Goodie Mob, ‘Age Against the Machine’ – Album Review
Goodie Mob, the group that popularized the term “Dirty South,” took some time off in 1999. Right after the completion of their third album ‘World Party,’ Cee Lo Green stepped away from the rap collective and his first two solo projects (‘Cee Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections’ and ‘Cee-Lo Green… Is the Soul Machine’) had no signs of Big Gipp, Khujo, and T-Mo on them.
Ironically enough, the group did reunite back in 2006, a time when Cee Lo’s “side project” with Danger Mouse — Gnarls Barkley — became a household name. A successful Gnarls Barkley follow-up, Cee Lo solo project and stint on a hit singing competition would make the Goodie Mob reunion 13 years in the making. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Big Gipp hit it on the nose. “[Isn’t it] a beautiful story? [Cee Lo] reaching the success that he’s reached and to come back and get his brothers?” he said.
With age comes worldly exposure and wisdom and that’s how ‘Age Against the Machine,’ Goodie Mob’s first album together since 1999, sonically plays out. The third LP showed the Mob moving forward with a more eclectic sound infusing funkadelic into faster BPMs the way OutKast did with ‘Stankonia.’
‘Age Against the Machine’ is all over the place, but the group had a lot of ground to cover: race within the confines of media and society, bullying, music industry politics and hip-hop advocacy.
Goodie Mob is bursting through the door with a hectic sound, with The Grey Area producing key tracks. Noticeably absent from the production ranks is Organized Noize, the Atlanta collective that was involved in the first three albums.
The lyrics counter the sonic ping-pong game on ‘Age Against the Machine.’ Their words are socially aware but more tongue-in-cheek than anything they’ve ever written before. Thankfully, humor didn’t get thrown out the window.
The hip-hop consortium has naturally evolved since ‘World Party,’ but most importantly so has Goodie Mob. Between Cee Lo’s solo success and Goodie Mob’s retroactive credit for their contribution to southern hip-hop, these guys are coming back like tribal shamans.
1. ‘U Don’t Know What You Got (Intro)’ feat. Big Rube
The late ’60s soul song, ‘You Don’t Know What You Got Until You Lose It,’ sung by Jerry Butler, kicks the album off with Big Rube rapping about togetherness and community before fading out, repeating, “The prodigal sons return home.”
2. ‘State of the Art (Radio Killa)’
Rapid strings are at home throughout this short track, which serves as homage to Goodie Mob’s opposition to propaganda and about the “use of speakers as weapons.”
The heavy string opener immediately grabs you. It’s fast paced. Think Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Run (I’m a Natural Disaster).’ We find Cee Lo naming his crossover success as “white power” and how he never felt it before. It’s essentially about the broad black perspective on “white power.”
4. ‘Silence…. The New Hate (Interlude)’
Crickets and, “Silence is the new hate.” A definite nod of the things that are to come.
5. ‘I’m Set’
The tuba and marching band heavy sound is sort of like a declaration of war. The lyrics center on being ready with all that’s happening in the world. ‘I’m Set’ contains a bright Cee Lo moment. “I’ll kill a motherf—er like it ain’t no thang,” he boasts.
The Mob goes inspirational with each verse describing a triumphed tribulation. “When you’re in the valley, the mountain top seem so very high / So I get on my hands and knees and start climbing,” Cee Lo sings on the soulful Jack Splash production.
7. ‘Pinstripes’ Feat. T.I.
The hard-hitting production on the track allows T.I., Cee Lo and Khujo to shine all in quick cadence. The overall lyrical content depicts violence and hard visuals.
8. ‘Special Education’ feat. Janelle Monáe
There’s an obvious nod to bullying on the Janelle Monáe-featured track, another Atlanta native on the album. We find the chanteuse posing the question, “Don’t you want to be special?” The constant synths throughout allow the verses to shine vividly on the Young Fyre production.
9. ‘Ghost of Gloria Goodchild’
This frantic record with sped-up handclaps is the tale of Gloria, a hip hop “renegade,” who runs away from home and dies.
Producer Malay, who was responsible for the production on Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange,’ joins in on ‘Kolors,’ a track inspired by street gangs in America. The jazzy trumpet throughout the track is a nice break from the hectic timbers of the first couple of songs. Big Gipp, who admitted back in June to being affiliated with gangs, begins the story: “I grew up on four corners and jumped in a circle.”
11. ‘Come as You Are’
The group presents another fast-paced ode perfect for Cee Lo’s vocals, but not the gritty tones the rest of the Mob have to offer.
Cee Lo kicks off the metal tune with some singing and midway through the track, builds up exponentially with banging drums for a rock and roll explosion. Heavy guitars go off throughout the track. Cee Lo growls, “Expendable and ignorant is what they equate n—-s with / Yeah it sticks out good but it’s making n—-s sick and making n—-s rich / Or making n—-s n—- rich.”
13. ‘The Both of Me’ feat. Big Fraze
The piano-driven track has Big Fraze examining the difference between a black man and a “real n—-.”
14. ‘Balls (Interlude)’
This interlude starts off wise before turning hilarious: “Competition is a composition that keeps the place crowded but you got to have balls it’s not a game without them.” It’s then followed by an antique-sounding disclaimer that the “broadcast” is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.
15. ‘Amy’ feat. V
Yeah, Amy is a white a girl who was born with soul. Cee Lo talks about his first white girlfriend. The record, produced by The Grey Area, sounds exactly like something that could mix together with Cee Lo’s solo hit, ‘F— You,’ and aside from the content matter, it’s a surprising track to make the album.
16. ‘Understanding’ feat. V
T-Mo raps, “I can’t put you on the same boat but I can dock you on the same port” on the double-time theme here. The crew talks about the efforts that need to be put in to having two lovers — the logistics and the guilt.
17. ‘Uncle Red’s (Interlude)’
Another funny interlude finds Khujo, as Uncle Red, telling a “once upon a time” story to a bedtime-ready child. He shares the tale of his drug dealing days and all the luxuries that were offered.
18. ‘Father Time’
The Atlanta crew closes out the album with an examination of their influence on hip-hop. Big Gipp describes it best: “I’m your pappy I’m the reason you were rapping / I got no time for rapping / You still off in there trapping.”
Watch Goodie Mob’s ‘I’m Set’ Video
Watch Goodie Mob’s ‘Special Education’ Video Feat. Janelle Monáe