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…