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OutKast’s
Dungeon Family Values

df.jpg
Atlanta’s got a bullet with your name on it…

OutKast has always been the most visible group out of the Dungeon Family. They have a diamond plaque on their wall thanks to 2003’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below, soccer moms just loved “Hey Ya” and their major motion picture, Idlewild, and its accompanying soundtrack drop this week

But the Dungeon Family is not OutKast’s crew in the hierarchical sense. Far from it. Andre and Big Boi are just two pieces of a much larger puzzle that includes Goodie Mob, Witchdoctor, Cool Breeze and many, many more. They all represent a collective that was defiantly Southern before it was cool to be. They played a large role in paving the way for the South’s current dominance in the hip-hop world. They dabbled in philosophy and spirituality, but rarely came off as too pretentious or preachy. They were all technically strong rappers with unique voices and groundbreaking flows. And the beats—courtesy of in-house production team Organized Noize— were always on point.

In 2001, their long-awaited crew album, Even in Darkness, was released, but attained mediocre sales due to the public’s unwillingness to embrace a thirteen-plus man rap crew of relative unknowns. Since then, the collective has branched off in many different directions. Some have ascended to their rightful status as pop megastars, while others have disappeared completely, but all have paid great respect to the basement where it all started.Here’s a look back at the crew’s early classics and a rundown of some of their current ventures.

Watch Dungeon Family’s “Trans DF Express” Video


from Even In Darkness (Arista, 2001)

onp.jpgOrganized Noize Productions

Members: Patrick “Sleepy” Brown, Ray Murray, Rico Wade
Who they are: The backbone and the production arm of the DF. The crew’s name has its origins in Wade’s Dungeon-esque basement studio. It was there that their first string of classics was recorded, seeping with ONP’s trademark murky Southern soul. Additionally, the trio has blessed more than a few artists outside the camp with hits, including TLC (“Waterfalls”), En Vogue (“Don’t Let Go”) and Ludacris (“Saturdays”).
Recent Activities: ONP has been busy as usual, lacing recent releases from Bubba Sparxxx, Da Backwudz and, of course, OutKast. Sleepy has also been making moves as a vocalist (see below), while Ray and Rico have been holding down their respective second-generation DF crews, Dungeon East & Da Connect.

pa.jpgParental Advisory

Members: Big Reese, KP, Mello Capone
Who they are: The original rap crew from out the Dungeon. Their debut, 1993’s Ghetto Street Funk was the first Organized Noize¬–produced full length, even if it owed more to NY boom bap than the Southern soul sound the crew would grow into. After its release, the group left the Dungeon to trudge out on their own, releasing two self-produced albums, My Life, Your Entertainment and Straight No Chase, while remaining on good terms with the Family.
Recent Activities: Though the group has all but formally retired from rap, they continue to make behind-the-scenes moves in the industry. KP has had great success as the President and A&R of his own Ghetto-Vision Records, discovering T.I., The Youngbloodz, and more recently, Ray Cash. Mello has been staying active behind the boards, producing for Alabaman Birmingham J.

Watch PA’s “Sundown” feat. Eightball


from My Life, Your Entertainment (Dreamworks, 2000)

Listen to PA’s “Ghetto Head Huntaz”

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from Ghetto Street Funk (Savvy/MCA, 1993)

kast2.jpgOutKast

Members: Andre “3000” Benjamin, Big Boi, Mr. DJ (sometimes)
Who they are: The Poet and the Pimp. Intellectual yet street. Critical favorites and commercial darlings. These push-and-pull dichotomies have fueled OutKast’s career from their earliest days as Cadillac-pushing Southern fried b-boys to their present strides towards stranger pastures. It almost seems appropriate that they’ve finally become the most popular rap group in the world—now that one of them retired from rap and the group exists only in name.
Recent Activities: You may have heard about their movie and soundtrack that drop this week. It’s called Idlewild. The album is in stores today (August 21), while the film hits theaters in three days.

