Arts & Culture

An Interview with Goodie Mob's Khujo and Big Gipp

By Jonathan Cunningham February 24, 2010

Atlanta rap legends Goodie Mob are reunited and play Neumos tonight.

Editor's note: Jonathan's exclusive interview starts off this way:

Are you sure you're ready for this Seattle weather? It's colder here in Seattle than it is in the South.

Big Gipp: Oh I got some animals in my closet. I've got chinchilla and gorilla. No matter the weather, I got furs to match.

The year was 1994 and for the first time in rap’s history, the South was on top. Groups like 2 Live Crew and U.G.K. had already laid the foundation and New Orleans’ No Limit Records were pouring the brick and mortar. By the time Atlanta’s OutKast broke out on a national level with their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, the bulk of the country was primed to actually take Southern rappers seriously. That initial OutKast album was the first time that most people outside of Atlanta got a taste of the soon-to-be-legendary Goodie Mob,  a group of four distinctly-voiced urban poets consisting of Khujo, Big Gipp, T-Mo, and the group's standout singjay, Cee-Lo. (Both Goodie Mob and Outkast were part of Atlanta's Dungeon Family crew and did stints on each other's discs.)

A year later, when Goodie Mob dropped their debut record, Soul Food, they were not only one of the first to coin the phrase "Dirty South" on wax but also mixed ghetto raps and church singing unlike any group to ever come before or after them. Cee-Lo had a voice that seemed like the natural alternative to Auto-Tune and it didn't take long for them to help make Atlanta the Southern rap capitol that it is today. They were also  known for tackling societal ills (drug use, apathy, etc.) head-on in their lyrics. Goodie Mob were both rappers and street preachers.

They put out two more platinum albums after Soul Food, 1998's, Still Standing, and 2000's, World Party, as a foursome before tragedy and a changing music industry forced them to fade from the limelight. In 2002, Khujo lost part of his right leg in a car accident, and shortly after that, Cee-Lo went on to pursue the eccentric solo career (Gnarls Barkley) that he's mostly known for now.

Unfortunately, after Cee-Lo's departure, the remaining members released a final album called One Monkey Don't Stop No Show that was widely seen as a parting shot at Cee-Lo.  The common perception was that the group was not on good terms—and they stopped making music completely in 2004. But last year, news of a Goodie Mob reunion hit the internet.

Some five months later, Goodie Mob has arrived in Seattle for a show at Neumos tonight; their first return to this city in roughly a decade. I got a chance to talk to Khujo and Big Gipp yesterday and they shared a lot about the reason for their reunion, their initial breakup, and lot's more.

Are you sure you're ready for this Seattle weather? It's colder here in Seattle than it is in the South.

Big Gipp: Oh I got some animals in my closet. I've got chinchilla and gorilla. No matter the weather, I got furs to match.

When did you all first start talking about reuniting?

Khujo: Probably about three years ago. It became a reality when Nelly brought us out on a show that he was doing in Atlanta last year at the Tabernacle.  It was a surprise to the crowd and nobody even knew we were there. We came out and did “Black Ice” and “They Don’t Dance No More” and the crowd went crazy. After that, the demand just started coming in.

How many shows have you all done since officially reuniting?

Maybe about seven or eight since then. We did Atlanta a couple of times, then Houston, Austin, Dallas, Orlando, and Miami. Now we’re coming out to the West Coast so it’s still got that new feeling to it. I think we've only done one show in Seattle, but that was a long time ago. We were on tour with De La Soul and Fishbone, probably the late '90s.

Do you think, with so much commercial rap on the radio right now that the climate is right for you all to come back with some real music?

I think it is, but some of the music on the radio, I like it. The dumb, stupid shit, sometimes I like it. So I won’t say it’s the climate, but those folks have their audience, and we have our audience. Music is music. You can listen to Marvin Gaye or some goddamn Gucci Mane At the end of the day, it’s about music and the mental capacity of that person.


Are you all planning to put out an album this year?

Big Gipp: We’ve been working on the album for a couple of months. First of all, we want to do everything in divine order. We reunited on the stage. So for us, we want to let people see us, rather than hearing by word of mouth that we’re together again.

The album is coming next, but ... we also try not to talk about stuff too much. We’re using a page out of Prince's book. When you know what you can do, don’t talk too much. Half the stuff that people talk about is not as good as when you finally hear it. When Goodie Mob and Outkast do an album, we can’t put our thoughts out there too soon. Its like we iconic and the rest of the world is electronic.

We’ve never been loud guys. Some folks sell crack, some folks sell heron [heroin], and the folks who sell heron are a lot more quite about it, and make more money.  The way to not mess things up is to not talk too much. That’s just being mature and learning from your mistakes.

When you look back, are their core mistakes that you can see making when you guys were in the prime of your career?

Personally… I don’t think we did anything wrong. Everybody’s book of life is written before they get here. It’s nothing that you go through that you weren’t supposed to go through. What if we had the global success of those artists back then like Biggie and Tupac. Most of my peers, and plenty of artists that we came up with are dead. We know life is short and we don't stress mistakes too much. We're glad to still be here.

In your own words, what was the reason for the breakup?

We never had no argument or a 'motherfucker, fuck you,' and walking out the room, it was never that. Life just happens, you know. Cee-Lo went to Arista and got dropped. I never put out an album at all. Shit happens. Breaking up gave us the time and space to expound on what we wanted to do.

Was the title, One Monkey Don't Stop No Show directed at Cee-Lo or not?

That title was not directed at Cee Lo. Absolutely not. The title was brought to the table by Khujo Goodie and it was not directed at Cee-Lo. He was like, 'What if I died in that car crash? You, Cee-Lo, and T-Mo have to keep on going. One monkey don't stop no show.'  He had just went through some traumatic shit. We could have put that same title to an album with Cee-Lo in the group and it would have been fine. People thought we were dissing Cee-Lo and we weren’t. Folks just assumed that.

You know, black folks, if we don't like each other, we can't work together. White folks can do that just fine, but with black folks, it's a problem. If we really dissed Cee-Lo that bad, do you think he would be fucking with us now?

Even though everyone has gone and tried to do music separately to varying degrees of success, do you think you all do your best work as Goodie Mob?

I think that we made such an impact back then that people will always prefer to see us together united. When folks say they can listen to Soul Food from top to bottom in 2010 and they still love it, that’s what I want. That’s what makes you great. Look at the Isley Brothers or Sade. They make music that’s timeless, the rest of them folks make music for the moment.  That's how we plan to be.

Goodie Mob performs tonight at Neumos. Doors are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, it's 21+ and Helladope, Q Dot, Dj TopSpin open.
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