Classics: Goodie Mob “Soul Food”
Written by Jason Terrell
When I think of a timeless album, I think of a piece of music that not only stands against contemporary projects but also measures against music during and before it’s created time.
Given that I am 26, my context of classic is limited to only 2 ½ decades of musical exposure. When I was 13, I started to dig into my pops CD collection and taking my first trips to music shops and the CD that spoke to me was Goodie Mob’s “Soul Food.” In my perspective, “Soul Food” is a classic, literally flawless. First, I grew up in their neighborhood, and many of the themes and spots mentioned on the album were places where I ate, went to church, and played little league. Second, the social and political commentary expressed by Goodie Mob were relevant then but even more relevant today.
Goodie Mob is a collective of Southern Artist (Cee-Lo, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp). They are the “big brothers” of Outkast and are regarded as the originators of the southern Atlanta sound. They hit the scene in 1991 and took off with “Soul Food” in ‘95 but struggled to have the same stardom as Outkast throughout their tenure. I think they were before their time, but solo, they each had pretty decent careers as architects of the Dungeon Family who put artist like Ludacris, Titty Boy (2 Chainz), Future, Killer Mike, and a bunch of others onto the mainstream.
When I think of “Soul Food”, I think of a southern Sunday service in a small church. It feels like “fried chicken Sundays”, personal, and intimate. The album has a gospel, but street sound and thematically, Goodie Mob speaks on abortion, religion, education, soul food, and death. They are the embodiment of pro-black with southern roots.
My favorite track on the album is “I Didn’t Ask to Come.” To me, this reflects the original Trap sound, and I could see The Migos flowing across the beat. Goodie Mob delves into the death of a friend and how many Black folks grow up living in a cycle of poverty that leads to self and external destruction.
“Niggas ain’t getting nowhere fast but, closer to the hearse
Why sunbeam burst off baskets nearly blinding me
Almost dropped ma end of the casket
Woodgrain and the only thang on my brain
Is where this coward hang” (Khujo- “I Didn’t Ask to Come”)
If you ever lost someone either mentally or physically because of the cycle, you can relate. This song fuels me. It has brought me to tears a few times and has been a source of inspiration other times. The beauty of the track is in the final verse from Cee-Lo as he makes a promise to his best friend who died from the cycle:
“So Bean I’m gone make it for you
The cycle that these young black men keep goin through
I’m gone break it for you
And start takin care of me
And me consist of all my friends and my family
From now on, until I’m gone” (Cee-Lo – “I Didn’t Ask to Come”)
The most popular/commercial track on the album is “Cell Therapy”- which is a complete mindfuck. “Cell Therapy” delves into the idea that the system (laws, public policy, justice system, etc.) is build to oppress Black and poor people. It takes on the theme that the system wasn’t built for us because it was not made with us in mind. Throughout the track, there is a chilling chorus of:
“Who’s that peeking in my window?
POW nobody now”
The song is full of rhetoric that is influenced by the Five-Percent Nation and the teachings of Min. X and the Nation of Islam. It also references the Bible and books like “Behold a Pale Horse” that discusses the New World Order:
“Let’s take a walk through detox
I want outta this hole I’m in a cell under attack
Loc up folks they in the hood, got an eye on every move
I make open your face to info you ain’t know
Cause it’s kept low how the new world plan
Reeks the planet without the black man” (T-Mo – “Cell Therapy”)
I am a student to many of the teachings from these groups, but I do struggle with it as I move throughout life (Read the review from Kendrick where I discuss my internal struggle).
Overall, “Soul Food” is a personal classic. It’s an album that sonically and thematically, stands up against any period of music because of it’s relevance, emotional appeal, and socio-political commentary.