Seeing this album cover actually makes me a little teary-eyed. It came out when I was 11 and it was one of the first albums in CD form (I had cassettes and CD-singles for days) that I listened to over and over and over and over again.
Additionally, when this album came out 13 years ago, this was my formal introduction to the man known as Cee-Lo Green. (Yes, that’s him… top right).
This is now my 13th year with Cee-Lo Green being an important figure in my life. Fastforwarding to present-day, you have to understand that it’s wild seeing him perform on the Grammy’s.
Because of this, his off the wall discography, and his various groups (Goodie Mob, Dungeon Family, Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo Green) the remainder of this article is me stating my case for Cee-Lo Green as the most versatile hip-hop artist of all time.
Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
1994 – Outkast feat. Cee-Lo, Big Gipp – “Git Up, Git Out”
Cee-Lo verse: :36 – 1:56
As awesome as Cee-Lo is, he might have peaked 17 years ago. This is, hands down, Cee-Lo’s best verse ever, which happened to also be on one of Outkast’s best songs (top 5) and one of Outkast’s best albums (top 2). Also, note the length of this verse. No one these days hops on someone else’s song and does a 1:20 minute verse. So good.
I don’t recall, ever graduatin at all
Sometimes I feel I’m just a disappointment to y’all
Every day, I just lay around then I can’t be found
Always asked to give me some livin life like a bum
Times is rough, my auntie got enough problems of her own
Nigga, you supposed to be grown
I agree, I try to be the man I’m ‘posed to be
But negativity is all you seem to ever see
I admit, I’ve done some dumb shit
And I’m probably gon do some mo’
You shouldn’t hold that against me though (Why not?)
Why not? My music’s all that I got
But some time must be ingested for this to be manifested
I know you know but I’m gon say this to you I…
Get high but I don’t get too high
So what’s the limit ‘posed to be?
That must be why you can’t get your ass up out the bed before three
You need to git up, git out, cut that bullshit out
Ain’t you sick and tired of having to do without
And what up with all these questions?
As act as though you know somethin I don’t. Do you have any suggestions?
Cuz every job I get is cruel and demeanin
Sick of takin trash out and toilet bowl cleanin
But I’m also sick and tired of strugglin
I never ever thought I’d have resort to drug smugglin
Naw, that ain’t what I’m about
Cee-Lo is just continue travelin his route
Without any doubt or fear
I know the Lord ain’t brought me this far so he could drop me off here
Did I make myself clear?
When I first heard this verse in my preteen years… and then heard Andre’s, my life was forever a little different. Sounds slighty overdramatized, but nothing is more true.
1995 – Goodie Mob – “Cell Therapy”
Cee-Lo verse: 1:27 – 2:07
Goodie Mob’s first album was filled with social commentary on crime, the lives of young Blacks, racism, classism, and discrimination. This song was the high point of their classic album and Cee-Lo delivered the verse of the album.
Me and my family moved in our apartment complex
A gate with the serial code was put up next
The claim that this community is so drug free
But it don’t look that way to me cause I can see
The young bloods hanging out at the sto 24/7
Junkies looking got a hit of the blo it’s powerful
Oh you know what else they tryin to do
Make a curfew especially for me and you the traces of the new world order
Time is getting shorter if we don’t get prepared
People it’s gone be a slaughter
My mind won’t allow me to not be curious
My folk don’t understand so they don’t take it serious
But every now and then, I wonder
If the gate was put up to keep crime out or to keep our ass in.
I could honestly end the article here, but I’m going to keep going, just to hammer my point deep into the ground.
1998 – Goodie Mob –“They Don’t Dance No Mo'”
Cee-Lo Verse: 2:39 – 3:11
This is the song that turned me on to Cee-Lo (I was 8 when “Cell Therapy” came out and was still wearing my overalls backwards). His verse was one of the first I was determined to learn from beginning to end and it was to be followed by probably my favorite dance move ever (watch the video, if you don’t know). Cee-Lo’s verse:
Hee yea-eh. Ooh, uh, welll, my name is Suga Lo, and this is my trade
For years we been some playas, what more can I say?
Saturday night at my dance, threw on a few clothes
Hit Atlanta Live, and break a few rolls.
Get some dranks and stroll the hall, hold the walls
Just incase security can’t control the brawl
I still roll the ball, but I done got a little too old
To get all, sweaty dance round with y’all.
The funniest thing about this verse is that people often have know idea what Cee-Lo is saying, because of his country preacher delivery. Case in point, these lyrics I found:
My name is Suga Lo, and this is the day
For years we been some playas, what more can I say?
Saturday I even might dress, I wore my few clothes
Hit a little Live, and break of you broads.
Get some Hanks to stoll the halls, hold the walls
Just incase the kid Reddick can’t control the brawl
I still roll the ball, but I don’t, I don’t look too old to get off,
Way they dancing round with yall, so shh.
