Goodie Mob talks ‘Survival Kit,’ their first new album in seven years

About halfway through Big Boi’s performance at October’s “Big Night Out” concert in Centennial Olympic Park, he introduced his longtime musical brothers in Goodie Mob.

As the colorful foursome of Big Gipp, CeeLo Green, Khujo and T-Mo strolled onto the stage and slammed into “Cell Therapy,” the 2,000 socially distanced fans elevated the noise level to eardrum-vibrating decibels, so thrilled to see Goodie Mob trading verses with laser-like precision and verve.

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The hip-hop veterans remain Atlanta royalty, but their worldwide appeal was reignited earlier this year when Internet sleuths discovered the eerily prescient lyrics in their 1995 song, “Cell Therapy,” and its correlation to pandemic shutdowns.

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

With time to spend in the studio and frank insight to share from a summer filled with Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality incidents, Goodie Mob corralled the Atlanta production crew of Organized Noize, as well as major guests including Chuck D, Big Boi and the musically elusive Andre 3000 (on different tracks, so no, not an Outkast reunion) to craft their first new album in seven years.

On Nov. 13, the group released “Survival Kit,” a musically fluid, lyrically gut-punching collection of 16 tracks (including interludes from Atlanta spoken word artist, Big Rube).

Recently, Big Gipp and Khujo checked in to chat; toward the end of the call, Green popped in between other interviews to drop some of his specialized wisdom.

Q: This is your first album in seven years and “Frontline” and “4 My People” are incredibly resonant right now. What prodded you to do this album?

Big Gipp: We were about to do a Dungeon Family album that would consist of all of us since we had just come off the (2019 anniversary) tour. We thought, instead of being Goodie Mob or Outkast, let’s put it all together. We went in and started and then (Andre 3000) got a new movie rolling so we weren’t able to do it. As soon as pandemic hit we started having conversations with Organized Noize and they said since we’re sitting around, let’s work; let’s put what we’re having phone conversations about in songs. When the pandemic hit, people started saying, “They talked about this 25 years ago” (in the song “Cell Therapy”), so our relevancy grew even bigger and people were finding Goodie Mob. The actual lyrics, we were talking about there would be a time when the government would lock everything down. We didn’t know there would be an actual virus that would cause it, but we put it into the universe.

Q: Why did naming the album “Survival Kit” feel like the right thing, right now?

Khujo: Music is one of those things that you need in your survival kit. Music calms the savage beast. We’re able to articulate things that we’ve learned and put it into music. We’re not saying we have the answers to everything, but we’re hoping we can shed light on what’s going on.

Q: You’ve got a lot to say on this album, starting with “Prey 4 Da Sheep” and “Are You Ready.” What are some of the messages you want people to take away?

Khujo: Always think for yourself. Don’t be complacent. Always try to educate yourself so you’ll be an asset to others.

Big Gipp: Information is king. The biggest thing about hip-hop is that we have to teach. I feel like Goodie Mob, this is our scroll. You’re gonna have to take some me time for yourself. You’re gonna have to learn how to understand. Most people don’t understand what’s in their face right now. The sheep will always be the followers and never go outside what they’ve been taught.

Q: You have some high-profile guests on here. How did you get Andre 3000 out of music retirement?

Big Gipp: It’s not even about music retirement. Outkast has had so much success and ‘Dre don’t rap unless he likes the actual song and the actual topic. We sent him a couple of songs and he picked what he wanted to be on. We don’t force nothing. We let him speak on what he’s comfortable with…We’re just showing to our community, our city, our hip-hop fans, that the Dungeon Family, we stay together through it all. Nothing will ever separate us, not the industry or this thing you call fame.

Khujo: We were a family who watched each other grow up. That being said, the money and the fame, it didn’t have that type of effect on us like other people and other groups. Neither Big (Boi) nor ‘Dre had to jump on this record, but they’re our little brothers, but now they’re like big brothers to come in and help us celebrate like this.

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Q: The song “Off Road” goes in a little different direction than many of the others. What is the background on it?

CeeLo Green: The melody, it just came to me. I’m a hooky guy; I like things that anchor the project down. (But the song), it’s country boy living. We all live outside of the city. I live on a farm, Gipp has his compound. It’s relative to our real lives. I’m surrounded by rural Georgian atmosphere and surroundings. A couple people who heard the record felt like it could be this all-American song that different ethnic groups could relate to under the banner of something relatable.

Q: Also, CeeLo, you recently released a solo album that was very different than what you do with Goodie Mob. When you write, do you compartmentalize what might work better for you vs. the group?

Green: In some regard, I do. But I believe there is a commonality that connects it all and it’s all an extension of the next thing. I do believe that it’s intellectual property, which means its territory, which means we’re gaining ground with flags here, there and elsewhere. Conquered land becomes kingdom. It’s different in context and sentiment, but musically, it’s all about pushing our agenda and black enterprise and industry. These are our thoughts and notions, our feelings , our ideas, our ideals and we try to be sincere in each space. (My solo work) is the cargo in one compartment on a train that’s moving. If I go, we’re all going. The more that we do independently and come back together and reign, I just feel that that’s the empire. Twenty-five years in the making and it’s still a work in progress and there’s still more work to be done.

Q: Looking back for a minute, it’s the 25th anniversary of “Soul Food.” When you think back to that album, did you feel like you were breaking ground at the time?

Gipp: We did. “Soul Food” was about Southern culture and the things that we learned as kids. After it came out, a lot of people let us know how much we helped them. It really gave the South an identity.

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Q: How would you describe what each of you brings to Goodie Mob?

Green: (T-)Mo is really direct, to the point. He translates to real people. I’m a hippie and kind of artsy-fartsy in that way, but I do bring that community along with me. We’re not a monolith; there’s a multitude of many different perspectives. I always liken it to the Village People!

Khujo: I love to hear all the guys talk just to see where we are, and at this age and experience, it’s amazing to me. I love the interviews so we can explain what we can bring to the table. With “Soul Food,” we were bringing food groups to the table, but now with “Survival Kit,” we can each bring one of those things. I’m gonna take a good guess and say maybe I’m the first aid kit.

Big Gipp: I can always identify people who can go where we do. We never hated on no one. Everyone who came up in the city, we were involved in their careers. I know my fashion sense, it helped Atlanta; it was never boxed in and that’s part of Atlanta. You can put Atlanta in the room and nobody looks the same.

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