When people around here say "soul food," they talk about nourishment born on the streets, whether in a pot, an oven -- or a music studio. When Big Gipp of hip-hop collective Goodie Mob arrives at Longhorn Steakhouse, he's ready to talk about his taste for all the above, and the fat, soulful streets sound he reps.
Gipp arrives without an entourage. He's not alone for long. A crowd forms quickly -- every employee notices him, approaches to say hello, asks how the Goodie Mob be, how OutKast is, if they need singers -- even before asking if Gipp needs service. This, after all, is East Point -- where Gipp grew up and the Dungeon Family was born. In southwest Atlanta, Gipp is a celebrity.
Seated at the table, he cuts steak into a mosaic of kid-friendly bites. Having a young daughter with singer Joi has had its effects on his life. "Cain't eat nothin' the kid cain't eat, man," he laughs.
Over lunch, Gipp will cut into more than steak. He'll break down changes in his life, from his newest "baby" -- Mutant Mindframe, his solo debut -- to how Goodie Mob managed to work for more than product or papers, pay its dues, make a little cheddar, but mainly make a mark, now forming its own label (distributed through KOCH Entertainment).
It starts with his outfit, which he calls "mutantwear." Today's version includes salmon-colored ruffled pants, a brown-and-gold shirt to match his gold-rimmed glasses, ice around his neck and wrists, and "Dungeon Family" and "G-Mob" emblazoned on his forearms in dark ink. And of course, the unkempt, natty Afro he calls his "monkey hair."
"The first place you heard Gipp was on a song 'Git Up, Git Out' on the OutKast's first album," Gipp says. "I called myself a mutant because at that time I knew OutKast was different, Goodie Mob was different. Thinking outside everybody ... that's 'mutant mindframe,' ... 'Mutant' is an organism that changes throughout time, adapts to its surroundings. And I think the music Gipp and Goodie Mob has always brought has always been ahead of its time."
"When the street music is going on, you open the doors to politics, get a chance to be totally honest in your opinions," Gipp says of the way Goodie Mob paid their dues. Where Goodie Mob -- which stands for "Good Die Most Over Bull****" -- goes, honesty has never been far behind. With Mutant Mindframe, Gipp addresses Atlanta's missing and murdered children on "Creeks," the way history has a flipside in "Hystery Mystery," and the way respect and morals have distorted in "These Times." Mutant Mindframe is a record meant to get subs rattlin' Caddys, but also to shake and wake minds.
The music of Gipp and the Goodie Mob has been ahead of its time, but also respectful of its roots. Mutant Mindframe features guests like E-40, 8Ball & MJG, Big Rube and Witchdoctor, producers including Speedy and Jellyroll, as well as familiar voices on verses, such as OutKast, Organized Noize and Sleepy Brown.
The first single, "Steppin' Out," Gipp says, "is really a summertime anthem. Last year, OutKast gave you 'So Fresh, So Clean,' now I'm giving you the song to get clean to ... for when you thinkin' about steppin' out, how you look, how your car look, how your presentation is."
Sleepy Brown's presence signals that to Gipp all but family is sideline. Following the success of OutKast's debut, Southernplayalisti cadillacmuzik, which introduced the melody to which the Dirty South roll, the quartet of Big Gipp, Cee-Lo, T-Mo and Khujo Goodie emerged with both music to ride out to and a message of positivity to mentally delve into. Combining the talents of OutKast, Goodie Mob, producers Organized Noize and a cadre of satellite members, including Sleepy Brown, the Dungeon Family was assembled and quickly established a powerful production presence that has not only held but broke ground.
"The first time people ever heard my crew, which was 'Player's Ball,' they heard the OutKast and Sleepy Brown," Gipp says. "I feel coming out with Sleepy Brown and Gipp was a presentation I couldn't beat as my first single to drop to the world."
Even families pledging love still have fights, however, and the Goodie Mob/Dungeon Family is no exception.
