From behind dark sunglasses, Andre 3000 once told a TV interviewer, “OutKast would not even be who we are if not for Goodie Mob.” If that’s so with OutKast – the influential duo known for early 2000s smashes like “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move” – a case can easily be made Goodie Mob had that impact on most other recent Black music from The South too.
Along with OutKast pals Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Goodie Mob helped ignite Atlanta’s now famously fertile rap scene. Composed of CeeLo Green, Big Gipp, T-Mo and Khujo, Goodie Mob made artful, funky social-commentary. Real-deal Atlanta Black-experience in your ears, decades before acclaimed TV show “Atlanta” put it in eyes. Fellow Atlanta products T.I. and Run The Jewels’ Killer Mike are among many stars influenced by Goodie Mob’s music.
After CeeLo and Gipp featured on early OutKast single “Git Up, Git Out,” anticipation was high for Goodie Mob’s 1995 debut album, “Soul Food.” OutKast and Goodie Mob were both part of the so-called Dungeon Family, a collective of rappers, singers and musicians who cut in The Dungeon, a studio located in the basement of producer Rico Wade’s, um, mom’s house.
“Soul Food” boasted “Cell Therapy” an earthy top 40 hit and rap chart-topper. The album went gold, selling more than 500,000 copies. As did 1998 sophomore LP “Still Standing,” boasting “Black Ice (Sky High),” a hypnotic groover with an OutKast feature. Gold-sales also awaited 1999 album “World Party,” a collection of ravers like “Get Rich To This” with guests like R&B stars TLC.
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Singer/rapper CeeLo Green departed Goodie Mob after that. The group’s three remaining members made the unfortunately titled LP “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.” Green found mainstream fame with Gnarles Barkley, a collabo with producer Danger Mouse, and their instantly classic hit “Crazy.” The Green solo smash “F—K You” followed. Then his stint on hit TV show “The Voice.”
Goodie Mob reunited with Green a few times onstage. Finally in 2013, the group released reunion disc “Age Against the Machine.” A vibrant sixth album, “Survival Kit,” dropped seven years later.
Recently, I had a video call interview scheduled with the entire group to promote an upcoming Goodie Mob show at Orion Amphitheater, a buzzed-about new venue in Huntsville, Ala. CeeLo didn’t show for the interview. Neither did Big Gipp or T-Mo.
But Khujo was there for the video interview, and we had an awesome conversation. The kind of conversation that makes you a bigger fan than you were before. Edited excerpts below. (Info and ticket link for Goodie Mob’s Orion show is listed at the end of the Q&A.)
Khujo, are you enjoying being in Goodie Mob now than you did back in the ‘90s when you all were starting out?
Yes, man, I am. It just seems like right now a lot of people have given us our flowers, you know what I mean, talking about some of our accomplishments and what kind of effect we had on Atlanta hip-hop. So yeah, it really feels good now. Because you can look back and think you were going through something for nothing, but there was as reason that you went through that. So to come out on this end then, it being 26, 27 years of “Soul Food,” wow. It’s really a reflective time, a reflective situation.
What were the artists or records that made you want to do rap music? Like not just listen, but “Hey, I want to get into this.”
For me, it had to be those old-school hip-hop movies that came out that the brothers and sisters was putting together up in New York. Like “Breakin’,” “Beat Street,” “Wild Style.” All those movies really, really had a big impression on me. On top of that, to have artists out of one of those movies to actually come to your school live, it just did something to a Southern ghetto boy like me.
I tell the story all the time: (early rap stars) Kurtis Blow and Whodini came to my middle school, and it was, like, damn. And then listening to the radio and hearing Ice Cube, somebody from the West Coast like that, or even hearing somebody from my hometown, like Kilo Ali, on the radio. I was like, man, I want to be a part of that fraternity. And here we are. Goodie Mob, (production team) Organized Noize, being that catalyst to push Atlanta hip-hop to the next level.
You’ve published a book on the “Dirty South” rap scene, titled “Straight Out of the ‘A’”. Back in the ‘90s, could you tell something special was happening, as it was happening? And why do you think Atlanta was such a ripe place for hip-hop?
Well, I’d say to the second question, Atlanta was kind of like a child, to me, that was willing to learn, just like how we were coming up. We were willing to learn from New York. We were willing to learn from the West Coast. So I think Atlanta was like that. It was still in its infancy stage where it could accept learning. That’s why I think Atlanta embraced hip-hop the way they did. Because like I said, you’ve been left out of the game for a while. And when you get into the game and just want to show out and show everybody what you can do. I think that’s what Atlanta was doing at that moment. Just showing the West Coast and the East Coast what we could do.
On the most recent Goodie Mob album, “Survival Kit,” the opening track “Are You Ready,” which features Chuck D of Public Enemy, has a rock-band energy to it. When you guys are putting together a track, do you ever think like a band more than like a group?