Watch OutKast’s “ATLiens” Video

from ATLiens (LaFace, 1996)

Listen to OutKast’s “Player’s Ball”

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from Southernplaylisticadillacmuzik (LaFace, 1994)

goodie.jpgGoodie Mob

Members: Big Gipp, Cee-Lo, Khujo, T-Mo
Who they are: The GOOD DIE Mostly Over Bullshit. Historically overlooked elsewhere—but widely considered legends in the ATL and other points south of the Mason-Dixon line—their debut, Soul Food found the then teenaged rappers showing wisdom well beyond their years, mixing street knowledge with spirituality and paranoid (though eerily prophetic) social commentary. Its follow up, Still Standing, followed form. Their third album, World Party, was deemed too commercial by critics and fans and Cee-Lo left the group over disputes stemming from those issues. Goodie trudged on as a trio, releasing the venomously titled One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show in addition to a slew of side projects.
Recent Activities: Rumor has it that all four members have put aside their differences and have are planning a new full-length project. Until then they’ve been keeping busy with their solo ventures: Cee-Lo has gone on to pop superstardom as the vocal half of Gnarls Barkley with producer Danger Mouse. Their “Crazy” is currently the #2 record in the country. Gipp has formed the group Kinfolk with Ali from the St. Lunatics and appeared alongside Nelly and Paul Wall on the mega hit “Grillz.” Khujo just dropped his Mercury EP independently and T-Mo is putting the finishing touches on his solo debut T-Mo 2 Da Fullest.

Watch Goodie Mob’s “Black Ice” feat. OutKast

from Still Standing (LaFace, 1998)

Listen to Goodie Mob’s “Cell Therapy”

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from Soul Food (LaFace, 1996)

sleepy.jpgSleepy Brown / Society of Soul / Sleepy’s Theme

Members (SoS): Sleepy Brown, Espraronza & Big Rube
Members (Sleepy’s Theme): Sleepy Brown, Victor Rico Cortez & Eddie Stokes
Who they are: When not lacing beats with Orga-no-I-Z-E, Sleepy moonlights as a smoothed-out soul vocalist who looks like Isaac Hayes (bald head, slick shades) and sounds like Curtis Mayfield. He’s knocked out the hooks for many a ’Kast hit including “The Way You Move,” “Player’s Ball” and “Spottieottiedopalicious.” He also fronted two full-fledged throwback soul groups, Society of Soul and Sleepy’s Theme, before diving head first into his current bugged-out space funk persona.
Recent Activities: Sleepy’s long delayed solo debut, Mr. Brown is set to finally drop in September. And he’s all over Idlewild, of course.

Watch Sleepy’s Theme – “Still Smokin'”

from The Vinyl Room (Bang 2, 1998)

Listen to Society of Soul “Embrace”

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from Brainchild (LaFace, 1995)

rube.jpgBig Rube

Who he is: The griot. Armed with a gruff, contemplative whisper, his spoken word pieces are scattered throughout the Society of Soul album and much of the OutKast catalog. Even In Darkness saw him making strides in the realm of traditional rapping as well.
Recent Activities: Rube contributes a weekly column, Truth Be Told, to Rolling Out Magazine and has been threatening to drop a solo album for many years.

Listen to OutKast’s “True Dat” feat. Big Rube

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from Southernplaylisticadillacmuzik (LaFace, 1994)

Listen to Big Rube & Witchdoctor’s “What Iz Rap”

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from Dungeon Family’s Even In Darkness (Arista, 2001)

witch.jpgWitchdoctor

Who he is: Softly and slowly spoken, the smallest predator on the Georgia Plains takes his name literally, applying heavy spirituality and ancient ritualistic approaches to the southwest ATL streets. His ’98 debut, A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual, is perhaps the most overlooked album in the Dungeon canon, benefiting from some of Organized’s finest (and darkest) production to date.
Recent Activities: Witchdoctor just released his third album King of The Beats. It is available exclusively from his Myspace page.