Mutant Mindframe is not the only upcoming Goodie Mob Records production. This fall, Gipp, Khujo and T-Mo release a collaboration titled One Monkey Don't Stop No Show, a blatant jab at erstwhile member Cee-Lo, who Gipp feels went from being Cee-Lo Goodie to Cee-Lo Green, leaving behind some G-Mob core values.
In late June, Gipp surprised Hot 107.9's Ryan Cameron show's morning crew and listeners alike with unbridled honesty about Cee-Lo and Arista Records president LA Reid. Gipp spit and spewed on everything from lacking respect given to Goodie Mob in business dealings to Cee-Lo's inaction with Goodie Mob to what he felt was Reid's new mantra of "If you ain't white, you ain't right."
Gipp's words reached Cee-Lo, then working on his sophomore solo album, The Soul Machine, who explained his feelings. Goodie Mob's last album, 1999's World Party, Cee-Lo felt, was regressive. As a result, he was uninvolved in the album's promotion and he began concentrating on his solo productions/promotions, staging a filibuster of Goodie Mob material to keep, in his opinion, from diluting the group's historical impact.
"Goodie Mob isn't my primary financial bread and butter," Cee-Lo levels, "and I'm not going to cap my potential to concentrate on a project just to pacify other grown men who do this for a living. If it wasn't going to be up to the standards Goodie Mob set, I didn't want to do it.
"We had growth spurts in different directions," he adds. No one, he says, is interested in "a Goodie Mob beef. There's too much positive [energy] we contributed with our music."
"Listen to World Party and you'll hear Cee-Lo is on every hook," Gipp exclaims in protest, looking pained discussing Cee-Lo, who he still describes as his "little homeboy." "He wrote his verses, so that's why to a certain degree we couldn't understand why he would pull out of something that ... we was straight on."
In the end, Gipp has come to terms with Cee-Lo's decisions. But his refusal to pretend nothing has happened is poignant, revealing how close they've all been in the past. " ... Some people want to explore on their other talents ... and I wish [Cee-Lo] well," Gipp says. "But I think it would be trouble if the Goodie Mob came out and played pansy and let one man stop the whole ship."
Real, however, isn't as big an issue for some as for others.
"LA [Reid] thought my record was too street," Gipp reveals. "Arista was telling me they didn't want me to have no political record ... LA told me he wanted me to make a song like [Ludacris'] 'What's Your Fantasy,' all 'lick, lick, lick,' and I was like, 'We've been turning over tables, chairs, trying to get the truth out there and you want me to come out and be a sex artist?'"
"LA came to me and Cee-Lo after World Party to do [solo] records," Gipp purports. "But I felt after all we'd done for LaFace, it shouldn't be about just Gipp and Cee-Lo. I wasn't going to let somebody lead me astray [from Goodie Mob], but Cee-Lo looked at it different."
In Gipp's opinion, Reid was promoted to president of Arista based on successful LaFace acts including Goodie Mob, OutKast, TLC and Toni Braxton, therefore Gipp feels they -- not artists in the vein of Pink -- should have remained primary concerns. Making offers counterproductive to Goodie Mob's well-being should not have come into play.
"I don't think Cee-Lo would be on Arista and Goodie Mob would be independent if [Reid had] treated our group different," Gipp expresses his distaste, though he acknowledges Reid solicited a Goodie Mob record Cee-Lo wasn't having. "I don't play half-time Goodie Mob, coming up with personas and trying to be different than what you've been selling to people from day one. I just think Goodie Mob Records can do for Atlanta what LA may no longer be able to do."
"We've always come different down here," Gipp says.
"We grew up around live instrumentation, and I feel lots of hip-hop artists don't. Most rappers stick to one subject, which is clubs, ho's and shows. With me, I like to go further with the music, make a fun record but also one that teaches. We was able to get thugs, playas and hustlahs and still have God in our music. Our whole law in the Dungeon Family is we don't recycle nothing -- no old beats, old hooks, old songs for nothing.
"My album, the new Goodie Mob album, and the label and people we will work with be like that. We roll on different streets, and we been doing this for 10 years but still we taking you on a ride other guys can't do. Things always mutating."