9 p.m. Fri., Jan. 15
House of Blues, 225 Decatur St., 310-4999; www.hob.com
Southern rap first made its mark with the passionate, unique creativity of OutKast and its sister group, Atlanta quartet Goodie Mob. Now, after a 10-year hiatus, Mobsters Big Gipp, Khujo, T-Mo and, now famous as a solo artist, Cee-Lo are back on stage together.
Mixing poignant social commentary and southern swang (Southern rap's swaggering style of dance), Goodie Mob coined the term "Dirty South," on its classic 1995 debut album Soul Food. The group's eclectic follow up, 1998's Still Standing, allowed Atlanta production team Organized Noize (which created notable music for all members of the Atlanta Dungeon Family collective, including OutKast) to stretch out and effortlessly combine rap with jungle, drum-n-bass and other electronic sub-genres. After a third album, 1999's World Party, alienated fans and critics by swinging too far into clubland, Goodie Mob broke up. Or not.
"We never really broke up in terms of not dealing with each other," says Goodie Mob member Big Gipp via phone from Atlanta. "We just all started to record outside the group. Then once Cee-Lo did that record with Carlos Santana ("Do You Like the Way," also featuring Lauryn Hill), it opened up the door for him to go and do the things he did, solo-wise, and then Gnarls Barkley."
Younger fans may know Cee-Lo as the partner of DJ Danger Mouse and the soulful Southern voice on the Gnarls Barkley mega-hit, "Crazy." During his 10 years as a solo artist, Cee-Lo racked up a lengthy list of songwriting and collaboration credits, plus two well-received solo albums. Even in Goodie Mob's heyday, Cee-Lo's churchy singing ("I can't sing at all," he's been quoted as saying, "I can only sang.") put him far ahead of the pack. But like OutKast's multi-talented Andre 3000, everything else is beside the point when you hear Cee-Lo rap. "People go around saying this or that guy's the best rapper of all time," Big Gipp says laughing. "Jay-Z is great — he can talk about dope better than anyone who ever did it — but he couldn't do what Cee-Lo does."
Besides recording a lesser known Goodie Mob record without Cee-Lo — the provocatively titled One Monkey Don't Stop No Show, the cover of which features the remaining Mob members with a chimp — Gipp went on to work with Lil John and Three Six Mafia. Rap youngster Nelly featured Gipp on his song "Grillz" with Jermaine Dupri, Paul Wall and Ali, and he took Gipp on a three-year tour. "During that time, I was doing Goodie Mob songs on stage with them," Gipp says. "So I got to see our music from a whole different perspective. Cee-Lo had the song of the decade, went all over the world with it. But in the end, people (are) still always asking him when Goodie Mob (is) getting back together."
Gipp says the group has been back in the studio with Organized Noize, finishing a new album, which will drop next summer after Cee-Lo's new solo album. The as-yet-untitled Mob album will show the group's growth, Gipp says. "Music is art. And art's been taken out of rap music. Business shot themselves in the foot by putting the businessmen before the musicians. It's now a bunch of pretty people with no talent. Bob Marley still sells millions of records a year, because he made great records. He didn't try to make dance music. People want us back now."