May 7, 2009

Goodie Mob - Still Standing (April 7, 1998)


Wikipedia refers to the Goodie Mob's first album, Soul Food, as an underground classic. Sorry, but I just don't buy it. I have no qualms with the album itself: in fact, when I wrote about their debut back in February 2008 (I really have to work on my follow-through, don't I?), I recommended a purchase. But while Soul Food didn't exactly make stars out of group members Khujo, T-Mo, Big Gipp, and Cee-Lo (mainstream popularity for the singing half of Gnarls Barkley was still a few years away), the album itself sold over half a million copies, and when you sell enough to earn a gold plaque to hold up your wall, you're probably not an underground group. But maybe that's just me.

Their follow-up, Still Standing, was three years in the making. During this time, all four members kept busy with guest appearances on Outkast's ATLiens (although they didn't all appear on the same track), and they even found the time to appear in the ensemble comedy Mystery Men as the "Not So Goodie Mob". It was kind of weird when they popped up like that, but even so, that flick wasn't that bad, now that I think about it.

Still Standing continued with the social consciousness that permeated Soul Food, attaching the group's messages to the beatwork of Organized Noize and Mr. DJ, with assists from Cee-Lo and T-Mo (making their debuts behind the boards) and DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill; the crew returned this particular favor by appearing on "Decisions Decisions", their masterwork from the Muggs solo debut Soul Assassins Chapter One. Although the album comes off as much darker than its predecessor (one glance at the third "o" in the group's name on the album cover reveals the strung-up body of a man, which I'm sure made the folks at LaFace/Arista happy and KMD confused as hell, but I'll get to that story later), unlike their peers in Outkast, who used their second album to send Andre 3000 into space while Big Boi handled pimping from the Earth side of things, Still Standing remained grounded, and, once again, over five hundred thousand copied left store shelves.

I can't imagine this disc moving that many units today, but it's fun to pretend.

1. THE EXPERIENCE
Foregoing the “rap album intro” cliché, the Goodie Mob present Cee-Lo on a solo one-verse spoken word-slash-rap track that starts off sounding like an ode to “Distortion To Static” from The Roots, but turns into a rather angry diatribe regarding race and status. It's not like Soul Food was the happiest album in history or anything, but so far Still Standing sounds fucking pitch black.

2. BLACK ICE (FEAT OUTKAST)
The best Outkast/Goodie Mob collaboration (from a Goodie Mob album, anyway) to include both members of the duo. Its shuffling beat will perk up your eardrums. It even features Andre 3000 on the bass, for fans who are curious about their hero's musical contributions. There's a different version of this track floating around subtitled the "Goodie Mob version", which features all four members of the crew (only three appear on the album track) with different lyrics, and then Andre and Big Boi are thrown back into the mix for good measure, albelt with the same verses as before. Regardless of the version you're fond of, they're both really good.

3. FLY AWAY
Probably not the best way to bridge the gap between “Black Ice” and “The Damm”.

4. THE DAMM (FEAT COOL BREEZE)
This darkly hyper beat pretty much sums up my thoughts on Still Standing: dark and depressing, but with the realization that not everything is as serious as you make it out to be. I found Cool Breeze's cameo to be pretty fucking useless, and the hook becomes tired after hearing it over and over again, but otherwise this song is actually awesome.

5. THEY DON'T DANCE NO MO' (CLEAN) (FEAT LIL' WILL)
The first single from Still Standing was also the first sign that the sound from Soul Food was a thing of the past. It was also a bit of a mistake: although this track is alright, there's nothing here that reallly grabs the listener. “Black Ice” (either version) may have been a better choice, especially with its bankable guest stars. I've always wondered why the censored version of this track ended up being the final version for the album: did the label misplace the original in a stack of papers on Babyface's desk, or was the crew trying to show restraint?

6. BEAUTIFUL SKIN
A good song with a positive message. (Well, to a point, anyway: I understand the encouraging of women to respect themselves, but the fact that Cee-Lo recommends withholding your respect of said women until they meet the prerequisites is more than a bit fucked up.) The anti-littering public service announcement at the end is also a surprise, but also timely, considering the environmental initiative right now.

7. GUTTA BUTTA
Meh.

8. GHETTO-OLOGY (FEAT CHIEFTON)
This shit actually rocks. Musically, you get the feeling that you're watching a car chase sequence from a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action flick, or maybe even from one of the Jason Bourne movies helmed by Paul Greengrass. All of the rappers fit the harried pace admirably. Nice!

9. DISTANT WILDERNESS
I love the slow-as-Sisyphus-pushing-the-boulder instrumental, especially since it has the added benefit of slowing down time and, curiously, the movement of everyone around you. I wish that Cee-Lo's verse didn't sound as if it were phoned in, but that's my only real gripe.

10. GREENY GREEN (FEAT WITCHDOCTOR)
A good track, but after an hour, you'll just be hungry again.

11. I REFUSE LIMITATION (FEAT BACKBONE)
This is Still Standing's equivalent to Soul Food's “Goodie Bag”, right down to Cee-Lo tying the room together at the end. This track is really good, and the title alone deserves some bonus points.

12. SEE YOU WHEN I SEE YOU
Sounds pleasant enough, but the real draw is its length, which is perfect for those of my readers with short attention spans. The Goodie Mob don't usually adhere to budget limitations in their songs, so this was a surprise.

13. INSHALLAH
Honestly, everybody involved sounded good on this DJ Muggs-produced track, but there wasn't enough on here for me to differentiate it from every other song on Still Standing. Please note that this is not meant to be a negative critique for the song itself.

14. JUST ABOUT OVER
As the album is, actually, just about over (there's only one more track after this one), Goodie Mob decide to bring listeners an out-of-left-field flat-out rock song. (If given a choice, I would have chosen Outkast as the Dungeon Family act most likely to approach rock music first. Huh.) I like Cee-Lo's voice, regardless of genre, because he is capable of making you feel his lyrics. The rest of the crew also adapt nicely on this gem.

15. STILL STANDING
A good way to end an album, I suppose.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Still Standing is actually a really good follow-up album. The four members of Goodie Mob establish consistence with their lyrics over some much darker production work, and even though Cee-Lo is still the only member you'll be able to pick out of a lineup, that doesn't make this album any less entertaining. Big Gipp, T-Mo, and Khujo also show some strong consistency in their lyrical game as well, and the guests don't distract the listener from the main attraction (with the exception of "Black Ice", but come on, that was to be expected). An underrated diamond in the rough.

BUY OR BURN? While you may have some issues locating it in your area, you should definitely buy this shit if you happen across it. The Goodie Mob will appreciate it: maybe with enough royalties from your purchases, they'll actually record another group effort, since the world doesn't really need another Gnarls Barkley record.

BEST TRACKS: “Black Ice”; “I Refuse Limitation”; “Distant Wilderness”; “Just About Over”; “The Damm”; “Ghetto-Ology”; “Beautiful Skin”

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Goodie Mob - Soul Food

3 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 07, 2009

    Relapse has leaked....

    Eminem is back and Beautiful is one of the greatest song of all time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMay 07, 2009

    Mystery Men deserves revisiting. It's not exactly bulletproof but I've enjoyed all 4 times I've watched it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. its an okay review, but the fact you liked the wack rock song at teh end, but didnt like Inshallah or Still Standing that much shows how little you must grasp of the music.

    ReplyDelete