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Ever wonder where that hard-hitting flow over trap-heavy production in Atlanta comes from? Look no further than Goodie Mob. Composed of Big Gipp, Khujo, Cee-Lo, and T-Mo, the four-man group pride itself on having true lyricists.
Coming together in 1991, the rap collective came up as an essential part of The Dungeon Family alongside Outkast, Witchdoctor, Backbone, Big Rube, Cool Breeze, and the famous production team Organized Noize. It was Goodie Mob’s debut album 1995 titled Soul Food that changed the trajectory of hip hop forever.
Fast forward to 2020, the guys remain as passionate about their music as ever. Their new single, “Are You Ready” arrives after a seven-year hiatus. It features the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy. Now, their new album titled Survival Kit, aptly titled for our times, is here.
REVOLT caught up with all four members of the group to discuss how quarantine has affected them, the nostalgia of Soul Food and how it relates to today, their take on mumble rap, being Black in America, their new project and more! Read below.
How have you guys been holding up during quarantine?
Khujo: Holding up pretty good, man. You know how it is when you’re put under pressure? Pressure makes the best come out of you. My condolences [go] out to people that lost their lives from this episode, it’s molding us to really bring the best out of us. Really putting this new music together. Holding true, relying on each other, keeping it moving.
T-Mo: The epidemic’s definitely been a life-changing experience for everyone in the world. Nobody’s experienced this throughout their lifetime, it’s been definitely a humbling experience. Like Khujo said, it really brought the best out of us, gave us an opportunity to get together. It knocked everybody’s schedules down to zero to where everybody had nothing but time on their hands and we utilized our time effectively. New Goodie Mob project and bringing you hopefully a platinum, diamond album. That’s my hopes, my dreams, my wishes. The content we have is definitely that good and only time will tell.
We love “Are You Ready” featuring Chuck D. What are you most excited for?
Gipp: For the first time, we finally recorded a record that’ll do real well in the festival market. It puts Goodie Mob and Chuck D from Public Enemy, two real known socially conscious groups together for the first time. It’s a classic record right off because it’s never been done. Organized Noize, the music they brought on this record gave us… I remember CeeLo first heard this beat from Organized. When I heard it, oh man, that’s how we started the album. We recorded that song, jumped right on that vibe.
Ceelo, what did you hear when you heard the beat?
CeeLo: I believe that progressive forward motion needs velocity. It had the urgency, the tempo, that nostalgia kindred between us as Goodie Mob and Public Enemy. I remember quite some time ago, an article in Vibe magazine said “pass me the torch,” that Public Enemy was passing the torch to Goodie Mob. It was familiar to me. With that reference in mind, it was an ideal direction we could go in. I put a verse down, I put a reference vocal down. I sent it to the guys and Organized Noize, everybody liked it. Before you know it, we have a complete song and a complete thought.
Was it done in the studio or sent off?
CeeLo: I did the original reference at home. Some of the recording was done here and there because of the COVID situation. Of course, we did some recording together in the studio.
What was the vibe in the studio given our current circumstances?
CeeLo: We’re all happy to be in each other’s company because we hadn’t been in a working capacity with several of us since we’re kids. Twenty years in the making almost. To have a project totally overseen, produced, executive produced by Organized Noize was not only a pleasure, but a privilege. We’re a family and a collective of artists, the principles still hold true. We got a whole lot in common with what we do artistically and industrially, it was a great opportunity to prove ourselves. To re-introduce ourselves, yet again.
Organized Noize influenced a ton of Atlanta acts including yourselves and Outkast. What were those sessions like?
Khujo: Oh man. Organized Noize knowing their experience and knowing what type of caliber they’re on, they set the bar high. How we did with Soul Food, Still Standing, and the rest of our projects, the urgency of doing this project heightened whatever powers we have to bring together. This is our 25th anniversary and we’re releasing a new Goodie Mob album too, this whole incentive to do this for our fans. When you look up and see 25 years have gone by, you start counting your accomplishments. You got a new album to go along with it, you working back with the people you started out with — gave Outkast their hits, our hits — it’s like riding a bike. Still trying to be the best at what we do. Being that we’re from the south and we did connect with Chuck D coming out of New York, that’s the south and New York back at it again.
What was it about Soul Food that resonated so much in hip hop?
Khujo: Soul Food period, everybody can relate to. The soul food people were eating, sitting down at dinnertime and discussing a lot of things whether it be family matters or politics. Everybody relates to coming together and eating, putting your head together and coming up with solutions to what you got going on. Using soul food as a catalyst to familiarize people with the Goodie Mob instantly gravitated toward the south to see what these boys were talking about. Everybody knows about soul food. Their grandma knows about soul food. We had different ingredients from each point, from Southwest Atlanta, from Northwest Atlanta. We came together with the masterpiece along with Organized Noize.
Fondest memories from the “Cell Therapy” days?
