As part of the Dungeon Family (including Outkast, Witchdoctor, Cool Breeze, and others,) which is one of the most significant groupings in hip-hop since the Native Tongues collective of the late 80s and early 90’s, Goodie Mob is a group that has been held in great esteem since their features on Outkast albums and their debut ‘Soul Food’ in 1995. This esteem comes with some high expectations when their name comes up. For a while, it didn’t seem likely that the original group with talent Big Gipp, Khujo, T-Mo, and Cee-Lo Green would record together again. Cee-Lo, of course, has found plenty of success as a solo artist and in his group with DJ Danger Mouse, Gnarls Barkley. While Cee-Lo became a household name through these endeavors, also holding a spot as a judge on the TV show The Voice, the remaining members of Goodie Mob, though not completely gone from the music scene, didn’t maintain the same level of notoriety. From their Cee-Lo-less album ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’ in 2003 to ‘Livin Life As Lumberjacks,’ which was largely just Khujo and T-Mo, Goodie Mob just seemed to stay below the radar in Cee-Lo’s absence. With ‘Age Against The Machine,’ the four-member crew is reunited.
One thing I was nervous about prior to the first listen, was the Cee-Lo/Goodie Mob ratio and how much it would differ from their previous work. Not to take away from the great music Cee-Lo has released, but would ‘Age Against The Machine’ be Cee-Lo blending back in with Goodie Mob and their M.O., or would Gipp, Khujo, and T-Mo try to follow Cee-Lo along on an eccentric ride similar to what he’s done on his solo LPs? Too much of either, to me, would take something away from the group dynamic of Goodie Mob, which has always been a plus for me concerning them. Well, the Cee-Lo factor is noticeable, but not enough to where the music seemed to alienate the other three members in any way. You hear from Cee-Lo by himself a good bit and ‘Age Against The Machine’ pushes the envelope of what Goodie Mob has done in the past from a production standpoint, but though this album stands alone compared to previous works, Goodie Mob fans will be in for a treat with this release.
So AATM starts with ‘U Don’t Know What You Got,’ which is entirely a feature from long-time collaborator and Dungeon Family member Big Rube. Fans of Dungeon Family albums don’t need to be told this, but Big Rube, as usual, has something significant to say (over a dope track this time too.) Fans will appreciate this one, I’m sure, just from the title alone. Speaking for me, Goodie Mob was surely missed during their hiatus.
From the beginning, you’ll notice that this album moves along quickly. Of the eighteen tracks, six of them are under two minutes long (some are skits, and that’s not unusual for a Goodie Mob album.) These quick-moving sections appear at the beginning and the end of the album. One complaint I’ll offer is that some of the shorter tracks sound REALLY good, and I would have liked them to be fleshed out more into full songs. The full songs that are offered are strong so it’s a small complaint, but as an example, I would’ve liked to hear more of ‘Power’ or the group rhyming after Big Rube on the intro track as opposed to ‘Come As You Are’ or ‘Kolors.’ These are both decent songs, but some of the “snippets” on the album sound like they could have ended up being better full tracks.
Features are few on ‘Age Against The Machine,’ which is a bit unusual. An aforementioned appearance from Big Rube, T.I, Big Fraze, V Bozeman, and Janelle Monae on the single ‘Special Education’ are the only co-stars, but not forgetting that the last couple of Goodie Mob albums didn’t even have all of the original members, I guess beggars can’t be choosers. The featured help turned in some solid performances and none really stole the stage on this reunion record (except maybe Janelle…she’s amazing.)
In closing, AATM doesn’t take me back to the likes of ‘Cell Theraphy’ or ‘Beautiful Skin,’ but frankly, I’m just glad Goodie Mob is back in the studio together. They’re too good not to be. They left the comfort zone a bit here (the video for the track ‘I’m Set’…is bugged out,) but so did Outkast, and we all know how well that turned out (here’s hoping they can get back in the studio as well.) Fans that only know of Cee-Lo won’t be disappointed with this one. He makes his presence felt here perhaps more than he did on the last Goodie Mob album to feature all four members, ‘World Party.’ There’s a lot of good in ‘Age Against The Machine’ for those of us that have been around since ’95 as well.