Goodie Mob together again: The ‘civil rights’ activists of hip-hop

In the 90’s, Goodie Mob established the Dirty South with ‘good old-fashioned’ Soul Food, and now, after over a decade apart, they’re back with a new album and return to what they deem the civil rights movement of hip-hop.

With superstar Cee-Lo Green at the helm, Goodie Mob performed songs from their forthcoming release, Age Against the Machine, in Los Angeles Tuesday night at a showcase for aspiring artists in AT&T’s “Elevate Young Black Voices” contest.

The event, honoring Black Music Month, officially brought together four guys who laid the foundations for Southern hip-hop by articulating and stylizing a clever drawl and sophisticated lyricism that has become predominate across rap music today.

“We’re still sociable,” Green wryly told theGrio at the event.

“You can expect what you’ve always got from us,” cohort Big Gipp added. “That’s just being courageous, pushing the envelope, as far as music’s concerned, and staying us – that’s all.”

What do you know about the ‘Dirty South?’

Goodie Mob broke out in 1995 with the release of their debut LP, Soul Food. While not necessarily a commercial hit, it became an urban classic. The collection established the group as one of the prime players in the Atlanta rap scene alongside artists like the Dungeon Family and Outkast.

Racially and politically-mind, yet not without humor, Soul Food featured prominent songs such as “Cell Therapy” and “Dirty South,” and matched a progressive stance on social and economic issues with organic, refined production technique.

“When we were first coming out, trying to represent Atlanta, GA, I felt like we were fighting for the civil rights of hip-hop,” Green recalled. “To stand up and be counted as a contributing factor – I think we’ve done it.”

After the release of Soul Food, Goodie Mob put out two more albums before Green departed in 2000 to pursue a solo career. The quartet’s era of leading Southern rappers to greatness may have been brief, but their sound and creative direction still resonates in the careers of artists like T.I., B.o.B., Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane.

Even rappers outside the region – A$AP Rocky being a prime example – have picked up on the trend, and the amplifying cultural hegemony of comfort food, hospitality and ambitious, laid-back ways and means.

“It’s pretty impressive when you think about,” Green observed. “Amongst ourselves, we are advocates of variety, and honesty, optimism and alternative. So we encourage these things. To have as much music coming from our region, and as being as prominent as we are, it’s commendable.”

St. Everywhere: Cee-Lo becomes a superstar

While the last store-released Goodie Mob record was 2005’s Livin’ Life as Lumberjacks, most would agree the foursome lost its flair and attention without the presence of Green after 1999.

Green went on to partner with cult producer Danger Mouse to create the pop-electronic soul duo Gnarls Barkley, earning two Grammy Awards and a top chart spot for the hit “Crazy.” The two put out two albums together, and are said to currently be working on a third.

In 2010, Green released his solo album, The Lady Killer, featuring the now-ubiquitous single “Forget You.” The song earned him another Grammy, as well as accolades on every blog’s year-end list, and countless YouTube parodies.

“Saw you driving ’round town with the girl I love on Fox News,” Green sang in a popular remix for The Colbert Report. “Didn’t see one politician that wasn’t corrupt on the Fox News, and I get the blues.”

Goodie Mob together again, taking on the ‘machine’

Overtime, Goodie Mob made many attempts at a reunion. Green brought out his “Soul Food” unit for various appearances, including a performance on The Voice last year, and in tribute to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch at the Billboard Music Awards.

They will formally reintroduce themselves after 14 years with the release of their album on August 27th.

“Right now it’s all about having that wisdom of what type of song to make, what type of music to put together,” rapper T-Mo said.

Already, the group is receiving praise for their first single, “Special Education,” featuring Janelle Monáe, who Green calls “family.”

The track brings back the same twang and often-ironic attitude paired with an enhanced, energetic sense of production.

In honor of black voices

Performing for an exclusive crowd in Hollywood, Goodie Mob took the stage Tuesday alongside four aspiring singers, who were hand-chosen in a contest for AT&T’s “Elevate Young Black Voices” series. The rappers debuted their new record, and offered a hand to those making their way up in the business. The contest challenged participants to share an original song that was inspiring and motivational to the African-American community.

“Goodie Mob is one of the most eclectic groups in hip-hop,” Matt Teshera, Sr. Diversity Marketing Manger for A&T, pointed out. “With their recent reunion, Cee-Lo Green’s nationally recognized experience as a mentor and the innovative personalities of both brands, a collaboration fit perfectly for Black Music Month.”

Earlier in the day, winners participated in a two-hour private mentoring session with the hip-hop group, and Green joined the four in a group performance of “Forget You” that night.

“You’ve got to be helpful in a kind of way that’s not encroaching on talent,” Green explained about the mentoring process. “Being able to recognize young talent, it heightens your senses, sharpens your skill.”

He’s main advice: be original.

“A lot of people are aspiring to occupy the same space,” Green says. “You have to find a way to stand out amongst the crowd.”