T-Mo: So many exciting moments. Performing in the Twin Cities, I remember me and Khujo had gone to get our hair braided and we’d gone way out. We thought the show was later on that night because we’ve been closing and going on really late. Gipp called like, “Where y’all at, man?” We said we out getting our hair braided. He’s like, “Hair braided? It’s almost time to do the show man. We’re a long way away, we didn’t even know these girls (laughs). We drove back, made it in the nick of time. We didn’t even change clothes.
We rocked the show so good, I remember them coming up saying, “Hey man, did y’all see who was there in the crowd?” Nah, who was it? “Man, Prince!” For real? “Yeah, Prince was in the crowd and he invited us back to his house!” The most exciting moment of my whole music career. I was raised ever since the first grade to “Red Corvette,” that’s a legend. To be watching us and have respect for us, to enjoy watching us perform, to actually extend his courtesy to come to his home and enjoy some time with him, that was beautiful.
CeeLo: I remember that!
How have each of you evolved since? That was back in 1995.
T-Mo: We got better. We’re like fine wine. With time, we only get better. Tastes sweeter, the berries are all dark. The flavors are all sweet (laughs). We all fine. Look at CeeLo Green’s career. Look Khujo’s. Look at Big Gipp with the Gipp Goodies. T-Mo got things brewing right now, 25 years later when they counted us out. When they thought by now we’ll be gone, we’ll be a memory. It’s been a blessing, God has preserved us. Look at them handsome men, He kept us all healthy. Nobody’s sick. Nobody can say anything about this group. We’re still working, still grinding. Show the world that Goodie Mob got something to say.
Do you think mumble rap came from Dungeon Family?
Khujo: It evolved. It’s actually a style of rap. Either you’re going to push the envelope or lay it down and let it soak, get wet and get dirty. I don’t have no problem with mumble rap. It started in a place where rap was supposed to start at. It’s about evolving with your music, another form of music. Nobody could come right behind us and bite the styles we had. It’s not Goodie Mob trying to sound like Outkast. For a minute after Goodie Mob and Outkast dropped, nobody sounded like us. It was people already in the cut with their own style, with their own slang, with their own music, ready to get their chance of being recognized as somebody in the south that could make it happen. What you think Lo?
CeeLo: Yeah, we zoned off an area for them to build an extension of what we’d established. We were too young to even assume that we’d be the forefathers of anything, no idea what we’d be giving birth to. We’re very fortunate now in retrospect. Andy Warhol has this great quote: “Art is what you can get away with.” That speaks volumes. That’s the best answer I can give you. If it was compelling enough to create dialogue and conversation, critique and debate over, then it was effective in its own right. Two great quotes I live by and it’s “art is what you can get away with” and “style is being yourself on purpose.”
Khujo: Two rappers I can come up with from New York, they had a different type of twang with their rap: Kool G Rap and Biz Markie. Now the way they rhyme, you wouldn’t call that a different type of rap, but a style of rap. When you say mumble rap, somebody came up with another genre of music which everybody can’t do. Everybody can’t do country. Everybody can’t do rock, everybody can’t do blues. Everybody can’t do mumble.
CeeLo: Typically the critics are those who can’t do it. Someone who couldn’t do it, couldn’t formulate mumble rap in order to benefit from it themselves, so they had to call it something condescending.
T-Mo: If somebody supports the mumble rap, they want to buy the mumble rap, they don’t need to complain about it. If you don’t like it, if it wasn’t fire, we wouldn’t even be talking about it right now. I don’t even call it mumble rap, it’s that lean rap. You get on that lean, everything slows down. You know what you’re saying, but the substance takes control of the art.
CeeLo: JAY-Z even says that men mumble and women mumble, but numbers speak clear (laughs). Hey, it all comes from Atlanta, Georgia. We have some type of share in everything that comes from our region.
Future is Rico Wade are actually cousins. How much influence did Future have on the south?
T-Mo: A whole lot. Everything’s super top talented and that man got a work ethic outta this world. Can’t knock nobody who grinds every day, makes hundreds of rap songs and they sound good. The man’s confident in what he’s doing, that man’s good at being himself. He isn’t trying to be nobody else. The new rappers are influenced and inspired by him, which is awesome. That’s an extension, a younger version of The Dungeon Family. Working with us late nights, hanging out and recording, working with Rico and everybody. He’s nothing but family, it’s awesome to see family success. It’s lovely.
CeeLo: Imagine how it is for those young artists to sit amongst all these great talents, all these energies and perspectives, but it filtered out as his own unique one of one hybrid. That means we inspired him to be an individual because he recognized that everything we’re doing was completely original. Future definitely at his young age, look what he’s accomplished already. Somebody young now will call Future an old head.
