GPA of 3.68.

As teens, Benjamin and Patton hung out at East Point parking lots and malls, attracting a following with their rapping dexterity, performing as 2 Shades Deep under the aliases of Black Dog and Black Wolf. A girlfriend introduced them to a member of Atlanta's Organized Noize production trio, Rico Wade, in the lot of an East Point store. Impressed with their performance, particularly the combination of Patton's confrontational rhymes with Benjamin's observational, Wade immediately drove them to his studio, the Dungeon, a red-clay, unfinished basement. Benjamin and Patton then spent as much time as they could at the Dungeon, chumming with other Atlanta artists. It wasn't long before Wade arranged an audition for the duo to perform for Antonio "L.A." Reid, the co-founder with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds of the LaFace label, an imprint of Arista Records. LaFace had not yet signed a rap artist.

The duo had to overcome Reid's initial rejection. After the first audition, he was not convinced that the duo had a star quality. Organized Noize then mentored the young men to improve their lyrics and enhance their delivery. After another audition, Reid saw the duo's value in trumpeting a fresh sound--different from New York and West-Coast rap and hip-hop. Reid offered Patton and Benjamin a contract and invited the duo, now calling themselves Outkast, to contribute to a Christmas album. Outkast's song "Player's Ball," which bemoans the shortage of Christmas cheer in the ghetto, went gold and held the number-one spot on the rap charts for six weeks in 1993. Just before "Player's Ball" was recorded, Patton decided to give himself the stage moniker Big Boi, a paradoxical celebration of his small stature.

About the time Outkast cut its first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Benjamin decided to abstain permanently from drinking, smoking, and consuming meat and dairy products, while Patton remained consistent in his pursuit of a party lifestyle. The contrast between Patton's wild and Benjamin's purist lifestyles endeared Outkast to a national fan- base as early as 1995, when Source bestowed Outkast with the Best New Rap Group honor.

The greatest appeal in Outkast's sound was its freshness, which grew out of the duo's interest in all music. "There's no boundaries on what we do," Patton told Mic Check magazine as quoted on the VH1 Web site. "Cause we're not scared to listen to Led Zeppelin, Stone Temple Pilots, Cranberries, Sade, RUN-DMC, Anita Baker, Bob Marley. We don't discriminate against no music or no people." Seeking originality for Outkast's product, Patton frowns on imitation, though, as the saying goes, it's the surest form of flattery. "The imitators will never stop," he told Mic Check, "But you're gonna see more people doing original things. That's how you know when something's dope: when the imitators bite it. As for us, we're just gonna stick with our formula and continue above and beyond." The formula for their originality is Patton's power and structural grip of Benjamin's poetic fluidity.

Patton told Soul Train that he and Benjamin go into the studio with not much more than "ideas and concepts of different songs." And the songs are always personal, like "Babylon," from their 1996 release ATLiens. The song tributes Patton's Aunt Renee, who was a second mother to him after she took him in to live with her in Atlanta, so he could attend the magnet school. When Aunt Renee passed away rather suddenly from pneumonia just before the album was released, Patton used his grief over the loss of his beloved aunt to develop song themes for Outkast's next album, Aquemini, released in 1998. Outkast delivered an opus packed with hits, the biggest being "Ms. Jackson," in which the narrator, an unwed father, seeks to form a comfortable relationship with the mother of his baby's mother. Patton told Launch, "[Ms. Jackson]'s just almost like a truce." The song's theme resonated in both Benjamin's and Patton's lives. In 1997 Benjamin's girlfriend Erykah Badu gave birth to his son, Seven. Shortly thereafter Patton had a second and then a third child out of wedlock.

The duo called themselves Outkast as a description of their motivation for and style of music. Their intent has always been to showcase each artist's unique perspective on life. Their musical brand is boxed by music reviewers as a sound known as "dirty south" hip- hop. Nonetheless, Outkast's larger body of work moves beyond categorization. Each track stands on its own as a contribution to R&B, rap, rock, mainstream pop, punk, or hip hop. Their music is varied in beat, rhythm, instrumentation, and melodic theme. Outkast's Benjamin and Patton have tagged their work as "slumadelic." Their lyrics, they say, are positive messages about life. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker wrote, "Benjamin and Patton shift with dizzyingly assured fluidity between the real and surreal." No doubt, Patton is the real to Benjamin's surreal.

Benjamin and Patton, were therefore disappointed to learn that "Rosa Parks," a track from their 1998 double-platinum album Aquemini set off a law suit filed by its namesake. In a statement in 1999, soon after the suit was filed, Patton and Benjamin said, "Rosa Parks has inspired our music and our lives since we were children. The opportunity to use our music to help educate young people about the heroes in the African-American community is one of the responsibilities we have as music artists." The suit was dismissed but then revived in 2003 after an appeal by Parks.

