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Atlanta got a bullet with your name on it….


Witchdoctor- “Heaven Comin’
Witchdoctor- “The Ancient Sahore

from …A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual (Organized Noize/Interscope, 1998)
Witchdoctor – “Holiday (ONP Remix)
from Heaven Comin’ 12″ (Organized Noize/Interscope, 1998)
EJ Da Witch Doctor f/ Mr. Trill – “Are You Happy There?
from 9th Wonder Of The World (Dezonly1, 2000) *FIXED*

Despite what some headwrap, true school or backpack types will tell you, the relatively recent rise of the south into national rap consciousness through crunk and post-bounce music can only be seen as a positive influence on the all too NYcentric landscape. But I wonder what the rise in popularity has done in eclipsing the other southern sound. As much as Bounce and Bass have their place in getting the party started, I’ve always been more interested in the handful of rap records that explore the mellow side of the south. I’m talking backwoods slow living, spirituality and home cooked meals. The production is more organic and slower (and I ain’t talking about screw tapes either) and the lyrics, while similarly eschewed by a gold fronted drawl, are more meditative and personal, painting a south where the artists do give a damn and a fuck, no disrespect to Jon, Sam, Bo or the YB’z.

What I’m talking about is shit that’s probably closer to Willie Dixon or Willie Mitchell than Willie Puckett. It can be heard in a mature late-era Scarface or Bubba Sparxxx refining the cliched white trash “Ugly” gimmick into a distinctly personal approach on Deliverance or in Young Bleed stripping the ghetto fabulous No Limit “uggggh” to mafioso whisper on My Balls & My Word. But, of course, the finest (and more or less the earliest) explorers of this vein of rap are the Dungeon Family and their production team Organized Noize. They mastered it on Goodie Mob’s Soul Food and released a handful of great records refining and reapplying that style.

Perhaps the rawest example of this would be the much slept on A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual by Witchdoctor. A Dungeon Family first stringer, Witch a far cry from the lyrical complexity of some of his Dungeon peers and at times this works to his advantage. He speaks softly in a slow, sing songy flow. He goes a little overboard with the whole witchdoctor concept but on the whole that ritualistic/primitive thing he’s got going on is an interesting one.

With the exception of maybe the dollar hungry “Holiday” (which some might vaguely remember bumping incongruously out of a LA lo lo in Bullworth and appears here in a more restrained remixed form), there is not a hint of the raucous or materialist nature that many southern artists explore (not that there’s anything wrong with either approach). Instead it’s a subdued and introspective religious experience.

Even if you can’t fuck with Witch’s voice or flow (it is an acquired taste), at the very least you can appreciate the production, Organized Noize at their best (and darkest). And top to bottom it’s a very consistent record, I had a very hard time taking any track out of that sequence and just throwing it up here. Every track is in it’s right place. But it doesn’t matter since I’m sure you’re going to go out and buy the album, right? Since virtually nobody did it at the time of it’s release. Even diehard DF fans are unaware of it’s existence. This works to your favor, because you can probably find it in any used bin the country.

Unfortunately, much of the Dungeon Family has taken a step away from this sound since about ’98 (which, was the year the first Witchdoctor dropped, and, if my all too cluttered hip hop timeline is correct, was about when Cash Money was blowing up airwaves), the entire crew has not been pursuing that approach. Goodie released the damn near sell out World Party which more or less caused Cee-Lo to leave the group, to record psychedelic funk and stop rapping, and left the remaining three fourths to record competent but mostly boring attempts at party starters. Shouldn’t the crew who coined the “dirty south” nomenclature be setting the trends not chasing them?

Witch, now renamed EJ Da Witch Doctor, later reemerged on the indie tip and released 9th Wonder Of The World, which was similarly underwhelming. This is mainly due to the fact he went for mostly outside and self production and ONP worked so comfortably within the confines of his concept. It’s a far cry from SWAT‘s although there are a few exceptions, most notably “Are You Happy There?”.

But I haven’t lost faith in Witch yet. He managed to steal the show on his few appearances on the DF crew album (most notably on his duet with Big Rube, “What Is Rap?”) and i think it’s no coincidence that he spits on the two most well refined goodie mob related songs of the past few years (“God I Wanna Live” and Gipp’s “Creeks”), so if he (or a financing record label) ever gets his/their shit together, we could have another classic on our hands.

