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Music

Big Boi explains the meaning of Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill’

@TomTaylorFO

Big Boi’s love for Kate Bush is utterly boundless. It is a mark of the Outkast star’s eclectic taste that he ranks the ‘Running Up That Hill’ singer as his favourite artist alongside the legendary Bob Marley. However, as different as those two might seem, they have a depth of emotive spiritualism in common. As Big Boi once said, “Music is supposed to evoke emotion and make people feel a certain way whether it’s happy or sad or make you think. So, I love Kate Bush.”

Both Bush, Marley and Outkast aim for something that you can sink your teeth into. The drum sound on ‘Running Up That Hill’ is so good that Bush could’ve sang about a cupboard full of Marrow Far Peas and it would’ve still soared but it is a mark of her majesty that she went beyond that. And Big Boi is more than happy to explain the new heights she took the track to.

Beyond his generalised love, she also crafted a single verse that the hip hop star cherishes more than any other on her resurgent masterpiece, ‘Running Up That Hill’. As Big Boi told Pitchfork: “I loved the production first and foremost because it set a tone, and then the way she was singing the songs, her voice was just angelic.”

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Then beyond the dazzling glow of the adrenaline-inducing sound, he began to tunnel beneath its brilliant surface. “It was pretty deep. I guess it was about two people in a relationship and the woman was saying, that if she could, she would make a deal with God and swap places so the man could understand how a woman thinks and the woman could understand how the man thinks and they could have a better relationship… which is fucking cool as shit.” He also hints that this is also an important feminist point that many men could learn from.

This song also created something that he always hopes to replicate in his own music: a little cinematic world that you delve into and imagine unfurling. As it happens, it conjured some pretty specific thoughts for Big Boi. As he explained: “I always thought of her like the Phantom of the Opera. She’s somewhere living big castle with a piano that was ten times the size of a regular piano, playing it all day, with shea curtains blowing in the window all, like Rapunzel but on the top of a hill somewhere in a castle, desolate, playing a piano and wailing.”

Continuing with an air of adoration and total respect: “It was just so weird, the sounds and what she was talking about, it was just kind of crazy, and then it was like, ‘y’know she produced all this stuff too’ so I was like, ‘Oh man!’.”

The anthem took Big Boi on a journey which was signposted by his favourite verse in history, earmarked by the very small detail of Bush briefly crooning, “’It’s yoouuu and meeee’” – That’s my favourite part. For one, it was good to pedal too. It made you go fast. When the drums came on it was like a workout song. I had to ride like 20 or 30 blocks to school. So, I would just listen to it and ride, it was adventurous.” 

The verse, this mini swooning interlude of sustained vowels and a brief pause of the thunderous melody, is proof of what he finds so magical about Bush’s output. “Her songs tell stories; we also tell stories. Sometimes there is a double meaning in what she says. And the layers of production—how the songs morph, they might start one way then they morph and break down into something. It’s very theatrical.”

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