On the eve of Goodie Mob’s fifth studio album release, Ethnografis celebrates the rap quartet’s intelligence, style, and longevity.
1. They proved Southern rappers could be “conscious.”
The name Goodie Mob is a backronym for “The Good Die Mostly Over Bullshit.” In a 1996 interview with Teen Summit’s Prince Dajour, Cee-lo further explains that “Bullshit is not necessarily physical death, but it’s like without no hope, no faith, and no belief… we walk around spiritually and mentally dead.” In the early 90’s, when southern rappers were still having to prove themselves as legitimate intellectual forces to be reckoned with, the sheer acumen of creating an acrostic name was undeniably laudable. And still is.
2. “Soul Food”
At a time when the most street savvy southern rappers penned tracks about the ills of life in rural black America, Goodie Mob created “Soul Food,” the title track of their 1995 debut Album of the same name. The track, a pastoral hip hop poem set to music, could easily be the theme song for an Atlanta ad campaign. It introduced non-Atlantans to some good ole’ southern hospitality via nostalgic rhymes on the simple wonders of grits, fried chicken, and collard greens, and even mentioned J.J’s Rib Shack, a popular Atlanta soul food haunt. But if listeners were expecting “Soul Food” to be a one-dimensional, “feel good” track on the pleasures of southern pastoral life, they were underestimating Goodie Mob’s metaphorical prowess. Cee-lo spits: Everythang I went through, I appreciate the shit. Because if I woulda went and took the easy way / wouldn’t be the strong nigga that I am today. / Everythang that I did, different things I was told / just ended up bein’ food for my soul.” The song not only celebrates the African American tradition of soul food, but the concept that soul food itself represents: taking scraps, metaphorical or otherwise, and creating a whole—an example of Claude Levi Strauss’ “bricolage” at its best. Take that, bourgeoisie New York rap academics.
3. Big Gipp. Period.
From afro puffs with carefully brushed baby hairs to his penchant for Emilio Pucci and flamboyant I’m Gonna Git You Sucka fashion ensembles, Gipp’s swag landed him a place on Complex Magazine’s “Fifty Most Stylish Rappers of All Time.” Always a psychedelic sight for sore eyes, Gipp makes any music video he appears in that much more awesome. But he’s not just great to look at—he also gives great advice. Naming Chuck D. as one of his most vital influences, he says: “The first time I saw Chuck D. at the Omni, and he had a concert, that man pulled up in a cab…and he was headlining” (2013. The Breakfast Club). From this encounter with Chuck, he offers two words of advice to a new generation of up and comers: “Stay humble.” In a hip hop industry where simplicity is often sacrificed for pretention, Gipp’s advice couldn’t be more relevant.
‘4. “Beautiful Skin”
While the rest of Atlanta rap dove headfirst into misogyny, “Beautiful Skin,” with its smooth, “Caribbeanesque” flow ,lyrically elevates the office of “female” with its refrain: “You’re my / beginning, my end / You’re my sister, lover, and friend.” The song gives specific attention to Afro-diasporic women, the minority within the minority who often become the subjects of extraneous lyrical assaults and erroneous portrayals in hip hop culture. Cee-lo declares in the first verse: “This particular song right here is / Dedicated to the black woman.” I was only a pre-teen in 1998 when the song (from Goodie Mob’s second studio album, Still Standing) was released, and when I heard it for the first time in my dad’s tricked out old school Chevelle, I knew it was a special moment in rap music for little brown girls all over the South.
Proclaimed by Cee-lo as the group’s “rock,” Willie Knighton Jr. (Khujo’s government name) is the mastermind behind the group’s stellar acrostic name and is known for creating rap verses that weave gritty street tales with metaphysical musings on God and black identity. After surviving a car crash that claimed part of his right leg and doing a stint in Georgia’s Henry County Jail, Khujo released his first book, Straight Out the A, in 2011. In a recent interview with Power 105.1’s Breakfast Club, the group was asked what Goodie Mob’s mission statement for 2013 would be. Khujo responded: “We fightin’ for the civil rights of hip hop…”
Is it any wonder we LOVE them?
Age Against the Machine available 8/27/13 on itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/age-against-the-machine/id676944173
Straight Out the A, by Khujo Goodie, available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Straight-Out-A-Khujo-Goodie/dp/0741463539
The Breakfast Club. “Goodie Mob Interview.” 2013. Broadcast / Film.
Teen Summit. “Goodie Mob Interview.” 1996. Film