Watch “Best Year” Video

from King of The Beasts (Self Released, 2006)

Listen to “Heaven Comin'”

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from A SWAT Healin’ Ritual (Organized Noize/Interscope, 1998)

breeze.jpgCool Breeze

Who he is: The man who coined the phrase “Dirty South.” After several high profile collabos with ’Kast & Goodie, Breeze aka Freddie Calhoun released his debut East Points Greatest Hits. The album was supported by the first full-fledged DF posse cut “Watch For The Hook,” and still failed to catch on commercially. But real DF heads hold it in high esteem.
Recent Activities: Breeze has most recently been heard on Bubba Sparxxx’s “Claremont Lounge” with Killer Mike and is currently recording a new album for Bubba’s New South label.

Watch Cool Breeze’s “Watch For The Hook” feat. OutKast, Goodie Mob & Witchdoctor

from East Point’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (Organized Noize / Interscope, 2000)

Listen to Cool Breeze’s “Cre-A-Tine”

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from East Point’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (Organized Noize / Interscope, 2000)

backbone.jpgBackbone

Who he is: The nasal-voiced hook spitter on OutKast’s “Slump” and Goodie’s “Get Rich To This” and one third of Slic Patna. Backbone’s first and only LP, Concrete Law, album showcased a unique direction for Organized and their protégés (including the briefly-formed production branch of OutKast, Earthtone 3): sparse, rhythm-minded beats that predicted what the Neptunes would later perfect and the Snappers would further strip down.
Recent Activities: Backbone has seemingly been M.I.A. since the release of Even In Darkness. Have you seen him?

Watch “Five Deuce Four Tre”

from Concrete Law (Universal, 2000)

Listen to “Lord Have Mercy” feat. Cee-Lo & Joi

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from Concrete Law (Universal, 2000)

joi.jpgJoi

Who she is: The baddest bitch of the DF and the ex-wife of Big Gipp (“the rap game stole my man from me…”), Joi was bouncing sporadically from sultry songstress to screaming on tracks when Kelis was still in high school. Her never-officially-released sophomore LP, Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome, backed by Organized Noize, Dallas Austin and Fishbone, is pretty much as perfect as a modern soul/funk/rock album can get.
Recent Activities: This year she released her fourth album, Tennessee Slim Is The Bomb, on her own Dirty Debutante imprint and is currently gearing up for a tour.

Watch Joi’s “Ghetto Superstar” feat. Big Gipp

from Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome (Rowdy, Unreleased 1996)

Listen to Joi’s “Say, Say Lil’ Fine Ass Nigguh” feat. Bun B, Pastor Troy & Trauma Black

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from Tennessee Slim Is The Bomb (Dirty Debutante, 2006)

will.jpgLil’ Will

Who is he: The would-be next generation Dungeon Family crooner. His Organized produced debut, Beta Days was unceremoniously shelved by Interscope in 1998. These days advance pressings fetch big bucks on ebay. Hopefully Suzy Screw‘ had the good sense to sit on the copy Big Boi gave her.
Recent Activities: You might’ve heard him singing the hook on a number of Young Jeezy records including “Last Of a Dying Breed.”

Listen to “Looking For Nikki feat. Cool Breeze

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from Beta Days (Interscope/Organized Noize, Unreleased 1998)

Second Generation Dungeon Family

Members: Slimm Cutta Calhoun, Killer Mike, Bubba Sparxx, Konkrete (C-Bone, Lil’ Brotha & Nathaniel), Ked, G-Rock, Chamdon, C-Smooth, Blvd. International, Scar, etc.

Listen to Killer Mike, Lil’ Brotha, Chamdon, C-Bone, Blvd. International, Nathaniel and Slimm Cutta Calhoun: “Curtains”

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from Even In Darkness (Arista, 2001)

Listen to Killer Mike: “Dungeon Family Dedication”

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from Got Purp Vol. 2 (Purple Ribbon, 2005)

Official Dungeon Family Website: Dungeoneze.com

Dungeon Family Interview @ Creative Loafing.

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