Saturday, February 12, 2011

Album Review: "Soul Food" - Goodie Mob (1995)

INTRODUCTION

Because Goodie Mob
(a backronym for "the good die mostly over bullshit") is from the south and isn't Outkast, many hip-hop heads will not even think to include the group among rap's all-time great contributors. They neglect the fact that the foursome (Cee-Lo Green, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp) dropped two great albums in Soul Food and Still Standing and instead just focus on the notion that it wasn't part of the whole east coast/west coast barrage of the 90s.

Of course, longevity is considered to be a very important quality (except in the case of rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G., Big Punisher, and Big L, who, due to each of them passing on, did not get the opportunity to enjoy long careers), and outside of Goodie Mob's aforementioned first two albums, there isn't much to write home about. World Party, the group's third effort, was deemed a bust, and its fourth album, One Monkey Don't Stop The Show, was not even really a true Goodie Mob project because Cee-Lo left to pursue a solo career (he of course became part of the hit duo, Gnarls Barkley, who I think is absolutely awful).

Nevertheless, Goodie Mob was great at one point, paralleling Outkast (the two groups are part of the larger collective, Dungeon Family; also, Goodie Mob made its first appearance on Outkast's debut record, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik) in terms of its production but going beyond in terms of its subject matter, as the Mob tended to focus on more serious topics than its southern cousins.

Soul Food, which was certified gold by the RIAA, was produced entirely by Organized Noize and, therefore, maintains a consistent sound throughout.

Anyway, let's get to that review.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

1. Thought Process

The scintillating guest verse from Andre 3000 aside, I actually found this track to be somewhat boring, as Organized Noize's beat is nothing extraordinary and it just runs far, far too long for its own good. God forgive me.

2. Dirty South
The drums on this are both subtle and dusty at the same time, and while it may seem strange it first, it grows on you after a while (it actually sounds like some old-school Boot Camp Clik, and I'm sure you all know how I feel about the Clik by now, so you know that that's a compliment). The second half of Outkast, Big Boi, makes a guest appearance here, as does Cool Breeze, a Dungeon Family artist. "Dirty South" was one of Soul Food's biggest hits and actually marked the first time that the term "dirty south" was ever used.

3. Cell Therapy
This one bangs. The instrumental is both intimidating and addictive at the same time, and all four Goodie Mob members rip it. "Cell Therapy" was the album's first single, and it was certainly a great choice.

4. Sesame Street
Ignore the song title and focus on how sick the actual track is overall. The production is nothing short of phenomenal, and Goodie Mob presents some very serious subject matter for its listeners to chew on. At this point, I'd also like to say that, in my opinion, even though most prefer Cee-Lo Green to the rest of the group members, I like Khujo's deep, gruff voice the best.

5. Guess Who
If there is one thing that keeps Soul Food from being on the same level as some of hip-hop's greatest albums, it is that the production does become a bit bland at points. That isn't to say the beats are bad, because they aren't and they suit Goodie Mob's style very well, but it just seems like they become too repetitive on occasion. Still, "Guess Who" is a pretty solid track either way.

6. Fighting
"Fighting" is the only cut on the album that wasn't solely produced by Organized Noize, as Mixzo co-produces the track with them. It also turns out to be one of Soul Food's best songs, as it simply knocks. The summer-night effects in the background (particularly the sound of the crickets) complement the drums very nicely, and Goodie Mob just sounds great over the instrumental. However, I think the fact that Cee-Lo's verse is essentially spoken word is pretty stupid and takes away from the song. Once again, Khujo comes across as the best member of the group on this track.

7. Live At The O.M.N.I.
I've gotta be honest: this track did nothing for me.

8. Goodie Bag
I really, really liked this one. The drums on this bang, and the surrounding instruments are appropriately subtle.

9. Soul Food
I love the almost surreal feel of Organized Noize's beat on this, and guest artist Sleepy Brown adds a nice element to the track on the hook. This was the second single on Soul Food.

10. I Didn't Ask To Come
This is the best song on the album; bar none. The production is sick (arguably one of the best beats ever), and Goodie Mob drops what is probably its most thought-provoking rhymes on Soul Food, as each member explains how they did not ask to be born into this world. I seriously can't even begin to describe how thoroughly awesome this cut is.

11. The Coming
You would think the greatness of "I Didn't Ask To Come" would just be setting up the remainder of the album for disappointment, but "The Coming" actually keeps the momentum going. It isn't as good as the preceding track (not by a long shot), but it's still a very nice cut. Guest artist Witchdoctor (of Dungeon Family) brings something great to the table, and Organized Noize's instrumental is solid enough to keep the attention of the listener throughout what is the longest record on the album.

12. The Day After
Soul Food ends on a good note, as "The Day After" is a very solid track. Some great drums carry the instrumental, and scattered piano hits and guitar strums add to Organized Noize's incredibly smooth production.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Although Goodie Mob is not exactly an extraordinarily well-known group, its diehard fans will generally place Soul Food among the top albums in hip-hop history. Although I do not necessarily agree with that sentiment, I do think that Soul Food is straddling the line between classic and great and, therefore, is a very, very impressive effort.

The consistency of Goodie Mob's debut album is certainly something to marvel at, as the group maintains that trademark southern sound throughout and stays on topic. Yes, Organized Noize's beats may seem a bit dull and monotonous at points, but what listeners (myself included) have to understand is that that is the style of the south. Just look at Outkast's earlier works; the duo's production was generally very subdued and mellow.

What I enjoy most about Goodie Mob is each member's emceeing ability. Clearly, all four of Cee-Lo Green, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp are very talented rappers (Khujo in particular) who were built to flow over Organized Noize's beats, making Soul Food a very cohesive project.

Is Soul Food one of my all-time favorite records? No, but I will not deny that it had a huge influence on the rap game, especially in the south, as Goodie Mob, along with Outkast, helped set a standard for what real southern rap should sound like, and although that precedent has since been marred by many of the garbage artists from the south today (and I don't think I need to name anyone specific), true hip-hop aficionados know what that sound is, thanks large in part to Goodie Mob.

TOP FIVE TRACKS

1. I Didn't Ask To Come
2. Cell Therapy
3. Fighting
4. Goodie Bag
5. Sesame Street

SKIPPABLE TRACKS

Live At The O.M.N.I.

2 comments:

  1. Nice review, sir. As an Atlanta native, I came of age with 'Soul Food' and the whole era of Organized Noize production. For myself, the whole album is infinitely listenable, except as you correctly noted 'Live At The OMNI'. The only other gripe I have with this album and a few other albums of the period is the racial diatribe. It seemed to ring hollow in spots. However, I felt like those issues were focused with clarity on Goodie MOB's follow-up. 'Still Standing'.

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  2. Yeah; it seems to me that everyone considers "Soul Food" to be far and away Goodie Mob's best album when I really think that "Still Standing" is right there with it. I will most certainly be reviewing that album in the future, as well.

    Thanks for reading!

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