Now who’s going to bite the bullet and buy his new book? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued, but I don’t know how well his rhymes will translate to the written word. Plus I’m apprehensive i’ll get some thirty page photocopied manuscript.

A couple footnotes –

Bubba Sparxxx, who recently left Timbaland’s camp to sign with Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon, has been promising a regression to his inferior party starting bama sound (“People keep saying they want to see me get crunk“…. riiiight….)

Even the critically infallible Outkast made a turn for the worse in a post-cash money world, in my opinion. Of course, they were still making incredible records, but let’s be honest – Southernplayalistik and ATLiens were a lot of things but they were far from being party starters, at least not in the traditional sense, or in the “Rosa Parks”/”Hey Ya”/”Way You Move” sense. Soul Rap vs. (P)Funk Rap. I mean they’re still dope, it’s just different and not quite as dope;

Goodie Mob is back together, and may or may not be recording a new record;

Shout to t3 and the Stankonia.com DF Board for hipping me to that book and reminding me to go listen to witchdoctor on a hot sunday afternoon;

I understand a lot of the mp3s today in print, but really, it’s waaay slept on, so go buy those albums;

this carpetbagging motherfucker hasn’t been south of VA in about eight years, but that doesn’t mean Witch or Face or the Goodie MO can’t take me there every day…

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24 Responses to “Atlanta got a bullet with your name on it….”

  1. Simon Says:

    Holiday (OPN Remix) and EJ Da Witch Doctor f/ Mr. Trill – “Are You Happy There?” are the same mp3 on the blog. Great post.

  2. noz Says:

    fixed…

  3. dodger Says:

    great post

  4. Serg Says:

    well thats cute, I came across one of his 12″s today. It was for SWAT healin but I passed it up and now I’m thinking I should have picked it up.

  5. chree Says:

    Man, I still have the Witchdoctor cassette(!) sitting in my truck. Classic sleeper. I thought maybe i was the the only dude with that album in the whole world. No idea he ever came out with anything else, and I’ve scoured the net. I’ve always dreamed he would resurface, Healin’ Ritual Two and shit…

  6. r Says:

    i always thought cool breeze and witchdoctor should’ve formed a group. they were both next tier dungeon fam artists and it might have helped for exposure…

    plus cool breeze’s and withdoctor’s albums were basically indie albums released on majors…

    didn’t know about the witchdoctor indie release so thanks for the heads up…

    interesting idea that the “party starter’ mentality hurt kast, but “players ball” and “jazzy belle” were club favorites here…i think if anything the format of the “party starters” changed and they evolved with the times but still made original dance-able shit…who else could’ve pulled off “hey ya”?

  7. Dizzle T Says:

    Man I feel you on EJ and freddie calhoun to of the most slept on in the DF along wit T_mo

  8. Dizzle T Says:

    JUST THE NAME WITCHDOCTOR IS TIGHT

  9. noz Says:

    r – like i said, “not in the traditional sense”. yes i’ve seen shit like “elevators” and “playa’s ball” get the party live, but they’re more chill type records and i think a crowds response is more to knowing the records from outside the club and reliving that experience in the club than it is that it’s some great shit to dance to or whatever causes someone to respond to “get low” or “hey ya” (*not a rap record) the way they do.

  10. teethree Says:

    Whats up noz, thanks a lot for the shoutout man. Everybody check out the book, right now i’m trying to get the folks at iap to see about carrying some copies so i can get it.

    witchdoctor has also got a new cd in the works called ballelujah. it’s due july 12th. who knows if it’ll come out. i don’t, lol.

    peace

    t3

  11. r Says:

    no that’s a good point…

    basically what we’re both pointing to is that the music has become more “disposable” for better or worse…

    but maybe it’s reflecting the second generation of southern artists…cash money, lil jon, and co wanting to go a different route?

    because the laid-back soulful approach via organized noise/dungeon fam, geto boys, big mike, and 8ball + mjg was the prevailing sound of the south was the soup de jour (even if ny slept on it)…

    maybe it had to change and that change was was befitting of a better commercial model?

    and then everyone had to do it?