We’ve got origins like that, man. On the “Still Standing” album we had a song called “Just About Over” and it had that wild feel to it. It was that real dirty, muddy, Southern-type rock. And for us to have a track like “Are You Ready” and have Chuck D on it, it was classic, man. Because Chuck D was definitely an influence on all four us. And Public Enemy, period. Just coming out and standing for what they stood for and people supporting them, we were like, yeah, we want to be like that. And to your question, we can go that way. We’ve definitely went there with a live band. We went out on tour with Fishbone and on tour with The Roots, so we can take it all the way there with it.
What’s your most vivid memory of putting together the classic Goodie Mob track “Cell Therapy”?
Actually putting that whole piece together, my piece, my whole 16 (bars) together. And it started out me just being over a friend’s house and just started writing some raps. I didn’t write it to any music or anything, so I was maybe just practicing writing. And then all of a sudden, my friend pops in a VHS tape, it was VHS tapes back then, and it was talking about “the new world order.” My attention just kind of got off of what I was doing, and I was really listening to what was going on there. And I started writing what I was hearing them saying about the new world on this videotape. That’s why I came up with the title for the song, “Cell Therapy,” just by looking at that particular VHS tape. And going into the studio later on that day, and just landing into this incredible masterpiece that Organized Noize put together. A sound that I’ve heard before, but never heard put together like that. It was just crazy and amazing how it came together, man.
When you rap in a Goodie Mob song, is it always lyrics you wrote? Or sometimes do you all rap a lyric another member of the group wrote? Because that sometimes works differently in different rap groups.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That actually happened to me one time, in 2012, when we were doing our album “Age Against The Machine,” and we had a piece that CeeLo came to me and said, “Hey Jo, let me do something for you, man. Let’s see how you would sound saying this.” So we were experimenting in that particular time, you know what I mean, where we had never really done that before. Because all our albums we just straight come up, “What you got, man? OK, this is what I got.” As a matter of fact, take that back a little bit further. On (the “Soul Food” track) “Sesame Street,” the hook “Can you feel what I feel? Can you hear what I hear?” Gipp actually wrote that for me to say. Yeah, so that happened maybe twice. It could have happened more than twice, for real. One of your members might be feeling something, but like, “Hey man, you might sound better.”
What surprises are Goodie Mob throwing into the setlist these days? In the past, the group’s done live versions of some OutKast songs and “Crazy,” CeeLo’s hit with Gnarls Barkley.
I don’t want to give it away, but I’ve just been looking at, analyzing some of our music that’s streaming and I’m seeing something like, there’s a song that’s been streaming like hell. People really been checking for that song. And there’s another song we’ve been waiting to do too.
There’s reportedly a limited series TV drama based on Goodie Mob in the works. What’s the status of that?
Well, right now were definitely in the mix of putting together a scripted television series about the Goodie Mob. The origin, how we got together. Everything that we can remember, you know what I’m saying. I’m definitely happy about that man, and we may have something sometime the top of next year, maybe the middle of next year.
Goodie Mob music has been in quite a few different movies and TV shows, going all the way back to the Olive Stone’s “Any Given Sunday” on up to acclaimed drama “Moonlight.” For you, what’s interesting about getting a song in a cool movie or TV show?
You’re reaching more people when you’re in a soundtrack and then plus, you get from a whole another audience like, OK, they just actually picked you out of everybody else and want your music to be a part of this visual, so that’s definitely an honor to have that going on. And not only that, the greater part is when we do our TV series, we’ll be able to insert our music into the TV series also. So yeah, that’s definitely another feather in our cap to be on a soundtrack, man. Where we come from, that’s big. And CeeLo just got a placement on the new “Elvis” (biopic) soundtrack. So we still doing our thing.
The members of Goodie Mob have all done other musical projects since the group’s early days. Different combinations, groups, duos, solos. But what’s special about you four together making music?
A different thing about Goodie Mob is we’re originals. We’re originally from Atlanta. We’re not from Decatur. We’re not from Covington. We’re straight from Atlanta, Georgia: I’m from northwest Atlanta: Gipp is from East Point; T-Mo and CeeLo are from southwest Atlanta. So we bring in four different perspectives, you know what I’m saying, to one complete group, so we can let the masses know what’s going on with us, man. And we came out at a perfect time, where you had two coasts that were beefing against each other. Now the attention is on the people that’s not beefing, that got something to say, in the midst of everything.
Another time, I don’t think it would’ve been as impactful. We had this movement in The South coming up, you had a lot of people down in The South, especially Black people, you know I’m saying, getting businesses and moving up economically. We had the Olympics that was coming into Atlanta at that time. So people were now looking for, what’s up with the music scene in Atlanta? And the music scene gives you a deeper look into what’s really going on in Atlanta. It’s beyond the surface. Because it was talking about things that we want to change in our neighborhood. It was talking about people needed to change themselves. We really went deeper than what people really seen on the outside.
Goodie Mob will perform at Orion Amphitheater, address 701 Amphitheater Drive N.W. in Huntsville, on Sept. 30. The group is part of a Summer Jam 2022 lineup also featuring Plies, J Young MDK and Breadwinner Kane. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $60 – $195 (plus fees) via axs.com. More info at facebook.com/goodiemob.