I can call it a social disorder. As a society, we suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Even before our time, they’d do disco dance mixes 10, 11, 13, 15 minutes long. The bandwidth has been condensed. Things like Vine and Snapchat and things of that nature, we wanted shorter soundbites of instantly gratifying content. Now, there’s a parallel between visual and audio content. They don’t even refer to it as music because it doesn’t deal with instrumentation or composition necessarily, but it does deal with melody and beats per minute.
How does it feel being a Black man in America?
Gipp: To be a Black man in America you got two choices: Either evolve or stay the same. The same seems like they gon’ keep abusing, keep using the system against us. We as Black men know we need to educate ourselves outside of what we know. To defend yourself against your enemy, you need to learn what your enemy uses against you. That’s the reason why Goodie Mob has returned to the game with a record like “Are You Ready.” We set the table. If you thought or felt [like] we hadn’t spoken during the time or you hadn’t seen us, this is the reason. God got us here to speak. We gave you the first half, now we’re giving you Survival Kit. How are you going to survive in a pandemic?
CeeLo: The enemy uses our ignorance against us because they realize information is the only equality we shall ever have. You just have to be in the known.
How can you guys continue to push the narrative?
Khujo: Got to be motivated, the fans really motivate you. You come out your house and you got people saying, “My mom and my dad turned me on to y’all music.” Now you’re researching it, wanting to know more. That keeps us pushing the narrative, really observing and not taking that side. Being in the skybox, looking how the game goes and giving our point of view on how we feel. Still try to keep it entertaining, keep it evolving, keep it fresh. At the end of the day, people want to forget about what they got going on, but [we] still want to give ‘em something to relate to. At least educate your own people.
CeeLo: We can no longer utilize music as escapism. We have to use it as a means of exposure and information, a means to correlate and correspond. If we’re truly artists, our talent should be to be able to formulate and comprise a way to blend those jewels in there. We depend on music to get by, we always have as a culture. They disenfranchise us, they upped the ante on the Jim Crow Law. Instead of whipping the slaves, they overpay the slave. This is a big conversation. We try to keep it on music, try to separate the church and state. Politics and social consciousness, there’s a whole lot to say. I try to paraphrase and keep it light. Survival Kit [is out]. “Are You Ready” featuring the mighty Chuck D who gave us his blessing is out on all streaming platforms as we speak. For all the true Goodie Mobsters out there, extensions of the Dungeon Family, north, south, internationally, global, worldwide, come on out and support the horsemen. We riding again.
You named your new album Survival Kit to reflect the current state of the country. Who came up with the title?
Khujo: It’s an honor to ride with the Mob. A lot of people out there would love to be in the same studio with Gipp, T-Mo, or CeeLo; be in a studio with an Organized Noize artist. A lot of people don’t get this opportunity. Twenty fifth anniversary, they coming out with a new album. Jumping everything off with a known figure of the hip hop game like Chuck D, that gave me more incentive to give it all I can. In this insane time, people were ready for us. We had to answer their call. To be able to do it with some guys who know how to do it, got the same sense of urgency I got, made the job easier.
Gipp: We know what you’ve been missing. We took the time, God gave us the right pen for the right time. We put together a nice collection of Goodie Mob that’s going to be celebrated in 25 years because we put our hearts in this. It’s the first time that anybody’s ever seen this done. The only group of men from our era that all of us are still alive.
T-Mo: We want to really thank you Shirley for this platform, thank REVOLT for this platform. Without y’all, it’s a lot of hate out there for the Mob. It’s an invisible hand that’s trying to keep us held down, that’s how I personally feel. We made some of the best, most graceful music played on radio... For them to not be supportive, it’s some type of unseen hand keeping the button down on us. With the effort, we’re giving and the open arms, we’re receiving from this new music we have. The sky’s the limit with this project. I appreciate you. I appreciate everybody that loves Goodie Mob, that’s opened the door for Goodie Mob, that’s trying to help us to push us to the forefront of music. Give these brothers in the game for 25 plus years another opportunity to get in front of the world and say something. We’re all definitely doing that on Survival Kit, showing people that Goodie Mob’s still moving with God’s hand on our shoulders. Not only is it going to be prolific, it’s going to be another situation where we’re predicting something that’s going to happen. I guarantee you on that one.
CeeLo: A lot of the music was recorded in real time. We’re all dealing with it. Nobody was exempt from being blindsided by the pandemic and quarantine. The space was safe for us to speak again. Everyone felt it innately, we spoke it into existence. An opportunity presented itself — reflect on what’s necessary to survive going forward. We wanted to relay that conceptual in a musical platform. In an art form.
The love of the people is necessary, that’s how we survive. That’s how we thrive. That’s how we go forward. We all have different variables and perspectives we brought to the table, it seems so relative and so right to me. Goodie Mob Survival Kit. It got a ring to it. It’s one of the first songs that we did. Me and Sleepy Brown went in the studio, he played the first beat. That’s the first beat that I heard, I’m like, “Wow, survival kit!” I wrote a rhyme with that in mind, the homies got onboard. It made sense. It still makes sense.