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Addresses: Record company--LaFace Records, One Capital City Plaza, 3350 Peachtree Road, Suite 1500, Atlanta, GA 30326-1040 Phone: (404) 869-404 Fax: (404) 869-4980 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eclectic hip-hop/rap group Goodie Mob combines rhythm-and-blues, gospel, trip-hop, hip-hop, rock, soul, and acid jazz with positive messages to achieve a unique sound. Billboard's Shawnee Smith wrote, "[Goodie Mob] goes against the grain of what is being presented in the majority of contemporary hip-hop lyrics, which is what makes the group's music appealing." Since the group's first appearance on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in 1994, the first release of the Atlanta group Outkast, an album that went platinum. Goodie Mob has had two hit singles and released two albums. More importantly the band has combated the growing negativity of much rap and hip-hop with messages of hope and respect for its young, largely black audience.
All of the group's members, T-Mo (Robert Barrett), Cee-lo (Carlito Green), Khujo (Willie Knighton), and Big Gipp (Cameron Gipp), were raised in the Southern Baptist church. Both of Cee-lo's parents were ministers, a fact evident in Cee-lo's soulful choruses and charismatic delivery. Khujo told Smith, "Our real background is struggle. Being from the South, we've been oppressed. So it's not like we said we gonna be real positive; we just soaked up our environment--the old values we was taught and the new values we just being taught as we come of age."
In speaking of the group's influences, Cee-lo told Spin's Zev Borow, "I listened to all types of music growing up. Run D.M.C., Sugar Hill Gang, 2 Live Crew, but I also liked Al Green, Led Zeppelin, and yeah, Billy Idol." Band members met while attending Benjamin Elijah May High School in southwest Atlanta. T-Mo and Khujo went to Morris Brown College and began performing together as the Lumberjacks. Big Gipp had joined a band called the East Point Chain Gang. They started getting together at a basement home-studio, dubbed "The Dungeon," that belonged to the group Organized Noize. Goodie Mob was finally formed in 1993. The name stands for "Good Die Mostly Over Bullsh*t," although it has also been said to stand for "God Is Every Man of Blackness" and "A Goodie Bag of Musical Messages and Flavas."
After its 1994 debut on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Goodie Mob released its first album, Soul Food. Spin's Borow described the record as, "a smooth collection of harmonious jams infused with live instrumentation and a resilient, if at times preachy, hope for the future." Atlanta itself influenced the band members' perspective. Allstar's Jay W. Babcock wrote, "When you participate in pop culture, you can write about what you know or what you think people want. Goodie Mob choose the former. What they know is the ghetto in general, and Southwest Atlanta (S.W.A.T.S.) in particular." T-Mo told Borow, "In New York, in L.A., it's money, business, all the time. But in Atlanta it's about soul, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., Elijah Mohammed. We have more of a spiritual influence, and that shows in what we say."
When Goodie Mob released Soul Food in 1995, with its Organized Noize-produced conspiracy-theory hit single "Cell Therapy," both locals and listeners outside of the South raised their ears. And their second CD,Still Standing, garnered nationwide praise. Allstar called it "the richest, most urgent socially conscious hip-hop in recent memory. Spin's Charles Aaron wrote, "Soul Food was a patchy primer, but ... Still Standing jolts you like a future-funk manifesto-sophisticated, shifty production underlying hardscrabble, spiritually haunted rants ... funk-rock groove (guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, backup singers) with the kind of explicit moral imperative that Chuck D now chokes on."
Gipp told Billboard, "We just care a lot. A lot of artists who learn the game may not care. But we care about the music and about the people." He added that the band hoped listeners would give thought to the choices they make and to the consequences of their actions. "We're not going to change just because people want to dance in the clubs," he said. "After you dance in the clubs, then what?... There's got to be another mission."
Goodie Mob stresses the importance of education and self-motivation. "If party music is all the young kids hear on the radio," Big Gipp told Smith, "they will get the impression that that's all there is to think about.... We have to give them something bigger than that to do. They need positive things to get through what they have to deal with in life." According to Big Gipp, Chuck D and other 1980s musicians set good examples for him and his generation. "They helped us understand where we wanted to go," he told Billboard. The members of Goodie Mob are comfortable being role models for the generation that follows theirs. They are aware of the effect their lyrics have. T-Mo told Smith, "For us to put out a rap album that was something other than positive would be a transgression. Nobody lives forever, and in the end we all got to answer to God."
The group's music is directed primarily at African-American youth. "I got to deal with the problems in my house," Khujo explained to Smith, "before I go out and tell my next-door neighbor what to do." However, sources at the LaFace label told Billboard that the band's message reaches listeners of all races, in both urban and rural areas. LaFace General Manager Dorsey James told Smith, "[Goodie Mob's music] crosses the cultural lines in much the same way that a lot of rap does, because it provides a window into the black community. And people in general are voyeurs and like to look into places they can't go, and Goodie Mob provides that view." The bulk of the band's audience is located in the South, Midwest, and West Coast and, in an effort to win new fans, the band toured the Northeast with The Roots in 1998.
Allstar described Still Standing as, "68 minutes of anger, empathy, love, and soul." Cee-o raps on it: "I don't sell dope. I sell hope." Babcock continued, "[Still Standing] is a deeply detailed, local, slang-filled, heartfelt reportage that dares to critique its subjects and itself, to ask how things got so bad for both poor folk and hip-hop.... But unlike, say, Public Enemy's third album, Still Standing is socially conscious hip-hop that is not really directed toward an audience outside of the ghetto.... This music should move you--and, perhaps, inspire you to learn." Summing up Goodie Mob's perspective, Cee-lo told The Source's Michael Gonzales, "To me, music is so powerful and beautiful that if you take a picture of it, I believe that's what God would look like. For me, music is both medicine and ministry."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Goodie Mob's Career
- Selected discography
- Soul Food , LaFace, 1995.
- Still Standing , LaFace, 1998.
- DJ Muggs Presents: The Soul Assassins--Chapter 1 , Columbia Records, 1997.
- Allstar, May 1998.
- Billboard, July 25, 1998; May 2, 1998; April 18, 1998; April 11, 1998.
- Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1998.
- Puncture, Summer 1997.
- Rap Sheet, December 1995.
- Request, May 1998.
- The Source, May 1998; April 1998.
- Spin, August 1998; May 1998.
- Washington Post, May 29, 1998.
- XXL, Issue #3, 1998.
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