I’m not different just because I’m different. I’m different because I dare.
Cee-Lo Green holds certain truths to be self-evident. That music has the power strike that, the obligation to enlighten, entertain, educate and elevate. That music can liberate and celebrate humanity. That music rules the world. Those truths and the undulating messages that Cee-Lo imparts are loud and soulful on his sophomore solo manifesto Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine.
Says Cee-Lo, “My contribution always has integrity and substance. There’s always soul and the machine is my efficiency to deliver it without it becoming product. Soul is the connection between us all, all music is derivative of soul, so.. I do soul music. This isn’t throw back soul. It’s my soul. I am compelled by the same spirit as our elders, I am raw black soul and I just can’t help myself.”
Featuring songs written and produced by Cee-Lo, sonic contributions from the Neptunes, Timbaland, Premier and Jazze Pha and appearances by Pharell, TI, and Ludacris, Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine is a musical journey that knows no boundaries, and gleefully pushes the parameters of hip hop and R&B. “I’m always seeking an advancement of not only hip-hop but music. Period. I do feel like I am making a big picture type of contribution. I’m off the beaten path and I consider this album to be a continuation of a grand individual statement.”
Like 2002’s critically acclaimed Cee-Lo Green and his Perfect Imperfections, which garnered a Grammy Nomination, Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine is a kinetic kalidescope of influences; tailored to impart wisdom to the widest possible number of potential acolytes. “In case anybody got the message of the last album misconstrued I am here to confirm that I am relatable.” Cee-Lo declares, referring to the album’s somewhat more commercial approach. “My last CD came from a very personal place.
Almost like a coming out party. It was a very liberated cyclone of an album. It’s a lot to take into consideration and it can blow your mind, but it didn’t drive me crazy because I’d been living with that music for so long I just couldn’t wait to do it. So that album was saying, this is an expansion of all my attributes and all that I’m capable of. Now I don’t have that point to prove anymore. People know that I’m Cee-Lo. Unmistakably. This time I’m gonna let them know that I can play ball, as well. If I am truly a teacher then you have to make the lesson more feasible.”
Assisting Cee-Lo are some of the most innovative producers in hip hop, chief among them long time friend Jazze Pha, Gangstarr’s Premier (kicking in with the metallic stroll, Evening News) the Neptunes and Timbaland, who makes his presence felt on the lead single “I’ll Be Around”. Drenched in bass and anchored by Cee-Lo’s trademark husky vocals and pointed lyrics (e.g. “My flow is just ridiculous and some of the most beautiful things come out of my mouth”) “I’ll Be Around” is a warning shot to those who dare sleep on Cee-Lo. “I’m a mere 28 years old and I’ve achieved 10 years in the industry and I intend to be around. Still competing, still a force to be reckoned with, still empowered by the music. After ten years I’m just getting started. In a nutshell. That’s what my statement is on “I’ll be Around”.
Equally emphatic is the album’s opener and title track that Cee-Lo wrote and produced. Blending funk, soul and gospel, Soul Machine is a fiery introduction to the sanctified state of Cee-Lo’s mind. The song is a way for people to bear witness as to the mood swings and peaks and valleys of what they are about to experience. So that we can all get prepared for the journey.
One of the steps on that journey is “Passionfruit”, produced by the Neptunes and featuring Pharell. Jumping off with a sample from Kool and the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging”, “Passionfruit” settles into a melodic, muscular give and take as Cee-Lo’s persuasive vocals play cat and mouse with the insistent rhythms. The result is joyous and inspirational. “My music is fruit of the labor and the labor is life. The reason music can come through me convicted and passionate is because it’s my story. There’s no fa�e. Passion and compassion are very honest and I allow these emotions to possess me. It’s not passion vegetables, it’s passionfruit cause it tastes good. It’s fruit falling off the tree and that’s me. I’m branching out in different directions but still rooted in the same place.”
Cee-Lo’s steadfast stance is also highlighted on tracks like “Glockapella” which speaks to his ingrained spirituality and “Child’s Play” which features fellow ATL-ien Ludacris. “By working with artist like Jazze Pha, TI and Ludacris we’re showing love and letting people know that we are all one south and that I’m down.”
Delving into many moods and melodic excursions Cee-Lo offers up an expansive collection that takes his vision to its next logical level. Let other artists find a formula and stick to it. For Cee-Lo the formula is no formula at all, rather an embrace of all music has to offer. “My albums come across so diversified because I don’t party 24-7 and I don’t know any party that lasts that long. So enjoy this song for what it is and then find another time and space to enjoy another one. Whatever I try and do will be saying something.”
As a member of Goodie Mob and the Atlanta musical partnership Dungeon Family Cee-Lo fused the sacred and the profane. Equal parts soul shouter and preacher (both of his parents are ministers) Cee-Lo grew up listening to Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and gospel legends like James Cleveland. Soaking up the salvation Cee-Lo soon discovered his own voice and explored everything from Def Leppard, Pink Floyd and Funkadelic. Enthralled by hip-hop culture Cee-Lo began to hang with some local mcs. As his skills blossomed so did his rep. His rhymes and distinctive vocals brought him in contact with future Dungeon Family members Andre 3000 and Big Boi (aka Outkast).
In 1993 Cee-Lo officially joined the Dungeon Family and a year later seized the moment with his bristling verse on Outkast’s single “Git Up Git Out” off the duo’s platinum debut Southernplayalisticaddillacmuzik. The rhyme lead to producer Rico Wade (Organized Noize and Dungeon family) formally putting Cee-Lo into the recently formed Goodie Mob. Cee-Lo’s contribution helped propel the group’s three albums to the top of the charts and critics lists. Cee-Lo also enjoyed high profile collaborations with Common, Lauryn hill and Carlos Santana and those outside projects inspired him to attempt his own solo CD.
That CD was Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections. The album received stellar marks from Entertainment Weekly, Vibe, Time, Rolling Stone, XXL, and many more. Cee-Lo made some impressive year-end lists including Rolling Stone’s “10 Best Debuts,” and Robert Hilburn’s Freshman class of 2002 in the Los Angeles Times. The album also landed on many critics’ top ten albums of the year lists, including USA Today, Chicago Tribune, and Time Out NY. In addition to critical praise, Cee-Lo scored a Grammy Nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance with “Getting Grown,” and made the top ten list for the Shortlist Music Prize which celebrates Artistic Achievement in music (similar to the UK’s Mercury Prize).
Now Cee-Lo returns to do what he does best. Raise the bar, raise the roof and keep his head to the sky. As for the message in his music. Simple and soulful enough. “I’m always planning on being substantive.”