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Down-Home Tone Elevates 'Standing'

ALBUM REVIEWS / POP

*** 1/2 GOODIE MOb, "Still Standing," LaFace/Arista

April 25, 1998|BRETT JOHNSON

The minimal beats on the Goodie MOb's 1995 debut, "Soul Food," supported thought-provoking lyrics inflected with premillennial dread, black love and spirituality. But the naughty girl party raps of Li'l Kim and Foxy Brown, as well as Mafioso posturing of male counterparts too many to name ruled the airwaves then, overshadowing this Atlanta-based quartet's uplifting messages.

"Still Standing" marks its revisited attempts at brothers' keeper hip-hop. Now the group's countrified drawls are backed by a more lush soundscape. Live guitars, mandolins and congas flesh out the syncopated drums that pulsated through its debut.

And the down-home tone of 23-year-old rapper Cee-Lo, whose melodic verse is reminiscent of the poetic rant of Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets and the soaring croons of Donny Hathaway and Al Green, further elevates the group's conscious rap to soul-stirring heights. Standouts include the muted flutes of "I Refuse Limitation" (featuring Backbone), as the rappers whisper behind tales of urban hardship; "Beautiful Skin," an ode to black women and monogamy; and the upbeat DJ Muggs-produced "Inshallah" are evidence of rap's redemptive potential.

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