CLASSIC ALBUMS features ROCK THE BELLS writers getting together to discuss some of the greatest albums in Hip-Hop history. A track-by-track breakdown of the essentials; what we like, what we don't. We explore Hip-Hop's canon without pretension or prejudice.
In 1995, Goodie Mob's debut album helped to cement the sound coming out of Atlanta and made four unique emcees from the SWATs (and points beyond) ambassadors for the South.
Big Gipp, T-Mo, Khujo and Cee-Lo had all been affiliated with producers Organized Noize in different ways, but when they decided to join forces as a quartet, they found an undeniable power in their chemistry. OutKast may have been the first Dungeon Family act to break out in 1994, but the emergence of Goodie Mob made it clear that the talented Atlanta collective was full of remarkable artists, ready to make a mark on the world.
It was the year before the Olympics forever changed Atlanta, the era of Freaknik and bass music. And into that, came these four personalities rapping about Southwest Atlanta streets, spirituality and systemic racism. Stereo Williams and Angie C. look back at Goodie Mob's Soul Food.
Stereo: I've always felt like them opening their debut album with a quasi-hymn was so significant. They're putting their southernness right out front, and making sure you understand the spirituality behind their music.
Angie C: It's just so haunting. This still sounds so stirring and Cee-Lo's voice grabbed you from Day One.
Thought Process feat. Andre 3000
Angie C: He wasn't officially "3 Stacks" yet, but this was one of the first times I remember Andre really snapping on somebody else's track.
Stereo: Yeah, this was one of his first great guest appearances (he has a dope appearance closing out TLC's Crazy Sexy Cool from 1994) but Khujo's verse was also the first time I remember somebody saying "trap" on a record.
Stereo: I'm from Georgia and the Red Dog police department was legendary. The Dungeon Family really put the streets front-and-center on their records.
Angie C: Yeah, I didn't know anything about the Red Dogs until this interlude, actually. They're a part of Atlanta lore. For all the wrong reasons.
Dirty South feat. Cool Breeze, Big Boi
Angie C: Just classic as hell. It's one of their best known songs, and I still remember how much airplay this video got. Also: Big Boi's guest spots are at least as strong as Andre's.
Stereo: It's the song that gave us the term. Props to Cool Breeze. It branded the South at a time when people were still saying "South Coast" and things like that. Ain't no coast in ATL, this always felt more appropriate. And here we are, decades later, everybody knows about the "Dirty South" now.
Stereo: One of the greatest songs ever. That ominous piano line. The apocalyptic lyrics. It was so unlike what you'd gotten from OutKast's debut album and really showed the scope of Organized Noize production.
Angie C: That hook is one of the best in the history of Hip-Hop. And everybody snaps on their verses. It really did a great job of establishing Goodie as something unique, and it establishes each member as a unique voice within the group. Love, love, love this song.
Stereo: "Ga Power wants to put me in the dark..." It's a song that highlights just how well Goodie communicated the struggle. Rapping about hardship is as old as rap itself; but these guys made it sound like home. "What you know?"
Angie C: Gipp's verse about the little boy killing himself and Cee-Lo's singsongy verse are both two of my highlights on this one, but everybody is great. "On my way to be/degraded for a fee..."
Stereo: Songs about Momma are a staple, but man, this one has to be one of the best. Khujo rapping about his Momma coming to court and kicking him out of the house? So heartfelt.
Angie C: Cee-Lo's verse is another highlight on this one. And Gipp's opening line: "Who was the first to hold you in some arms? The first to change your diaper when your stomach wasn't calm?" It'll make you call your Mom in a heartbeat!
Stereo: It's such a well-known prayer and it still feels powerful here. In the South, even the dope boys go to Sunday service and I love how this album balances the streets and the spirit.
Angie C: I'm almost embarrassed to admit this was the first time I heard the "Serenity Prayer," and yes, exactly, they really presented so much about hustlers and faith and how the two are so often intertwined.
Stereo: Yo, I can remember seeing them perform this live when they did a tour of Georgia colleges in fall 1995. It was so powerful, everybody had their fists in the air, and the album hadn't even dropped yet.
Angie C: This has one of my favorite Khujo verses; it's so chaotic and intense and the lyrics and his flow match so well.
Stereo: The full version wouldn't show up until the America Is Dying Slowly AIDS awareness compilation a couple of years later, but such a dope interlude that is so Organized Noize.
Angie C: That long version has some of their best verses. T-Mo's "I used to run Cascade at night, eatin' SPAM," is one of my favorite lines ever. It would've worked just as well on the album, but as it stands, you get this immaculate little snippet.
Live At the O.M.N.I.
Stereo: It's funny, we've talked so much about the streets and the spirit, we've almost overlooked the third "S" that's prevalent on this album: the social commentary. So much righteous rage in this track. So Atlanta.
Angie C: Cee-Lo's verse is one of his all time best: "Ain’t no more you, ain’t no more me/It’s only us, but no unity/Got your eyes open, still can’t see/Your soul is priceless, but you’ll die for free..."
Stereo: My favorite song on the album. It's just so fucking dope. That dark backdrop, Gipp's opening bars about going to Goodwill and referencing Bill Clinton and Atlanta-specific things like turning the lights on 166; and another Cee-Lo verse for the ages.
Angie C: He blacks out on this verse. Drops a shout-out to his producers, references Slick Rick, and sounds like he just starts freestyling at the end. Letting everybody know, in case you missed it, southern rappers are Hip-Hop, too.
Angie C: It's one of their best singles and it should be an anthem every year this time of year.
Stereo: Mo-Jo's Chicken Wings, Bankhead Seafood, J.J.'s RIb Shack. T-Mo bodyslamming Chris Darden and Marcia Clark. Cee-Lo's hook. Greatness.
Stereo: They follow the most upbeat moment on the album with the most somber.
Angie C: Crazy the kinds of conversations these still very young guys had to have with each other. Too real.
I Didn't Ask To Come
Angie C: T-Mo's opening verse is so ill: "Still hustlin' and bustlin'/And now and then I slang a rock/Or two to come up, A steady battle through the days/Mamma think I'm wrong because I wanna get paid..."
Stereo: That haunting backdrop and the funeral opening make it a heavy record, but there's that ever-present anger that you just feel. So much emotion all over this record.
Stereo: Rico Wade cameo!
Angie C: Totally could've just be the opening few seconds of the next track, but we'll forgive the extraneous track listing on an album this good.
The Coming feat. Witchdoctor
Angie C: Witchdoctor is the most slept-on member of the Dungeon Family, for my money. His hook on this is sick as shit and his verse announced him. Was this his first appearance ever?
Stereo: I believe so. And T-Mo sets shit off: "As I begin fall in, I spark the riot, no longer quiet/I got a voice that's in ya ear, stand clear..."
Stereo: There's something so relatable about the homies just sitting around philosophizing.
Angie C: It sounds like that moment when the blunt is almost gone and everybody is getting super deep. Yeah, everybody's had these kinds of convos.
The Day After
Stereo: Man, all love to Organized Noize. There's such a musical richness to this album. That's true of all of their music, really, but there's something so evocative about what they did all over this album. And they close things with this; a little bit soul, a little bit gospel, all Hip-Hop. Love those dudes. Perfect closer.
Angie C: It closes things back where we started; with the spirit. But the opening was about how hard life is; and the closer is about how it feels to be at peace and to be free. We made it. Whew. This is an amazingly realized debut album. Beyond classic.
Label: LaFace Records
Producer: Organized Noize