Album Review: Age Against the Machine by Goodie Mob
Very Good, Based on 9 Critics
New Musical Express (NME) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
In the 1990s, a new Goodie Mob album meant three things: an anything-goes approach, some lyrical food for thought, and an uplifting, familial vibe. After an acrimonious split and Cee-Lo’s mutation into a global pop star with Gnarls Barkley, a reunion seemed too much to hope for – but this warm, wonderful record is a joyous, head-spinning delight. Nothing here sounds conventional or pre-planned; even the tracks that most resemble 21st century hip-hop (the pugnacious ‘I’m Set’, ‘Valleujah”s mix of euphoria and portent) revel in strangeness and individuality.Angus Batey .
The last time we heard a proper studio album from Goodie Mob with the full group roster in tact was 1999’s World Party. That disjointed affair found the Atlanta collective going in opposite directions, with the seemingly disparate goals of increased visibility and catering to a fan base built with two stellar albums. In the 14 years since, Cee Lo has used Gnarls Barkley, a residency in Las Vegas, a stint on NBC’s “The Voice” and his gregarious personality as a vehicle for his eclectic tastes.
No young chickens in the game, Goodie Mob's cleverly titled Age Against the Machine from 2013 plays on the fact that they hit the scene way back in the '90s. Hard to believe, but 14 years have passed since Cee Lo has recorded with the group. As expected with his return -- after becoming an A-list celebrity judging The Voice, scoring Rolling Stone's song of the decade "Crazy" with Gnarls Barkley, and two notable solo albums -- as executive producer, his huge personality takes the Southern rap act in a different direction.
The Atlanta based hip-hop group Goodie Mob first made noise in the mid-‘90s through their affiliation with OutKast. A notable appearance of “Git Up, Git Out” on OutKast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik set the group up to strike out on their own. In 1995, Soul Food, powered by the seminal classic single “Cell Therapy”, launched the crew even further into the public eye.
Cee Lo Green can’t not be the center of attention. He’s a flamboyant soul singer, a blistering anti-rapper and a weirdly magnetic celebrity: Whether he’s re-wiring black pop music in Gnarls Barkley, twisting an F-bomb into a celebratory hook or randomly rubbing a kitten on The Voice, it’s impossible to take your eyes and ears off him. Reuniting with Goodie Mob, Green’s pioneering Dirty South hip-hop crew, would be illogical for any other artist.
The Goodie Mob reunion is a peculiar one. Once a dominating force in Atlanta’s Dungeon Family collective (which also included OutKast, Killer Mike and more), the rap quartet hasn’t recorded together in full since 1999’s World Party, a flirtation with pop sensibilities so out of step with the down-home grooves of well-received early albums Soul Food and Still Standing that it reportedly motivated one of the members to leave the group. That defector, one Cee-Lo Green, spent the intervening years in hot pursuit of mainstream success, an effort that took him from the accomplished backwoods soul-rap fusion of 2002’s Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections through left-field smashes with producer Danger Mouse in Gnarls Barkley ("Crazy") and as a solo artist for 2010’s near-ubiquitous novelty hit “Fuck You”.
The 18-track culmination of a reunion that's been brewing longer than the full line-up of Goodie Mob lasted first time around, Age Against the Machine feels less like a grand comeback statement to lay the group's demons to rest and more like sweeping up forgotten odds and ends from the studio. At its best, it's a reminder of the years when, along with Outkast, the Atlanta rap four-piece set the creative pace for Southern rap. On the frenetic, rousing Pinstripes, Goodie Mob and guest TI sound as hungry as in their youth; Valleujah marries a grumbling, twisting electro worm of a bassline to a triumphant hook.
In the Nineties, Goodie Mob helped put the Dirty South on the map, and while they often played Al Gore to Outkast's Bill Clinton, they did produce CeeLo Green, America's favorite TV soul freak. CeeLo's elastic hypeness defines the original lineup's first LP since 1999: They thug it up with T.I., rock galactic funk with Janelle Monáe and rap "kiss my intelligent ass" over a Moody Blues sample. The Mob are happily out of step with 2013 hip-hop, going so far as to have nice songs about women; see "Amy," a sunny remembrance of CeeLo's "very first white girl," in which he proves that his crossover powers predated his fame.
The mid-1990s could be considered the golden age of southern hip-hop. During that time, Atlanta rap crew Dungeon Family helped the region gain a voice by releasing a number of beloved albums built on funky, southern-friend instrumentals and socially conscious lyrics. While OutKast received universal acclaim for their debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, it was DF group Goodie Mob that really pushed the envelope with their first record, Soul Food.