The spiritual poetry of Goodie Mob

The spiritual poetry of Goodie Mob

A sticky and melancholic “Soul Food”

LaFace Records, 1995

“Atlanta establishes itself on the Hip Hop map”

While Hip Hop had been born in New York for a while, in the mid 90’s, the South seemed to have something to say as well. Atlanta seemed to be quietly settling in on the Hip Hop map with groups like Arrested Development or Another Bad Creation, but nothing yet very concrete and defined by a real identity. However, a young emerging label, LaFace, was starting to take over the power of Atlanta. By the early 90’s, the label was producing artists from the city such as TLC or Toni Braxton, although the success was certain, these artists were slightly too far from Hip Hop for Atlanta to really get the respect of New York.

To establish themselves in Hip Hop, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, the founders of LaFace, would begin to build a collective, which would become the Dungeon Family, named after the recording studio. With Outkast’s hit Player’s Ball released on a Christmas compilation and then on the group’s 1994 debut album Southernplaylistcadillacmuzik, Atlanta suddenly got noticed and began to attract attention, notably by winning a Source Award.

In the wake of this, the Dungeon Family reunited once again with their in-house producers, Organized Noize, for the label’s second major release, Goodie Mob’s Soul Food in 1995. Led by CeeLo Green, the quartet composed of Khujo, Big Gipp and T-Mo will follow the path opened by Outkast to mark the rap and confirm the status of Atlanta as a city of Hip Hop. Although the production is still in the hands of Organized Noize, Goodie Mob will stand out with a much more spiritual and dark style than their Outkast compatriots, who had a lighter and funkier style on their first release.

The Goodie Mob will illustrate themselves in a more street style, they take their vision of the street and turn it into a spiritual poetry with a true and sincere representation. The rhymes are in the service of beauty and the words in the service of reflection. The whole carries a social consciousness on a spiritual basis with the belief that religion may have been the saving blessing of oppressed black people. They weave stories of love, melancholy, sadness without falling into sensationalism, yet they provoke emotions with grating and raw rhymes. There is both a raw and poetic, street-wise and spiritual, conscious and personal side. 

“Slightly sticky beats with soulful rhythms”

The production of Organized Noize follows this logic. There is something New Yorkish in the beats, a slightly sticky side with soulful rhythms, yet they still generate a catchy yet slightly melancholic feeling. The song of the introduction Free puts directly in this almost sad atmosphere with some soft notes without drum rhythm. Thought Process follows with this melancholy but the slamming drum beat gives it smooth with philosophical rhymes about daily life in the ghetto that stand as a threat to both their own survival but also to the black population as a whole.

Dirty South is about street stories in the “Dirty South” city about drug dealing. There are no real themes but rather a description of the different views of the South, over a rumbling bass and on a rumbling bass and dull horns sprinkled. On a suffering piano loop, the single Cell Therapy returns to the problems of drugs with a form of paranoia, the chorus communicates this concern with a hazardous song with a hesitant delivery.

CeeLo Green, Cell Therapy

Me and my family moved in our apartment complex
A gate with the serial code was put up next
They claim that this community is so drug free
But it don’t look that way to me ’cause I can see
The young bloods hanging out at the sto’ 24/7
Junkies looking fo’ a hit of the blow it’s powerful
Oh you know what else they tryin’ to do
Make a curfew especially for me and you 
The traces of the new world order
Time is getting shorter if we don’t get prepared
People it’s gone be a slaughter
My mind won’t allow me to not be curious
My folk don’t understand so they don’t take it serious
But every now and then
I wonder if the gate was put up to keep crime out or to keep our ass in

Sesame Street focuses on growing up in the ghetto with stories about the street, they recall memories that prove the constant degradation of society on a disturbing loop and a menacing rhythm. The dramatic melancholy of Guess Who is a beautiful tribute to mothers and their place in society, they incorporate emotional and heartfelt personal experiences about the role of their mothers in building their moral values. The eponymous song is more upbeat with an ode to the spiritual powers of music and the life-giving energy it can provide with metaphors about soul food. The gospel outro, The Day After, is arguably the most spiritual emotion on the album with a return to the terror and pain that the world can bring.

While Cee-Lo, with his husky, powerful voice, has come to be the de facto leader of Goodie Mob, but Gipp’s deep bass tones, T-Mo’s expansive energy and Khujo’s gruff vocals are also part of the quartet’s charm. Each one complements the other and contributes in their own way. The production of Organized Noize reflects the pessimistic and difficult vision that the group has of the world with a kind of anguished and sinister Soul.

Soul Food reminds us of the dusty streets while integrating the anguish, the religious beliefs, the experiences, the convictions of the authors. Goodie Mob is a vision of the ghettos with a glimpse of what they live. They embody and personify the filthy streets of Atlanta to rise up against white supremacy, especially on Fighting, which looks back at the psychological damage suffered in the struggle against poverty and institutions. The stench of the ghetto runs through their veins. The group fights against the ills of society with a touching sincerity and an overwhelming flow of societal and spiritual awareness.

After the success of Outkast, Goodie Mob proves that Atlanta Hip Hop definitely had something to say and a place in global Hip Hop. Soul Food is an undeniable rap classic and a cornerstone in Atlanta’s rise in Hip Hop history.

By Grégoire Zasa

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