Bitches and Money

WRITTEN BY
Andrew Beaujon

Fairburn, Georgia, which lies off a dingy spur 20 miles southwestof downtown Atlanta, is home to one of the biggest groups ofbitches and dawgs in hip-hop. No, Ruff Ryders haven't movedSouth -- it's Pitfall Kennels, where the American pit bullterriers, rottweilers, and English bulldogs owned byOutKast's Antwan "Big Boi" Patton reside.

JamesPatton, Big Boi's 26-year-old brother, lives on the property andmanages the 150-foot-long cinderblock kennel, keeping an eye on the 50or so dogs. On mornings when he's not in school, their other brother,Marcus, 21, drives in from Atlanta to help clean the cages and feed andexercise the dogs. Today, there are three groups of puppies on thepremises, including one of the rare "blue" pits for which the kennelhas become known. "We were one of the first breeders to have a bluedog," James says. "It really took off for us. We got some big buyers,like [boxer] Roy Jones Jr. and Serena Williams."

"We'vefinally got to the point where there's a Pitfall bloodline," says BigBoi, cigarillo clenched between his teeth. The blues were "built" viacareful linebreeding, in which dogs mate with an earlier bloodrelative. "Say a dog doesn't have a big head," Big Boi explains, "andit has a puppy that has a huge head?you would take that puppy back to abrother or sister of the parent, and that way you can get the sameline, but the trait will be better. It takes years."

The superstar rapper, 28, has been breeding dogs since hewas a kid, a hobby not always popular with his neighbors in southwestAtlanta. So, two years ago, he purchased 55 acres and "sat down with acouple of dog trainers and the Purina books for kenneling."

Polar Bear, the white pit featured in the video forOutKast's "The Whole World," peeks out from one of the 48indoor/outdoor cages. His bark is almost hoarse, unlike the otherpits'; his kennelmates yelp and lunge at visitors in a threateningmanner -- until you hold your hand up to the cage and they lick yourfingers. James says the pit bull's legendary angry temperament is mediahype. "You got some fools out there who mistreat the dogs," he says."I'm out there every day, never had a problem." Both Pattons getemotional even imagining dogfights. "The dogs come out so beautiful,"says Big Boi. "Put 'em in a ring and they get scarred for life -- forwhat?"

"Chihuahuas will bite you more than a pit will bite you,"says James. "Pits do sense danger," adds Big Boi, "so they know ifsomething's wrong. But if we're cool, they're cool."

Nevertheless, pit bulls could use an image makeover. TheAmerican Kennel Club, which certifies dogs as purebred, doesn'tconsider the American pit bull a recognized breed, so Pitfall registersits dogs through the less snooty United Kennel Club and the AmericanDog Breeders Association. This allows them to sell the dogs at apremium, though they're not too expensive as pedigreed animals go?about$800 to $1,200 for a puppy. "We ain't trying to crack you over thehead," says Big Boi. The adults aren't even for sale. When they retire,they sometimes go to the Pattons' friends -- though "you gotta be onebad motherfucker to get one," Big Boi says -- or end up at the rapper'shouse in town to "live the good life, eat table food."

Big Boi and James don't show their dogs, but some Pitfallalumni have placed in regional contests. And now that the kennel isbranching out into chow chows, Neapolitan mastiffs, and Yorkshireterriers (because "women love 'em," says Big Boi), don't be surprisedif a future champion comes out prancing to "The Way You Move."

The sun has set, and both Pattons head into the city --James to OutKast's Stankonia studio, where he's working on a musicproject, and Big Boi to plan a solo tour. "Starting out from just abackyard, now we got an empire," James says. "It's like anotherfamily," says Big Boi, a man who knows a thing or two about bloodlines.

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