Words by Bryan Kalbrosky • Photos by Todd Cooper
Big Gipp, most known for his work with Atlanta hip-hop collective Goodie Mob, is a godfather of the “Dirty South” rap tradition.
Folks in Eugene who knew he was coming to town were able to watch a living legend on stage at May 3 at WOW Hall. As a young rapper in Atlanta, OutKast featured Gipp on “Git Up, Git Out” on the duo’s debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in 1994. Alongside Gipp as a frontman in Goodie Mob were Cee-Lo (also known as Gnarls Barkley with Danger Mouse) as well as Khujo and T-Mo.
Yet the crowd was small on Sunday night. The intermission DJ after the opening act made the show feel more like an empty frat party with an excessive light show than a gig headlined by a contemporary of Andre 3000 and Big Boi.
But two people entered the dance floor and each performed front flips, and so the night began. Gipp out rocking a black and red suit, white headband and arguably the whitest shoes I’ve ever seen. He was also wearing grillz, and quickly performed “Grillz” (his radio hit with Nelly about the shiny cosmetic dental apparatuses) to give the crowd some necessary energy early in the night.
Every time the chorus rang “Smile for me daddy” over the speakers, Gipp blessed the crowd with a sparkling smile. He also rapped about the various color grillz he owns, in a verse that included the stanza: “I got four different sets, it’s a fabulous thang … one white, one yellow, like Fabolous chain.”
All night, Gipp’s DJ Prophet scratched vinyls and kept the vibe danceable and fun. “I don’t care if it’s just two people,” said Gipp, a nod at the smaller crowd. “How many people love hip hop?”
At times, however, it was difficult to understand Gipp when he spoke through his grillz — which he kept in his mouth the entire show. But he was easy to hear when he was talking about how all of the “shit happening now, we talked about 20 years ago” before he played the Goodie Mob hit “Cell Therapy” from 1995. He also threw in “Listen up, Eugene, ’cause I’m talking to you” after the second chorus.
Of course, the politically minded Gipp also had his fair share to say about martial law and the current state of Baltimore. His theme focused on police brutality, curfew and marijuana legalization.
When he played “B.O.B.” by OutKast later, I counted a total of 30 people (including performers) in the entire venue. The low attendance was a shame, but Gipp handled the tiny crowd with grace.
During the show, Gipp also discussed giving away music for free, collaborations with Bruno Mars and how he can play venues in front of tens of thousands of people but enjoys “checking in” with the smaller crowds. After complaining about how Cee-Lo didn’t believe in the power of Goodie Mob anymore, Gipp urged the crowd to support emerging hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.
It’s tough to perform a small show when you’re a rapper, because you can’t do a stripped down acoustic set like a rock ‘n’ roll band might. But when he was hanging around after the show, one fan told Gipp how important his show was to her and her boyfriend. She used to only listen to rock, but when her boyfriend showed her Goodie Mob, she said she became a bigger fan than he was.
The venue played him out to OutKast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” and the night ended without an encore. It was cool to see Gipp perform, though he might need a bigger crowd next time to convince him to come back.