  12. noz Says:

    survival of the fittest, i guess.

    like i said, down south the laid back approach has always coexisted with the rowdy party shit , most notably in bounce and bass. as other artists in the region adopted and expanded on these approaches it was seen as infinitely more marketable and the artists on the other side of the fence were pretty much forced to adapt or fall to the wayside.

    what up tee?

  13. Glitterbust Says:

    I dunno, mane. I think the crunk v. roots dichotomy is one that the best Southern artists just ignore, cuz each (the more reflective tracks, and the great party throwdowns) are each better for mixing up the soul and the gospel with the hard boom-bap…. remember the acoustic guitar and harmonica solo in “Rosa Parks”? David Banner, say, y’know? Even when he’s spittin’ about “Flickin’ Twankies”, it’s in a more hushed, laid-back, acoustic-vibed tone than, say, “What It Do”, and that’s why it’s more powerful for it. It’s why I love so much Southern and Texas stuff, it’s got this way-more-live feel to it that comes from incorporating a lot of that gospel/country-blues influence.

  14. faux_rillz Says:

    Damn, is this album really that good? I’ve never heard it–I’ll have to pick up a copy. I remember when it was released, Witch Doctor was up on “Rhythm & Vibes”–the Sunday night GSU rap show that I used to listen to–promoting it and they played a couple of tracks. I couldn’t feel his style at all at that time and I remember his contributions to the DF album a few years later didn’t exactly make me rethink it (“My whole house gon’ be laid out like a salad”?). Oh yeah, one more forgotten ONP album that I like: Kilo’s “Organized Bass”.

  15. Duke Says:

    Man……. lemme ask u this….. “8ball & mjg – throw your hands up” or “lil jon & the eastside boys – whatchu gon do” I`d take the first one for sure……. i`m tired of crunk for the most part

  16. noz Says:

    i dunno as a 16 year old df geek i loved it. i don’t know if i would appreciate it as much if i was a cynical nyc lawyer. the doc’s got a strange style and yeah he says some cringeworthy things from time to time, but i think this is offset by a really great voice and his overall sentiment.

    at the very least it does have some great onp beats, it’s really one of their best top to bottom productions, up there with “soul food”, i’d say.

    i guess if you can fuck with “what is rap” from the df album, which pretty much sounds like a “SWAT” outtake to me, it’s worth picking up.

    and ONP didn’t actually produce organized bass, they just released it through their label deal. but it’s pretty tight, kilo’s historically been one of the few bass artists i can fuck with cause of his rhymes. (maybe i should do an “america has a problem” post?)

  17. Mister Says:

    Organized Noise did a Kilo album? I’d love to hear that. That dude is ATL legend.

  18. Mister Says:

    Oops, I guess you answered my question while I was typing.

    Please, Noz, a Kilo post is so necessary. I probably hadn’t even heard or thought about that name in 12 years, but he used to rule local radio.

  19. TSC Says:

    I don’t think I have ever heard any WitchDoctor solo songs, but I had heard of him before. Also, his voice is definitely familiar from other DF records. Especially the earlier Goodie Mob and Outkast.

  20. faux_rillz Says:

    Yeah, give that first Kilo album some shine–maybe the cut where he disses Shy D for being a carpetbagger. I never really looked at the credits on “Organized Bass”–I always assumed that the really melodic elements of those cuts were ONP’s influence. I have now been sonned. I do remember that Kilo blamed Rico Wade for misappropriating money that had been allotted to promote the album, leading a broke-azz Kilo to burn his own home (from which he had been evicted by the sheriff) so that he could go to jail and have a roof over his head.

  21. rj Says:

    Yeah, a coolbreeze post would’ve hit the spot…a dungeon family obsessed ex stole that joint and I’m lazy

  22. dame Says:

    classic noz.

  23. chris o Says:

    Wow, those Witchdoctor tracks are great. You can tell he’s real into Dr. John, especially the Gris Gris album.

  24. Warren Says:

    great post…being from the A I have always loved EJ and thought his album was really slept on.

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