Rappers are positive people. They have positive attitudes, and the stories of raising themselves up from poverty are always remarkable as stories of self-preservation and self-confidence. Rappers find the positive in everything that has ever happened to them. Whatever it is for rappers: success, women troubles, drug addiction, gambling problems, greed, avarice, beef, court cases, car payments, label changes, clothing trends, babies, and even failure — it’s theirs. They own it, they made it, they done it. And somehow the rapper makes it sounds like, in the end, it’s all good.
So it is for the Goodie Mob, who started with four rappers and are now down to two on their latest record. They act as though this isn’t the story of a mutiny, no, this is the story of the final two rappers still standing. It’s a positive step to be down to half the original cast and compelled to change the name of the group. Other than as a reason to show Khujo and T-Mo on the cover with huge oily chainsaws in a grimey deforestation scene, the Lumberjacks pseudonym doesn’t hide the fact that Goodie Mob is now down to two, and the rest, in their eyes, is clearly lumber. It’s a positive move in the right direction for Goodie Mob.
Yes, all that remain for this recording are T-Mo and Khujo, the original founders of the Goodie Mob, but they’re called the Lumberjacks. They recast themselves as a duo… presented by the trio that used to be a quartet (way back when Cee-Lo still sang with them to pay for his helium habit — doing well on his own, thanks very much). And it remains to be seen if the two tracks on Livin’ Life as Lumberjacks that feature Big Gipp (the other remaining Goodie, who may or may not still be a member, because he did attempt a debut as a solo artist… and unlike with Cee-Lo, the world said to Gipp: yawnsville) will be remembered by history as the last Goodie Mob tracks; in effect, the parting shots at holding on to their fraternity, just as the bonds of the Mob dwindle to a few branches with a lot of stumps in the landscape. One of these tracks is called “Superfriends”. The other is called “24/7/365”. Maybe I’m overguessing the dissolution of the Mob. But if Goodie Mob ever releases another album, will it be a reunion of the four, another rallying of the three, or a Goodie Mob album presented by the Lumberjacks? Who knows? Fewer and fewer people even care.
The music on Livin’ Life as Lumberjacks isn’t especially wicked. It’s not to say that the album disappoints, but there’s very little in the way of substance that could be called original, and the album seems almost blandly professional. Not even careerist so much as blue collar — these Lumberjacks are proud to work hard sawing up whack MCs, and they love to slash and burn some rhymes. But at the end of the day, it’s home to the wife, early to bed, forget the game entirely. It’s punch-the-clock rap. It doesn’t feel like they are living it at all. The music lacks outside direction and inspiration, what they used to get from their consistent producers Organized Noize and the mortal bond of the Dungeon Family. The songs are mostly rehashes of generic MC subjects. Besides a lousy song called “Hillbillies”, the Lumberjack thing seems completely tacked on. The songs have basically nothing to do with the lumber industry, not even as a base for some new lyrical metaphors like how the Wu-Tang Clan used martial arts to personalize their raps. Instead we get a sort of weak political track like “Black History”, which is about as educational as a thumb up the ass, and just as good on the ears.
The best thing the Goodie Mob and the Lumberjacks have going for them is that they adopted the electronic style before Lil’ Jon made it extremely cool. Therefore, the syncopated drum ‘n’ bass beatdown and mocha swirl of synths that Lumberjacks trade on is a genuine interest, not bandwagon jumping. The Lumberjacks sound very comfortable on a party track like “Turn Your Whip”, showing that two country boys can lean back no problem against all the crackling percussion and buzzing Petey Pablo-esque energy. But this party’s not about to change the world. This album is (ha ha) wooden. And I wouldn’t think this is the best time for Southern rappers to fall asleep behind the chainsaw. There’s a lot of younger MCs out there ready to chop off heads, and if Goodie Mob don’t step it up, wake it up, and shake it up, like the songs says: “bitch, it’s curtains”.