Soul Food, by Goodie Mob
Suggested by Krystian Musztafa
Soul Food took me on a journey.
I started this with an open mind, but a preconception. This preconception was driven by the suggester’s previous choices, which predominantly sprung from the Hip Hop dream factory. Having (predictably) never heard of the outfit, but appreciating the more famous tracks from one of the protagonists in Ceelo Green, I hoped this would be a record with a little more nuance than the standard rap fare that has made me wince these past few months.
The first foray is Free, a short introduction piece on the organ with an almost gospel vocal, eighty-four seconds of smoothness to tune up the metaphorical band. Then we hit the album proper, and go straight into Guess Who, a rather emotional and uplifting tribute to all the mothers out there. It’s an excellent track, happily askance of the usual Get Girls Pop Caps Get Money rhetoric that’s de rigeur, replacing the diatribe with heartfelt lyrics and almost spiritual sound. The album is dedicated to Ceelo Green’s late mother, which explains a lot.
The following track, Fighting, is a little more straightforward, but the marvellous second half elevates this to the position of Standout Track. After some low-fi beats and barked bars, the track dissolves into a spoken word educational tract on the African American experience. It’s preached, almost, reminiscent of a lucid and erudite orator at Speaker’s Corner.
After two excellent tracks, I fell into the rest of the album. Sure, it was common-or-garden rap fare, but it oozed summer southern charm. Live at the OMNI, Soul Food, Cell Therapy, The Day After… the songs rolled by and I drank them in, a thirsty man at a hip hop oasis, pulling the genre to my chest like a long-lost friend.
After around forty-five minutes of the promised hour, I glanced at the Spotify app to check my progress. It was playing the Sesame Street, a fun yet angry track with no mention of Oscar the Grouch or Mr Snuffleupagus. This song was listed as track six. Of nineteen.
Turns out I’d been listening on Shuffle.
Shaking my head, I switched off the random running order, and re-started the album to consume as the creators intended. I’d enjoyed it thus far, I reasoned. No harm no foul here.
Yet strangely, on a more structured listen… it didn’t really grip me as I expected.
After the initial Free, we headed into Thought Process and Dirty South, two tracks with guest vocals that sounded, well, just like the rap that had come to bore me in the project to date. Yes, they were laid back and notably southern-sounding, but the flows felt garbled and the meaning was lost. Even more oddly, I failed to recognised songs I’d heard mere minutes earlier, becoming irritated by the whole thing.
Apparently, without that charming and infectious tribute to motherhood to kick off the party, I’d likely have passed hard on Ceelo and his friends, and dismissed their efforts with a noncommittal shrug.
It’s strange to think I’d be so affected by such a simple thing as track running order, but it was a stark truth that I was both motivated and marred by it. Consequently, I’m offering Soul Food a cautious 6/10, noting there are definite highlights that are easy to overlook.