One-fourth of the legendary Goodie Mob laments on rediscovering his passion for music and his solo career
Nothing is as bewildering and harrowing as the loss of your first love. For Big Gipp, that loss came when he fell out of love with music. For a pioneering southern hip-hop artist this could be rather concerning for the future of the genre. Gipp cites the ringtone rap era in the mid-2000s as the lowest point in his love affair.
Listening to any note from Goodie Mob, his response isn’t necessarily surprising. But it took a surprise reunion to restore Gipp’s affinity for the music. The restoration of another southern cohort, OutKast, did more to enliven countless fans. It restored Gipp’s fire. The duo ended their 2014 concert reunion with three shows in Atlanta playing to nearly 100,000 people across the shows. Gipp represented Goodie Mob throughout the shows. He said the chance to play “Black Ice” with Big Boi and Andre 3000 for the first time for a new generation and the response from the fans was overwhelming enough to restore his passion for that first love.
From there, Gipp set out on a mission.
He asked himself, “What can I do for all the people that’s been down with OutKast, Organized Noize and Goodie Mob for the entire movement?” From there, Gipp did something he has never done in his career. Gipp gave away free music. That project culminated in the multi-faceted mixtape Mr. Get Down. The tape, (or at least the begging of it) is a culmination of his roots that revisits the first interpretations of what Atlanta street music sounded like.
There is definitely the banging southern beats with the 2 Chainz assisted “Peach Soda” but the tape transitions to the soulful when Bruno Mars arrives on the mellow “Sugar, Cocoa & Honey.” In this respect, and consistently through the tape, Gipp sounds more comfortable than he has at any point in his solo career.
But it hasn’t always been comfortable for Big Gipp the solo artist. At the time Gipp released his first solo record Mutant Mindframe in 2003, he was going through some of the most difficult times in his life. His critically acclaimed group had broken up, he was going through a divorce and dealing with fame only made matters much worse. He said he wasn’t able to focus on his music like he should have.
“I never really focused on the solo stuff because it always felt awkward to me being a solo artist because I was always in groups,” he said. “Even though I was doing solo music, I never felt like I was that kind of artist. Most of the time some artists go on their own and they seem very arrogant. I didn’t come into the game like that. I came into the game like, if the family eats, we all eat. Being a solo artist is something I never thought I would have to do.”
The closing of LaFace records didn’t help matters.
“To have LaFace close a record label based in your city and it’s not there anymore, you lose your whole connections and network,” Gipp said. “It was a strange time. We weren’t the only ones. OutKast, Ciara, Usher. It was just a tough place to be in. I had to make more business decisions than something that was more organic.”
Being in the game this long has allowed the artist to adapt. He doesn’t feel being a solo artist is a burden. Quite the opposite actually. Gipp credits his rededicated passion for music to the successful solo careers of Nelly and Cee-Lo artists as he was able to learn how they both crafted music. Gipp said that being a solo artist now opens different doors that he couldn’t do with Goodie Mob.
“For the first time in a long time I’m giving the people a real good big dose of Gipp the artist,” he said. “That’s why I say Zagga. I am the beginning and I am the end. There’d be no you if I was not me. That’s for all the people.”
The mixtape is just the beginning of the reemergence of the solo Gipp. Zagga will be the proper album in 2015 with singles “Shine Like Gold” Feat. Cee-Lo and the upcoming “Beautiful Love” with Eric Benet. You can officially credit L.A. Reid for the new music. Gipp visited the Epic Records CEO and started playing some new material for his former employer. After just two records, Reid cut the music and replied with two simple words. “Welcome home.”
“That’s the greatest feeling you can have on a personal level as long as I’ve been in the industry,” Gipp said. “I was totally blown away and completely dedicated to making this work. Sometimes it takes going solo again so you can relearn things and you can do them your way.”
The rejuvenation doesn’t stop there for Gipp. The landscape of music feels different for Gipp in 2015 than say the late 90s and early 2000s. There is a new sense of encouragement. This time it has to do with how the Internet eliminates all restrictions.
In 1999, Goodie Mob released their third studio album World Party. Many of the dedicated fanbase felt alienated and discredited the group for adopting a more mainstream approach. Gipp said if social media was in place then, the misinterpretations wouldn’t have been so rampant. After the release, Cee-Lo pursued a solo career, Big Gipp left the group for a time and they all didn’t release material together until their reunion album on 2013’s Age Against the Machine.
“[Now] you can explain what you’re trying to get across,” Gipp said. “When we came out with “Get Rich To This,” we would have won if our base would have known that we were having fun on that record. When you don’t have the direct line to your actual base, people could take it as you’re trying to go pop so we can’t get down to this.”
What few talk about is that the album nearly went platinum without a supporting tour.
“It just shows that we did reach outside of our base to bring more people into Goodie Mob,” he said. “When you think about a dude like Tupac, he didn’t have a chance to change. Imagine if he would have stayed on his stuff like “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” There’s no telling what he would have turned into.”
“When you go that route it makes you feel like you’re only reaching the smart people. There’s more sheep in the world than smart people. It tricks you into believing that if you do it for those people over there you might be able to survive a little bit longer. But what you do is you start trying to reach and doing things outside of what people love you for. Sometimes you lose your base. Sometimes when artists lose their base they have to start all over.
“I’ve had to start all over again a few times so I think the experience I’ve had has kept me safe.”
Gipp started 2015 co-headlining a tour with Bubba Sparxxx. While making a stop in Denver, Gipp stood out amongst his peers nearly on the same level as Left Shark at the Super Bowl. During sound rehearsal for the Denver show, while seemingly all the preceding acts wore Yankees caps and baggy clothes, Gipp stood triumphantly in a well tailored military inspired pea coat with shoulder armor diligently reciting bar after bar.
Big Gipp has been able to sustain longevity in a genre that condemns artists over the age of forty because of his originality. If Gipp didn’t look like a weird funked-out space military general, it would be doubtful whether he had anything new or relevant things to say. Gipp credits his heroes at that Super Bowl performance for inspiration for his originality. Not Katy Perry and Left Shark, but rather Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott.
“I might be a weirdo but I’ll show you many people that think just like me,” Gipp said. “My man [Lenny] did the Super Bowl 30 years in the game. Missy is one of our unsung heroes and doesn’t get the credit she deserves. When you make great music they can never talk about your age. They show you the difference between me and everybody else. Acts like that is soul food. You have to wait for that soul food. You can’t get that every day. They inspire me to be different.”
Thank goodness Gipp is a weirdo. The wait is over. Come and get some soul food.