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Will Kherbek
art critic
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piqer: Will Kherbek
Thursday, 20 December 2018

Operation Grind And Stack: Building Big Boi's "Order Of Operations"

Song Exploder, presented by the show’s creator Hrishikesh Hirway, remains one of the most engaging podcasts about the process of songwriting. Over 150 episodes, Hirway takes his listeners into the creative process behind tracks from megastars like Fleetwood Mac, but also up-and-coming artists like Blood Orange and Empress Of. Episode 148, featuring the Atlanta hip hop legend Big Boi, delves into the creation of his hit “Order of Operations”, an exploration of the hustler mentality and the dynamics of youth, money, and vision. 

Things start with Big Boi describing how he assembled the team behind the track, beginning with contacting the song’s producer, the estimable Scott Storch, who helped Big Boi on his earlier hit, “Shutterbug”. Storch also contributes to the episode, walking listeners through the building of the musical hook for “Order of Operations” — a simple guitar figure punctuated with keyboard accents. The keys add the punch that gets Big Boi’s mind moving: “It sounded like something I knew I could attack,” he says. The attack is a sophisticated one, entailing the addition of the songwriter and performer Eric Bellinger, whose voice actually opens the song, as well as a daylong delay between the performance of the track’s verses.

Big Boi offers a sense of his process, but also a glimpse into how he approaches the track’s performance. Making injudicious use of the recording studio’s supply of raspberry lemonade, Big Boi provides insight into the power of the sugar high as vector for rap delivery. The artist also discusses how the song works as a kind of mission statement. What motivates an artist of Big Boi’s stature to continue to challenge himself? The answer turns out to be a combination of the grind-to-live mentality with which he was inculcated in his youth in Savannah, Georgia’s public housing projects, but also a sense of the journey of creating art. 

Operation Grind And Stack: Building Big Boi's "Order Of Operations"
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