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. Find out why!
I saw the new record is on Billboard as the “Hot Shot” debut.
It is? I hadn’t seen that. I gotta go get that.
It’s at thirteen.
Without a doubt. (laughs)
What’s it like to debut so high?
It’s great and I’m always surprised. It’s always pleasing when people appreciate and buy your stuff especially in an industry like this where originality isn’t a commodity.
Soul Machine is definitely different. Did you go after it to make a record you’d like and if everyone else did it was a bonus?
I insist on being different.
We get piles of cds and they all sound a lot alike.
I’m at war with those circumstances. Myself and allies like Outkast are at war to preserve our culture. We want to thrive again and impress that upon our peers and the consumers to demand more from their music.
Is that the Dungeon Family’s mentality? Going with your own flow?
It’s more or less that unspoken alliance. From early on we’ve always set ourselves to be the alternative option.
Do you envision what the album will sound like before you make it?
I produce from a songwriter’s position. I’m my own muse. If I produce it’s because I want to write a song. Sometimes it works that way. Some things can hit me right away. Some people submit songs. I’m patient with my projects.
Is there a concept because it all seems to be tied together?
Soul is a concept. Cee-Lo is soulful and that is what ties it all together.
When cooking up a melody or hearing one do you know instantly that it’s hot?
I’m so used to going against the grain that I’ll compare it to what people think is around, “I’ll Be Around” for example I thought that was hot. I thought everyone would get into it I felt everyone could involve themselves in the rhythm of the track. You’ll feel it and that is always cool. It’s enough for me… it doesn’t have to be a monster hit because people do dictate what is big.
How often do Outkast or you wonder whether people will understand the album and when they do are you surprised; especially because it’s so off the beaten path?
I remember a time when Outkast or the label knew it would be so big. You can’t know that. It’s always a surprise.
What’s it like when people come up to you and tell you how hot the record is or how big a fan they are?
It pleases me. Not even in terms of ego. I’m pleased that I’m their personal music. My feet are on the ground and I’m out and about enough that people can come up to me. People feel like they can touch me and they can. I’m grandly humble so to speak. I love it. It is the thing that makes me continue.
Growing up what did you listen to and was there a point in your life where everything changed?
I got up on the Muppet Show. I saw Alice Cooper doing “Welcome to my Nightmare” and Elton John doing “Bennie and the Jets” and I loved that showmanship and sense of humor. Gospel was a great deal to me and I was in love with the Winans. Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and with hip-hop I loved Melle Mel and Kool G. Rap, Slick Rick, Public Enemy, and Big Daddy Kane. Big Daddy Kane was my favorite. The native tongue is how I saw myself like A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers.
Slick Rick gets lost in the mix—I mean Nelly gets praise for creating sing-song style rapping and it was done almost twenty years ago by Slick Rick.
That’s cock roach and the spider there. (We both laugh) Nelly is my man and Murph, but Slick Rick is incomparable. Can you dig it?
Just say his name by itself, that’s how much I love Slick Rick.
I found an old mix tape with Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh doing “The Show.”
What? I want that. (We both laugh)
The show was about showmanship and you want to bring that back.
It’s missing. When music moves you, its strength is as much as it’s vulnerability. It’s a statement and they watch you bare witness to God. I regard music on a spiritual level as well. All these manmade fixations—I deny all of that. I want my freedom.
So you are saying that people get too wrapped up in the industry and it’s not fun anymore?
Right, it should be fun. It’s like the suits be saying fun don’t sell records or something. (We both laugh)
It sold records when I was a kid.
It sure did.
You’ll always have your Public Enemy and NWA, but on the other hand you have Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys.
Right! And these groups were so original and significant that you couldn’t mimic these guys. No one wanted to at the time. Everyone wanted to be a brick in the wall to make hip-hop the house of hip-hop stable and a hall. Everyone wanted originality. Today everyone is spoiled brats.
If you were a rich spoiled brat and could buy a sports team and run it what team would it be?
Man, I’m a sports highlight fan. (We both laugh) It’d have to be like a dream team, sort of like the Harlem Globetrotters with nothing but showmanship.
Who stole the soul?
I don’t know, but today’s music isn’t alive.
+ Charlie Craine