Review Summary: The GOOD DIE Mostly Over Bullshit, and Soul Food is a classic.
Food is and has always been a strong part of cultural identity: you can associate meals with groups of people, regions, countries. It is also a strong vector of unity, as people unite around the same table to enjoy their favorite meal. It is both this sense of unity and identity that are best described by the title of Atlanta's Goodie Mob debut album, Soul Food
, which is a type of traditionnal food appreciated by African Americans, particularly in the southern regions of the United States. While the main message behind Soul Food
is the call for unity in the black community, it is also a tremendous showcase of soul, something rarely seen in today's southern hip-hop scene, and even in the hip-hop scene in general.
I shall not go further in my review without stating how influential this album is inside the southern rap scene. Simply put, it is the single most influential hip-hop album out of the region, with Outkast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
being the only other relevant album in the conversation. It helped coin the phrase "Dirty South" to describe the southern hip-hop scene, and it has been quoted by UGK's Bun B and Outkast as being a great source of inspiration, encouraging them to try and break new grounds, which in turn lead to the making of Outkast's ATLiens
and UGK's Ridin' Dirty
But Soul Food
isn't only an influential album, it is also an outstanding hip-hop masterpiece, in that it manages to combine an accurate and strong criticism of the inequalities in society with great emotion and soul. The opening song, "Free", is sung by the group's most famous member Cee-Lo, and is a great display of the album's best assets, which are the very engaged and precise depictions of the "constanst struggle" lived by the community from the ghetto "each and every day", as said in this same intro.
This same sense of struggle and injustice is detailed in nearly every song of the album, and helps delve into other subjects such as violence, religion, drug addiction, segregation, police misbehaviour and many other subjects. But what is really striking in Soul Food
is that it is not only the lyrical content that is excellent but the way it is delivered as well. Although Cee-Lo is clearly the rapper with the most interesting and singular delivery combined with an exceptionally great voice, the other members, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp complement each other very well with a more agressive delivery which bring a good balance to the album. Even though all four members are perfectly capable of carrying songs on their own, the guest rappers on here do nothing but pull the overall quality of the album up even more. The most impressive contributions are made by both members of Outkast, with Andre 3000 showcasing a ridiculously great flow on "Thought Process" and Big Boi being his usual self in "Dirty South".
The beats, all of which are produced by Organized Noize with the exception of "Fighting", are as good in quality as the other aspects of the album, and are able to be soulful while still letting the MCs the ability to rap more aggressively when it is necessary. While the album has no real weak points, it has one song that is clearly superior to the others, which is a strong statement giving the quality of all the tracks on here. That song is "Cell Therapy", which is a quite paranoid take on the multiple struggles of the black community, particularly segregation and family seperation. The beat hits you from the very beginning of the song, and is without question the best beat on the album, and all four rappers live up to the marvelous beat, with Cee-Lo once again running the show with one of the strongest verses of the LP along with a not only catchy as hell but alsovery profound chorus.
The album's message is perfectly summed up by the meaning of the group's name given by Cee-Lo on "Fighting" : The GOOD DIE Mostly Over Bull***. It is this perception of inequity and injustice that dominate Soul Food
, but what really makes this album a hip-hop classic is the fact that the Goodie Mob don't limit themselves to describing the state of their community, but also claim to having the answer to these problems in unity. Such a socially conscious message, coupled with a great soulful atmosphere, and backed by equally as great instrumentals, are what makes Soul Food
the masterpiece it is, and it is easily understandable that iit has had such an influence in the local and global hip-hop scene.