Outkast rode the Stankonia express to multiplatinum heights, and now the rest of the group's Dungeon Family is hopping aboard.
The Dungeon Family Outkast, Goodie Mob, Witchdoctor, Slimm Calhoun, Sleepy Brown, Cool Breeze, Backbone, Big Rube and producers Organized Noize will release their debut album, Even in Darkness, November 20.
Members of the collective have big hopes for the disc. "We've never really gotten a lot of the commercial fame that a lot of other groups get," said Dungeon Family co-founder and Organized Noize leader Rico Wade. "We've always been [over]shadowed. Outkast wasn't even put on the cover of The Source yet for [Stankonia]. The South is in the light now, but even before people were on the South, we still were the sh--. Even in darkness we can shine."
The first step toward shining a light on the group will be the lead single, "Trans DF Express." Cee-Lo, Andre 3000, Big Gipp, Backbone, Big Boi and Sleepy Brown are featured on the cut, which Wade said will likely remind listeners of Outkast's most recent smash.
"It's coming after 'So Fresh, So Clean,' with Sleepy singing on the hook," he said. "Cee-Lo opens it up, and then Dre comes behind him, rapping. You can't beat that with a bat. We've got two aces coming at you off the top, and ain't nobody messing with that."
Wade also conceived the video for the cut. "It's like a Japanese bullet train going through the city of Atlanta," he said. "The first car to the train is a party car. We got Cee-Lo looking back-in-the-day, like at the 'Fresh Fest' [concerts], and breakdancing is going on in his car. The second car is Andre. He kind of set his car up like a restaurant car. We've got him doing a scene from 'Lady and the Tramp.' You know the scene where they kiss with the spaghetti.
"The next car is Big Gipp and Backbone," he continued. "It's like an A-Town shake club. We got a catwalk, they got 20 naked girls just dancing around. At the end is Big Boi. He actually climbs out on top of the train."
Another cut, "Emergency," will also be one of the most explosive songs on the collection. "It's like a rock, mosh-pit [song]," Wade said. "The hook is like, 'Ah-yeah, we crunk now.' We're explaining what it's like to be crunk for real. But the beat is so ghetto. People that love Outkast are really going to appreciate it because you've never heard anything like that."
Another sonic revolution takes place on "Crooked Booty," which features a complete horn section and the singing of both Cee-Lo and Andre 3000. The latter croons, "We don't speak proper English/ When we walk, we strut our stuff/ We act like life is gravy/ Even though we know it's rough." "It's theatrical," Wade said. "It reminds me of Meatloaf."
Elsewhere, Big Rube, Big Gipp, Khujo, Cee-Lo, an Atlanta-based choir and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra combine for "Excalibur," while Witchdoctor and Big Rube pair up on "What Is Rap." "Six Minutes" will play off of a line from Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew's classic single "The Show."
The Dungeon Family made their first major mark with Outkast's debut single, 1993's "Player's Ball." Since then, Outkast and Goodie Mob have released a string of gold and platinum albums, while Organized Noize have worked with TLC, En Vogue and others.
A Dungeon Family album was supposed to come out a couple of years ago, but because members of the group were signed to different labels, contractual problems made it difficult to pursue. The delay may have been beneficial, though.
"I'm glad it took awhile," Wade said. "On Outkast's last album, we did the 'So Fresh, So Clean.' We knew exactly what we were doing by doing that old Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994) sound. We feel blessed that we didn't wear that sh-- out back then, that we didn't destroy and pimp ourselves. Now, we can capitalize on our stuff."
To that end, Organized Noize will be releasing an album from the duo ChamDon early next year via their own M.O.H. (Men of Honor) Entertainment. They will also be featured as producers on the forthcoming albums from Sleepy Brown, Wu-Tang Clan, Bubba Sparxxx, Ludacris, Raphael Saadiq, Joi and the Truth Hurts. Plus, Wade said they're working on the score to Will Smith's movie "Ali."
But what has Wade really excited is the forthcoming Cee-Lo solo album, due next year.
"Everybody's waiting on Cee-Lo to do what he's supposed to do, to be the male Lauryn Hill," he said. "We've always known that. It's no secret. He's going to help take us to that 10-million mark. If everything goes right, our next album is going to be called Diamonds in the Rough."