Long time fans of rap groups like OutKast and Goodie Mob are already familiar with the phrase "Dungeon Family." To put it into context for the know-nots, they are a crew comparable to the Wu-Tang Clan -- each individual member having skills, but collectively a family of artists with common goals and the ability to collaborate for greater gains. Until now this collective has existed in spirit and in name, but this is the first time they've actually come together for one big release.
Dungeon Family could have succeeded with just their two best known rap groups collaborating, but in the truest sense of a family affair they brought the whole posse along. Some you may have heard a single or two from, such as Backbone and Witchdoctor, others such as Big Rube have been integral parts of various DF albums but have never had the chance to shine on their own. Nevertheless there is one thread that ties them all together on this album, and that's the production. The majority of it is handled by their long-time collaborators Organized Noise, who could be called the glue that sticks the whole Dungeon Family together. The rest is handled by ET3, which for all intents and purposes is really OutKast - they are just credited differently as producers than they are for blessing the mic.
Differentiating between the producers is pointless though - if anything is made clear listening to this album, it's that OutKast learned their chops for producing tracks from being schooled by Dungeon Family over the years. Thus whether you listen to the snappy funk and smooth crooning of "Trans DF Express" or the nervous energy of "They Comin'" the overall vibe is ALL Dungeon Family; which is exactly the way it SHOULD be. The hallmark of this album is soul - no matter which song you are listening to, the deep funk of it seeps through the headphones and envelops you like a fog. Whatever George Clinton and co. was smoking in the heyday of Parliament/Funkadelic, one suspects that DF had access to the same sticky icky icky. That is the ONLY explanation for the richly smooth instrumentals backing tight vocals on songs like "Excalibur", the Doug E. Fresh and MC Ricky D referencing "6 Minutes", or the spiritual sounding yet up-tempo beat backdrop of the musical question "What is Rap?"
Let's lay it on the line, pound for pound - if you were already a fan of any of the artists associated with the Dungeon Family, it would be damn near impossible for you not to like this album. Still, don't presume this album just treads already familiar ground - artists like Big Boi challenge both the contemporary rhyme structure and the tiredness of simplistic rap messages with songs like "On & On & On" - but why don't we just let him tell you in his own words:
"In the middle of the ghetto, the rhythm of the rebel takin over
Country clubs and verbals; you try to censor and to stop it
But we still won't settle, Pinocchio and Geppetto
They tellin lies to my fellow Americans
Besides the heroines and heroes, dopefiends and zeroes
The Dungeon Family steadily jammin as the beat goes"
Indeed. Dungeon Family jam, jam on. Jam on it like Newcleus, you Southern rap funkateers - you prove that there's no reason that shaking your ass and freeing your mind shouldn't go together in the same track at the same time. For that reason more than any other, the beat will indeed go on, and on, and on.
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: November 27, 2001