How the Dungeon Family proved Atlanta to be the epicenter of American culture

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Andre 3000 Photo: A.R. Shaw

To understand why Atlanta is so important to American culture, it’s important to take a look back to a time when most of America ignored the cultural significance of Atlanta. The 1980s and early ‘90s were an era that saw the youth of Atlanta searching for their collective voice in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. Living in the South in a nation that admired the fast-paced grind of New York and the Hollywood dreamers of Los Angeles, Atlanta’s cultural scene appeared to be at a severe disadvantage.

Enter the Dungeon Family. Starting as a collective of artists and producers from predominately-Black neighborhoods in East Point, College Park, and southwest Atlanta, the Dungeon Family used music to make a way out of no way. The collective also helped to provide Atlanta with a voice and initiated a cultural movement within the city that has remained strong for over two decades.

On the night of Sept. 10, the Dungeon Family reunited for a show that took place at ONE Musicfest in Atlanta. Before a capacity crowd at the Lakewood Amphitheatre, the Dungeon Family provided a history lesson on the “Real” Atlanta.

With Rico Wade serving as the master of ceremony, the Organized Noize producer introduced each Dungeon Family act while also providing brief background stories before several performances.

The DF Collective 

The reunion show opened with Goodie Mob’s “Dirty South.” Coined by DF member Cool Breeze, the term defined the street culture in the South while also poking at the racial history in the region. Verses from Cool Breeze, Big Boi and Big Gipp served as a testament to the South’s eventual dominance in rap.

Cool Breeze also performed “Cre-A-Tine,” the first verse of Lil Will’s hit “Looking For Nikki,” and was joined by the entire Dungeon Family for “Watch for the Hook.” The Witchdoctor performed his 1998 hit, “Holiday”; Slimm Calhoun performed “It’s OK”; and Backbone hit the stage for his 1999 hit, “5 Duce 4 Tre.”

OutKast

“Will Andre 3000 be in attendance?” That was possibly the most asked question once the reunion show was announced. Although OutKast stands out as the most prominent members of the Dungeon Family, the duo hasn’t performed together at a large venue since their 20th anniversary tour in 2014. But Andre 3000 appeared on stage along with Big Boi as the two assisted Big Gipp with his 1998 hit, “Black Ice.”

OutKast also performed the rambunctious “Hootie Hoo” from their 1994 debut album and “So Fresh, So Clean,” which was featured on the Stankonia album.

With Big Boi and Andre 3000 sharing the stage, it was like this generation’s version of the Beatles coming together to create magic again.

Goodie Mob

The Goodie Mob became the second group from Dungeon Family to gain national attention. Their spiritual, yet street, approach to music had never been heard in rap before their 1995 debut, Soul Food. Before hitting the stage, group members sent well wishes to Khujo Goodie, who could not perform due to health issues. Cee Lo Green, Big Gipp and T-Mo performed “Cell Therapy”, “They Don’t Dance No Mo,” and “Get Rich to This.”

Sleepy Brown

Sleepy Brown has often served as a de facto third member of OutKast. The crooner, who also produces with Organized Noize, performed “Spottieottiedopaliscious,” “The Way You Move,” and “Can’t Wait.”

Kilo Ali 

Kilo Ali was the first rapper in Atlanta to galvanize the city. His 1990 hit “Cocaine” was a bass hit and precursor to Trap music. Along with Big Boi, Kilo Ali rapped the sexually-charged song “Love In Ya Mouth.”

Cee Lo Green 

Cee Lo Green arguably stands as the most successful Dungeon Family member over the past five years. But while his most mainstream hits have been soul ballads, he reminded the crowd of why he’s still a great emcee. He rapped several songs with the Goodie Mob and also performed his verse on “Git Up, Git Out.” The only song that Cee Lo sung during the reunion was his hit “Crazy.”

Killer Mike 

Killer Mike recently found new life in rap with his partner El-P as a member of Run the Jewels. But years ago, he won his first Grammy by rapping a verse on OutKast’s “The Whole Word.” At the reunion show, Killer Mike performed the song with the duo before bringing out T.I. and Bone Crusher for their 2003 hit “Never Scared.”

Killer Mike remained on stage as he was assisted by Big Boi and the Purple Ribbon All-Stars as they performed the supreme ode to Atlanta “Kryptonite.”

Erykah Badu 

The Dungeon Family closed their set with an assist from Erykah Badu during the song “Liberation.” Big Boi, Cee Lo Green, and Big Rube also provided powerful words.

When the Dungeon Family’s set concluded, it became evident as to why Atlanta has become the cultural epicenter of America.

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.



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