Cornerstone Credentials: Dungeon Family
The South is at the forefront of hip-hop these days: Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame rule the soundtrack of the streets, Cash Money and their long-running empire introduce new stars with increasing regularity and DJs Drama, Scream and Teknikz, among others, put out the hottest mixtapes.
But back before things below the Mason-Dixon Line were poppin', a collection of rappers and producers from Atlanta — billing themselves as the Dungeon Family — were the first to take a bite out of the Big Apple's dominance.
DJ Mars, DJ Bobby Black and Stefan the DJ (a.ka. the World Famous Superfriends) pay homage to the DF crew and mark Mars' 20 years in the A with their latest mixtape, Forever I Love Atlanta (F.I.L.A.): The History Of the Dungeon Family.
"The initial idea for the tape was to just be an all-Outkast tape," Mars told Mixtape Daily. "And when I approached [Dungeon Family architect] Rico Wade about doing the drops, I wanted to get info about the recording process with Outkast. I been around them for a while; I was their first DJ before they got a deal.
"So I saw the story before it unfolded. But then me and Bobby Black were sitting there and together thought, 'There's a bigger story than just Outkast,' as crazy as it sounds. But the story is the whole Dungeon Family and how all of [the artists] were related to each of their moments. It wasn't just Outkast and everyone was born after that."
The 31-track collection features vintage Goodie Mob, Cool Breeze and EJ Tha Witchdoctor, along with interludes from Wade, Big Gipp and T-Mo revealing stories behind the rhymes.
In one clip, Wade tells a story about how actress Rosie Perez was in a mastering session with producer and then-LaFace Records head Antonio "L.A." Reid. Once Perez started dancing to the remix of "Player's Ball," the doubtful executive was sold on Outkast's debut single, Wade recalls. From there the DF movement was launched.
"The mixtape represents a lost era in Atlanta hip-hop," Mars explained. "These records, to the partying population of Atlanta, they're irrelevant. This felt great to put together because we were able to bring to light a portion of Atlanta's history, at least club-wise, that's forgotten."
Last year, comprehensive stories on the history of Dungeon Family ran in the pages of Atlanta's Creative Loafing and on Vibe.com. For Mars, this project represents a narrative just as stirring as those written stories. And that's why he eschewed traditional mixtape devices like cutting and rowdy drops.
"We sculpted the tape to be a documentary of all of their careers," he said.
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