Aside from his music and children, Patton has two other interests that occupy his time: attending strip clubs, an activity he cites as a hobby; and breeding pit bulls, which he has turned into a business called Pitfall Kennels. He has sold his prized pups to many other celebrities for top dollar, including Serena Williams and Usher.

Found His Way with Ghettomusick

Each new Outkast album (Stankonia in 2000 and Big Boi and Dre Present ...; in 2001 ) surpassed the last in hit singles and copies sold. The duo rightly viewed itself as a trailblazing group with a degree of responsibility to inspire and develop new American music. While Benjamin moved to California to pursue his interest in acting, Patton remained in Atlanta to be close to his children and to continue his pit bull breeding venture and remain focused on Outkast's studio, Stankonia, and label, Aquemini Records.

Patton told Soul Train they launched the studio to give "up-and-coming cats a start." The label's first artist was Slimm Calhoun. In 2003 Outkast released its Grammy-winning double solo-CD album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which sold over four million copies in just a few months. Benjamin's "Hey Ya!" and Patton's "The Way You Move" were, respectively, at Billboard's number one and two positions for over two months, beating the Bee Gees' 1978 record of a single group retaining both spots for four weeks (for "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive"). Another Speakerboxxx hit single declares Patton's commitment in delivering fresh music. He sings, "The pipes of my life flow deep into the ground/ Why my purpose on the surface of this earth is/ Plan it, standards, trust and the purpose/ Campaign in vain? for the same lame fame, people obtain, you ought to be detained/ By the hip hop sheriff, locked up no possibility of getting out cause the s-- you make is killing me and my ears, and my peers/ I hear the end is near, no fear/ We disappear, then reappear again in a fresh new light/ I hope its peaceful and cloudy cause if its not we gotta fight like, fight like/ G-h-e- t-t-o-m-u-s-i-c-k stay down/ O-u-t-k-a-s-t just know that we won't play round."

Though Outkast has a contract to make two more albums for Arista Records, music- industry commentators predict that Outkast will break permanently so that Patton and Benjamin can pursue solo projects full-time. Rolling Stone read into the two-for-one packaging of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below as a clear indication that Outkast is "a dual that everyone knows is headed for divorce court." Patton and Benjamin object saying that they plan to continue creating music together in tandem with pursuing solo interests.

The friends enjoy a partnership that runs far deeper than business interests. "[Benjamin]'s like a brother, Patton told Arnold. " I'm his kid's godfather; he's my kids' godfather." The closeness of Patton and Benjamin's relationship allows the two great amount of freedom to explore separate interests. When asked about going solo, Patton told Sonia Murray of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "; Well, we'll most definitely have Outkast albums. We're doing separate projects though. I'm actually starting a new band." It will be interesting to see how the development of their separate work feeds the music they produce as Outkast.

Awards

Grammy "Best Rap Duo or Group" and "Best Rap Album" 2001, for Stankonia; Grammy "Album of the Year" and Best Rap Album," 2004, for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below; NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Duo or Group", 2004; Soul Train Awards for "R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year," 2004; Soul Train Awards for "R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video," 2004.

Works

Selected works Albums

(With Outkast) Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, LaFace, 1994. (With Outkast) ATLiens, Laface, 1996.

(With Outkast) Aquemini, LaFace, 1998.

(With Outkast) Stankonia, LaFace, 2000.

(With Outkast) Big Boi and Dre Present ..., LaFace, 2001. (With Outkast) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Laface, 2003.

Singles

(With Outkast) "Player's Ball," 1994. (With Outkast) "Rosa Parks," 1999. (With Outkast) "Ms. Jackson," 2001. (With Outkast) "Hey Ya!," 2003.

Further Reading

Periodicals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 9, 2004.

Entertainment Weekly, November 3, 2000, p. 81; September 19, 2003, p. 83. Launch, April 1, 1999; January 12, 2001; March 27, 2001; January 14, 2003; May 13, 2003; October 2, 2003; February 17, 2004; March 2, 2004.

Observer (London), February 22, 2004, p. 28 People Weekly, February 16, 2004, p. 87.

Rolling Stone, October 22, 2003; March 18, 2004, p. 58.

On-line

Hip Hop Connection, www.eagleson.com/hiphop/outkast (March 19, 2004).

MTV News, www.mtv.com/news/articles (March 19, 2004).

Outkast-Web.de, www.outkast-web.de/cgi-bin/lyrics.pl?alum6a (April 29, 2004). VH1, www.vh1.com/shows/dyn/driven/77411/episode_about.jhtml (April 28, 2004).

Other

Driven, VH1, April 29, 2004.

– Melissa Walsh