Goodie Mob helped Outkast put Atlanta -and the south for that matter- on the map back in ’95 with their classic “Soul Food.” If Outkast represented the southernplayalisticpimps of the south, Goodie Mob repped the nitty-gritty gangstas. Believe it or not these were the guys who coined the south “the dirty south,” and taught us how to ‘throw them bows’ long before Ludacris.
But what separated Goodie Mob was how they took gangsterism to a social scope. Their rhymes married the streets to a college conscious, warehouse workers to art house fanatics, grit and grime to spit shine. And it was dope. Goodie Mob always had the unique culinary skills to cook all their street science into soul food that sounded good enough to eat, which very often is a problem with socially conscious rappers. As Outkast said it, they “drop a little science off in every verse,” by slipping messages into their music like slipping a pill into food to make it easier to swallow.
But as Outkast steadily grew into the mainstream, Goodie Mob steadily faded into the background. Their sophomore album, “Still Standing,” served to solidify their fan base while their third, quasi-commercial release “World Party” pushed those same fans away. The industry is a two-way street and if you’re not coming you’re going. Five years passed by. Cee-Lo, the front man and soul machine of the group, left without sending so much as a postcard. Khujo, the group’s founding strong man, lost a leg in a near fatal car accident. And with most members branching off towards solo careers, it seemed as though the G-Mob was pretty well wrapped up. Not these D-boys. Goodie Mob returns with “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” to try and rise like a phoenix from the flaming black ashes of a turbulent career to recapture fleeting fans and fresh respect.
But let’s talk about this ‘one monkey don’t stop no show’ business. Although the group officially claims the title loosely refers to the industry, it’s pretty obvious they are talking about Cee-Lo’s dissension from the group. And who can blame them: back in 2002 after going solo, Cee-lo went on record to proclaim “there is no more Goodie Mob,” egotistically implying that the group couldn’t survive without him. Of course, his comments were quickly followed by a self-promoting spiel on his second album, “Cee-Lo Green is the Soul Machine.” So what do you expect? Goodie Mob used the same controversy to promote their own release, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.” But to fans, left with uneasy stomachs after “World Party,” Goodie Mob’s comeback comes somewhat tainted with commercial intent, based on shifting controversy.
You’ll be breathing a sigh of relief though, as Big Rube steps up to Def Poet the intro with the same spirit stirring social commentary that made the group great. Sliding quietly into “God I Wanna Live,” the group urges young and old alike to slow and survive. It seems an honestly inspired soliloquy, since Khujo came damn near dying two years ago in a car accident, and he is missing a leg to prove it. So far the album has immediately quelled any fear that they came back tainted by time off and commercialization.
After putting fans at ease, “123 Goodie” sets things off with some powerful piano jamming by DJ Paul. It is the type of bread and butter anthem that made Goodie Mob and will remake them. The album breezes along beautifully through “Shawty Wanna be a Gangsta” and “In Da Streets,” further ossifying their auspicious potential.
By the middle of the album the influence of the new southern sound begins to seep out. The G-Mob starts cranking out the crunk on cuts like “Grindin’,” with Bone Crusher on the chorus, and “We Back,” their over rout comeback call.
Don’t worry though, the album never sheds its D-boy style and there is plenty more funky musical grooves to cruise the ATL with. “High & Low” has that beautifully sullen rapture to it that can only be properly listened to in the black of night on a dark highway, or swimming through street lamps that line lonely side streets, sulking in the shadow of nightlife. It’s produced by Speedy as are the next two tracks, “Big City” and “What You See.” “Big City” is a scratch-happy mix with an Andre 3000 adrenaline to it. “What You See” is more what you’d expect to be their radio hit. It’s a melancholy melody with Melanie “Melbo” Smith singing the hook. It’s only a prologue to their main radio blow “Play Your Flutes,” with Kurupt and the super smooth Sleepy Brown. This is exactly that smooth flowing, feel good shit that you can glide on all summer long.
Overall there isn’t a skippable track on the album, which shows that one monkey really don’t stop no show. Cee-Lo is certainly sorely missed. His high-pitched, helium filled voice always made a nice contrast to the throaty bass of Khujo. Also, he was a strong creative force in the group’s foundation, as he is an ever-innovating entrepreneur of aesthetics. But “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” doesn’t feel like it’s missing Cee-lo, just missing his verses. Goodie Mob sounds newly rejuvenated, almost vivified by the tremendous odds they faced coming back instead of impeded by it.
“One Mokney Don’t Stop No Show” also vents a lot of anguish and emotion that has seemingly built up over the last half decade. And it strengthens the album, because as always the group comes through musically as well as emotionally. “Dead Homies” has the earnest wistfulness a dead friend deserves, and “Goodadvice” expresses the deep seeded, dark anger spawned from the same type of needless street slaying. As Big Gipp put it, “I’m like cold rain hittin’ hot pavement, I’m nuttin’ but steam.” Even the more happy-go-lucky tracks hold real feeling. They just do a better job of masquerading the inner angst of the group, as pop culture does for the underlying angst of the world.
“One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” is a great comeback. The group has seen a lot of tragedy, a lot change, and they are back to reclaim lost time. Admittedly I was a little apprehensive about buying this album as probably many precarious fans are. But I was happily surprised to find out how wrong I was and how strong the album is. They are the ATL underdogs, always overshadowed and undervalued, and that fighting spirit started an album fire. Hopefully it will convince Cee-lo to return home, even if album sales won’t. “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” is an easily recommendable purchase, and one that you will be happy you did. Is Cee-Lo missed? Certainly, he’s the soul survivor. Does his absence trip up the group? Not a step.