Age Against the Machine (to be released August 27, 2013)
A couple of years ago, I assumed a Goodie Mob reunion was as likely as that mythical Detox album. Members T-Mo and Khujo split off to become The Lumberjacks, Big Gipp ventured out to pursue solo success, and, of course, Cee-Lo Green became a media darling. He’s gone from hard-hitting Southern lyricist to America’s cuddliest soul singer.
But their reunion album, Age Against the Machine, proves you can come home again.
And hip hop is better for it.
Sadly, Goodie Mob’s legacy has been somewhat lost in the seas of time. Ask a current fan to name a Southern rap pioneer and (if they’re not dumb enough to utter the name Lil Boosie) they’ll most likely point to OutKast. While I’d never underestimate OutKast’s contributions to hip hop, their Dungeon Family cohorts Goodie Mob did just as much to shape the Southern rap sound. Their classic debut, Soul Food, detailed the Southern struggle with every soulful note and insightful rhyme.
The times may have changed but those same issues Goodie Mob detailed nearly 20 years ago – poverty, race, and life – are still relevant. Age Against the Machine revisits those issues, but this time with the insight of 20 years of wisdom.
On Soul Food, Goodie Mob sat at the kids’ table during Thanksgiving dinner, watching the struggles of the world unfold around them. On Age Against the Machine, they’ve tasted what the world has to offer. And they’re here to tell about it.
The intro “U Don’t Know What You Got” says it best: “the prodigal sons have returned home.” Immediately after, “State of the Art (Radio Killer)” dives in full-force. Sounding like a pissed-off version of “Flight of the Bumblebee,” the Mob warns radio programmers that “your playlists are destroying the children.” Can’t argue with that.
The forceful first single “I’m Set” reaffirms their spot in the game while the frantic energy of “Power” fuels their revolution.But this album isn’t about braggadocios threats. It’s about opening eyes and touching topics most shy away from. It’s Goodie MO-B’s MO.
“Special Education” urges listeners to embrace their individuality, a sentiment that’s echoed on “Come As You Are.” “In the darkness, everyone is a star,” we’re reminded.
Cee-Lo bares his soul on “Nexperience,” wearily admitting that no matter how much success he’s achieved, he’s still chained my stereotypes and his skin color.
And if those themes are too deep for you, simply turn to “Pinstripes,” where the crew recruit T.I. to put rap frauds on Front Street to be lyrically slaughtered.
Speaking of lyrics, the crew is as potent as ever, with Big Gibb sounding especially energized on most tracks. Fans of Cee-Lo’s most recent work won’t find much resembling his Lady Killer persona, with the exception of “Amy,” an upbeat tale of interracial dating.
I’ll be honest, if you thought French Montana had one of the best albums of 2013 or you came just to hear Cee-Lo sing showtunes, Age Against the Machine will leave you scratching your head. This album isn’t about sparkle, it’s about substance.
The album’s closer “Father Time,” has the crew reflecting on their influence on the game and how they pioneered Southern rap. Yeah, sometimes the album will make you dance, but more often, it will make you think.
It’s exactly what the game needs right now.
Age Against the Machine doesn’t have the grit of Goodie Mob’s early classics but it certainly has the heart.
Nearly 20 years later, they’re still feeding souls. Come get seconds.
Best tracks: “Pinstripes,” “Special Education,” “I’m Set”
4 stars out of 5