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Goodie Mob reconnects, gets back to the music 

It's hard to love Southern hip-hop and not love Goodie Mob. It seems like the mere mention of the group that gave us "They Don't Dance No Mo," "Cell Therapy" and coined the phrase "Dirty South" makes fans get all nostalgic.

They helped put the Atlanta sound and scene on the hip-hop radar in the mid-'90s as part of the Dungeon Family, releasing back-to-back gold and critically-acclaimed albums before separating in 2000, a fact that Cee-Lo is quick to point out isn't entirely true.

"We've never been separated, only been stressed," Cee-Lo says. "There's been constant communication."

Whatever the case, the group -- Cee-Lo, Khujo, T-Mo Goodie and Big Gipp -- is very much back to "Mob" business and while the good (still) die mostly over bullshit in 2010, the musical landscape is different from what it was before they decided to chase individual dreams a decade ago.

Atlanta especially has changed since Goodie Mob's first album, Soul Food, in 1995.

Then, the South was still hip-hop's third wheel -- ripe with talent but stuck behind New York and California, fighting to be heard. Fast-forward 15 years and roles have reversed. Atlanta-based artists have had so much success in recent years, thanks to the groundwork laid by groups like Goodie Mob and OutKast coming out of Atlanta, that the backlash for their domination of the charts and subsequently radio has spawned many "movements" to bring "real hip-hop" back.

"We're finally reaping a quarter of the benefits of people recognizing the Southern culture," Khujo says. He, for one, is impressed with where the Atlanta scene has gone. "I just think they take it to a whole 'nother level. It's got aggressive, it's got this 'we don't play' attitude, where you just gotta love it ... the young bloods that's fighting to be heard right now are strong."

"When we came in, we were youngsters; there's no manual you can read to live this life we live," Big Gipp adds. "You gotta go through the bumps and bruises and come out on the other side."

The other side for Goodie Mob came faster than many fans would have wanted: After the group released World Party in 1999, they pursued individual endeavors. "Musically, we just expounded on different talents we already had," Gipp says.

For Cee-Lo, that meant two solo albums (remember "Closet Freak" and "I'll Be Around"?). Then he linked up with Danger Mouse and created Gnarls Barkley, which launched his career and appeal into another strata.

Gipp also went solo, scoring a hit with "Stepping Out" then touring the world with Nelly's St. Lunatics crew as part of the duo, Ali & Gipp. "To watch Lo, from where I was, it was crazy," Gipp says. "It was always Goodie Mob, regardless of what I was a part of."

T-Mo and Khujo joined together to make The Lumberjacks, releasing one album together in 2005. "The Lumberjacks were just an extension of Goodie Mob, just giving them a different aspect of the South," Khujo says.

As Cee-Lo points out, "the time apart is a testament to our elasticity."

Like aging rockers, the group seems ready to accept their role as hip-hop elders and are aware of the impact they have on influencing younger artists in the South to have their voice heard, but hope that younger artists realize the influence they have on people.

"Music is all about inspiring somebody to channel that tune they got inside of them," Khujo says. Cee-Lo adds, "It can inspire you to do the exact opposite, as long as it's motivation ... all hip-hop is, is motivational speaking, just depends on who the speakers are." He urges that artists be aware that repercussions come along with that kind of influence, both good and bad.

Dishing out sage advice and being able to get down right philosophical about music comes from decades in the industry and what Cee-Lo calls "the curse of knowledge," which he sees as "the gift that keeps on giving."

Giving and receiving is what touring is all about, and the group is excited about how fans have responded to them so far. "The love's been great," Gipp says. "The time we step on stage, to the time we step off, people are just in awe of us being able to capture a moment in time in their lives."

"It's refreshing to be back on the road with the brothers; we feel like we never stopped," adds Khujo. "It feels like 1999 all over again -- it's hard to believe that 15 years elapsed that fast."

Joining Goodie Mob for their Charlotte show is Atlanta up-and-comer B.O.B. (aka Bobby Ray) who has professed Goodie Mob's influence on him in the past. "Bobby Ray is definitely very out right and outspoken about his admiration for us," Cee-Lo says. "It's more than obvious and very flattering."

Demand to the see the group since their "reconnection" has been great. So much so that Cee-Lo thinks the group might have to extend the tour. "As word of mouth travels, they [show requests] keep coming in," Cee-Lo says.

There's also huge demand to hear new music from them since there hasn't been a new song from a fully intact Goodie Mob in a decade, but the group doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get new material out there until they "get that old thing back."

"As far as new music or new material, it's tentative," Cee-Lo says. "We don't want to do mixtapes and milestone materials here and there. As elders, we come from the era of albums. Long, extended play, that's our specialty. That's our desire, that's our ability."

Whenever their next project comes out, this reunion, or "continuum" as Cee-Lo puts it, warms the hearts of longtime fans and is sure to quiet any speculation on what may have happened in the past. "We are a family," he says. "We are blood-tight and blood-lined, like the mob, but again this is just mob business -- that's just the matter at hand."

You can see Goodie Mob with B.O.B. at Amos' SouthEnd on Feb. 14. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 day of show.

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