Hear the reunited ATL rap legends' "Fight to Win"
When you're Goodie Mob and you're dressed in costumes best described as Jobriath meets C3PO meets Earth, Wind, and Fire, and the world's sexiest douchebag, Adam Levine, is emphatically nodding his head to your latest single, "Fight to Win," a Queen-esque a platitude-filled, pomp and circumstance, no-burner with lots of Cee-Lo singing and not much Goodie Mob at all, you've done fucked up. "Fight to Win" is an exercise in not saying anything — like the worst lyrics from Common's Finding Forever stitched together into inspirational nonsense: "I am fighting, for the liberation, of voices, with something to say."
The brilliance of Goodie Mob was the way they could flesh out the sentimental and reinvigorate clichés by surrounding them with wise, lived-in raps. Halfway through their 1995 debut, Soul Food, the crew chants the Serenity Prayer, and they spend the album fleshing that out until the A.A. aphorism feels true and earned. It was this mix of the universal voice of the struggle, rubbing up against the smallest details culled from their lives, that could bring a tear to your eye. From "Goodie Bag": "Today was good to me / I went to the Goodwill with the ten dollar bill / Got that London Fog out the back, paid the man."
It's not so much that "Fight to Win" sucks — most Goodie Mob songs since 1998's Still Standing have sucked. It's that "Fight to Win" betrays every one of the group's strengths (save for Cee-Lo's voice, of course): Their hard-won sincerity, their specificity, their gift for cross-genre fusion. Just name something, anything, you like about Goodie Mob and you will not find it on "Fight to Win." Maybe the song is the only thing on their album Age Against the Machine (a great title for a veteran rap group), that would make any sense during an episode of NBC's The Voice.
That seems unlikely and doesn't negate the reality that this song is an undercooked, hooked-filled disaster. That it's now for sale on iTunes and is as excruciating and lacking in personality as it was Monday night is not a good sign. Perhaps, maybe, hopefully, the rest of Age Against the Machine will find the group living up to the album title, and imparting some middle age rap wisdom. Let's hope. If not, then the good have finally died over some bullshit.