To hip-hop enthusiasts and fans of just good music in general, the Dungeon Family is legendary. Out of Rico Wade's basement studio in Atlanta, Ga. magic was made and helped kickstart the careers of some of hip-hop's most illustrious artists. The production/songwriting team Organized Noize, the super duo OutKast and the four-man group Goodie Mob all operated under the Dungeon Family banner and became staples in not only Southern hip-hop but a fixture in music as a whole.

As the years passed, members of the Family branched off to do solo projects. Big Gipp, best known as the gangsta side of Goodie Mob, is set to release his second solo album, titled ZAGGA, and it's unlike anything you've heard from him. With the approval of his mentor Ray Murray, Gipp constructed an album that bleeds funk and soul. ZAGGA is reminiscent of the rich history of Southern hip-hop culture with a surprising breath of fresh air. With a wide variety of records featuring B.o.B, Kurupt and others, this 11-track album is poised to capture attention when it drops Dec. 9. While in NYC, Big Gipp swung by XXL offices to discuss his upcoming album, his concerns about its reception and the status of his groupmate Cee-Lo after the rape-tweet controversy. —Emmanuel C.M.

XXL: Tell me about the new music coming out.
Big Gipp: I gave you 20 years of being hard. This is just about me doing music at this point and standing up for the [Dungeon] Family. We can all do this. Now I really want to let people know. Musically, we can compete with everybody else. Right now what I’m hearing, especially with the young cats; you really just can’t fuck with the Young Thug's and how they got their own thing now. So you got to do something bigger than what they can do.

I’ve been in the studio with all the young cats. They looking for Gipp to do something bigger than what they doing. That’s what the album is about; it’s just about me growing. ZAGGA means beginning and the end, which I am when it comes to Southern hip-hop. When you look at the youngins who do that wild shit—I’m the original. So for me I just feel like, hey, let the younger cats do what they do and let me show where they can go next. That’s just about changing and turning what you do with rap into songs. L.A. [Reid] and Babyface raised me so I just know how to do it.

The music sounds great, the records just makes you feel good. Sounds like you were in a good spot when you were recording.
I was taking every song that I was doing and taking it to Organized Noise. I was taking it to Ray Murray; he’s our Yoda, he taught everybody everything. Yoda was the inspiration behind me getting entrenched in doing something totally out the box. What’s funny about it is I got a whole rap album record at the same time. I got records with 2 Chainz. I got records with other artists that would do just as well, but I was like, eh, do I want to go that way? I’ve been doing rap like that for 20 years. So I was just like, naw, let me go somewhere else with it.

I didn’t realize how much I was going to like it until I did a rehearsal and did eight straight songs of the new stuff and I was like, damn I kind of like this. That’s just me being an artist. Like, "Okay, now I found a room I can be in that’s not the same, just doing the album." I just made sure this time I was going to have fun and this time will be different from the previous 20 years I’ve been in the game. That’s been my inspiration. The biggest thing you can put to a test. When you try something new and it works, it gives you a new life. But if you try something you already know and you get the same results, it's almost your fault because you were too scared to try something new. At this point I’m not scare of nothing.

This album is really my “redprint” for where the rest of my career is going to go. I can't just be a rapper anymore. Plus, my little girl is like, "Man, daddy, do something else.” [Laughs] When you got a loved one that says [they'd] rather see you doing something different from what [your] peers are doing—that’s the biggest thing. That’s why when people ask me, "When is the next group album?" or, "Where are my other [Dungeon] Family members and why they not doing records?" It’s because they already done so much. Everything that people are doing now, we were doing it 20 years ago and everybody was looking at us like weirdos. So now when you look at rappers that dress and be creative and not just look the same, I remember we used to be called weirdos for that. Now it's cool.

big gipp goodie mob
Photo: Getty Images

How did you find the producers for the project?
I just found people who were inclined to do music and not do hip-hop. I did hip-hop for 20 years; I know what hip-hop is. That’s why when you come across records like “Gangsta” [on ZAGGA], I just wanted to show people that I could do that in my sleep. But if I’m going to do something, at least I can say I took a person as gangsta as Kurupt and [had] him say something and shed another light on this gangsta shit. You see the industry now, gangsta music is commercial; half these cats out here, if it's the '90s, wouldn’t survive. Half of them I can look in their eyes and tell that they are not gangstas, they just have the money to put people around them and put the colors on. Half these boys water boys, they just kids.

Are you scared that the generation now may not connect to your music? It's scary thought, but during OutKast reunion tour, it was clear that there was a generational divide. Adding to that, people are not as willing to connect or research rappers who are older.
I’m not worried. Simply because one thing I learn is that if you don’t believe, they're not going to believe. So it’s cool if you don’t, but if you catch me live I bet you that I dog anything that you got in front of me or beside me. I watch these kids perform and that’s what they're missing. They may have a hit record but can’t perform it. It’s an oxymoron. I don’t know, I’m not tripping off that. I already survived the 20 years of people telling me you’re not going to do it. I’m not worried about somebody else right now. All I can do is prove to you what you think I can’t do. That’s just getting on stage. A lot of people didn’t know who Prince was but you know immediately when he gets up there and get that guitar going. At this point I’m doing music for the people that love music for real and not just a fad. If you love music you’re going to find something in what I'm doing.

Look at hip-hop today. I come from the era [of] I’m not doing anything you’re doing. I’m not wearing the same shoes you were. If I do that, I might as well get in your parade and be in your band. That’s the difference where I stand. What’s right and what’s not. If we don’t show people how to grow up in hip-hop then hip-hop itself will die. See, we don’t have anywhere else to go. Hip-hop right now is pop. Just like how rock and roll was pop. Everything comes down off the mountain sooner or later; the only ones that survive are the ones that make the masterpieces and the ones that make real true statements in music. Outside of that, the rest of them just watch. You only remember the original copies. That’s what I am. That’s where I am in my life, that’s what I am in music.

What do you think of ATL music scene now? The Washington Post just did a writeup on Atlanta’s rising producers.
If you look at right now, they're Dungeon Family kids. So it's like we win again. It’s national. So again, Organized Noize and Dungeon Family again, for the South again.

When’s the last time you spoke to Cee-Lo? He's had a few controversies lately.
Yeah, I talk to him everyday. He’s good. In the days when we came in, we [could] say what we want. But he’s doing well and we’re all looking to get past this.

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