Since Outkast’s debut in the early ’90s, fans of Atlanta hip hop have taken pride in the emergence and establishment of the Dungeon Family. Each year since 1994, them boys from the ATL have introduced a new branch of the family tree to their loving public. In order by debut: Outkast and Organized Noize, Big Rube, Goodie Mob, Society of Soul, EJ the Witchdoctor, Cool Breeze and Backbone. With affiliates such as the Youngbloodz, as well as discreet crew members such as Outkast’s Mr. DJ in tow, the collective known as the Dungeon Family has produced some of the most colorful and groundbreaking music in hip-hop history.
Now DF tries to contain all of these personalities on one CD. “Contain” is the operative word here. As Backbone states on “Trans DF Express,” the first single from Even in Darkness, this is “the alliance of elite MCs/Attention/Salute/At ease.”
Despite its title, Even in Darkness is a celebration of the life these men have built for themselves through music. Big Rube gives the best summation of their development on “6 Minutes,” when he says, “We got 360 degrees of MCs/That make these rap niggas look like they swangin’ from trees/Everything from brain food to puttin’ broads on they knees.”
In this description lies the beauty, and the confusion, of Even in Darkness. It’s a fan’s album. To fully enjoy it, you need to know the history of the Dungeon Family. The creatively limitless Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo Goodie, the rugged complexity of Khujo and T-Mo Goodie, the country swagger of Big Gipp and Backbone and foot soldiers such as Witchdoctor and Cool Breeze, who’ve got limited mic skills, but mad heart.
If you’re new to the Dungeon Family, this will be a typical compilation with a few gems and a considerable amount of filler. If you’re a fan and follower, it’s a family reunion, and you’ll have a ball.
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.