1998 – Outkast feat. Cee-Lo, Erykah Badu, Big Rube – “Liberation”
Cee-Lo verse: 2:02 – 3:16
On Aquemini and easily Outkast’s most serious song. 8 minutes and 48 seconds of nothing to smile about. Everyone on the song (especially Big Rube) brings their socially-conscious A-game and Cee-Lo goes off for over a minute, almost crying over the track with his verse more resembling a sermon than a rap.
No, no, no
I’m so tired, it’s been so long – struggling, hopelessly
Seven and forty days.. hey
Oh, I sacrifice every breath I breathe
To make you believe, I’d give my life away
Oh lord, I’m so tired, I’m so tired
My feet feel like I walked most of the road on my own
All on my own, wee..
We alive or we ain’t living, that’s why I’m giving until it’s gone
Cause I don’t wanna be alone (I don’t wanna be alone)
I don’t wanna be alone.. yeah
If there’s anything I can say, to help you find your way
Touch your soul, make it whole, the same for you and I..
There’s not a minute that goes by that I don’t believe
that you die.. but I can feel it in the wind
The beginning or the end
But people keep your head to the sky
Just listen to it. It’s beautiful. After hearing this, his transition from a “mostly rapper” to “mostly singer” should not be a surprise.
2001 – Dungeon Family – “Trans DF Express”
Cee-Lo verse: :30 – 1:00
Even In Darkness, the Dungeon Family (Goodie Mob/Outkast/a few others) album, came out two months into high school and it was the only thing anyone listened to for months. The first track, “Trans DF Express”, could not be weirder and more perfect. Having Cee-Lo and Andre 3000 on the same track is almost unfair to other songs. Not only are they just really good rappers, but they have a knack of delievering epic first verses and/or last verses. In Trans DF, Cee-Lo and 3000 went 1, 2 and the result is a classic song. Cee-Lo’s last 4 lines:
Now is the, time and place to in-vade the empty space
I’m a profectionist, I never pressure the pen space
But I wouldn’t be amazing without God’s Amazing Grace
I can travel outer space while standin in one place
2002 – Trick Daddy feat. Big Boi, Cee-Lo – “In Da Wind”
Cee-Lo verse: 1:40 – 2:25
I remember first hearing this song and assuming Cee-Lo was just singing the chorus on a Trick Daddy song. Then, about a minute and a half into it, Cee-Lo interrupts Trick Daddy, seemingly mid verse, and starts rapping his Southern face off. There are two lines from his verse that, to this day, I think about and giggle.
“Throw yo elbows, I’m slicker than I suppose.”
“‘Lo realer, a Go-Rilla, flow for mo’ Scrilla”
Such an underrated song. Throwing Big Boi on your song to finish it out isn’t a terrible move, either.
2004 – Cee-Lo Green feat. Timbaland – “I’ll Be Around”
That’s right, an accent
You see, I’m from the South
Where some of the most beautiful things come out my mouth.
That line, plus Timbaland’s insanely infectious beat, plus the fact that this was “Track 1” of every mix I made Junior Year of high school makes this a forever important song to me. Also, as soon as I heard this song for the first time, the wood block became my favorite musical instrument. That will never change.
2007 – Gnarls Barkley – “Transformer (Live @ Abbey Road)”
If anyone ever had any questions about the purity of Cee-Lo’s voice, you won’t after watching this video. In late 2006, after spending 60-80 weeks only listening to “Crazy”, I finally made it to the rest of the album. While there were a few songs that were actually better than “Crazy” (“Go-Go Gadget Gospel”, “St. Elsewhere”), “Transformer” was definitely not one. I mean, I’d listen to it, but it never got me like the rest of the album.
Then, a few months later, a friend sent me this live version from Abbey Road Studios and it skyrocketed to the top of my list. It’s haunting.
2008 – Gnarls Barkley – “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)”
This video is very high on the list of “videos I wish I were an extra in” in (“Country Grammar” – Nelly, “Fight the Power” – Public Enemy, “Kings and Queens” – 30 Seconds to Mars”). It’s almost as if Cee-Lo is on a solo mission to bring funk back to the forefront. I will support him with every fiber of my being.
And yes. That’s JT in the video. He’s such a boss.
2010 – Cee-Lo Green feat. Gwyneth Paltrow – “(___) You (2011 Grammys)”
After all of these videos, do you see why I said it’s ABSOLUTELY INSANE & ABSOLUTELY AWESOME to see Cee-Lo performing at the Grammy’s… With Gwyneth Paltrow. In 1995, he was talking about how he was “sick of taking trash out and toilet bowl cleaning.” Now he’s dressed up like Elton/Liberace while being serenaded by with the guy from Coldplay’s wife. Life is crazy.
Also, as soon as this performance was over, people started talking about how “soft” Cee-Lo had gotten, how he was a “sissy”, etc. Not to let a fellow Atlantan get hated on, all of his old friends came out in support. Probably the best comment was by Playboy Tre:
I hope my point has been successfully made. The type of career this guy has had is unparalleled and he still doesn’t get enough love.
Basically what I’m saying is, about 6-7 years ago, I think James Brown, Sly Stone, and Rick James had tapas somewhere, invited Cee-Lo to share in said tapas, and annointed him next in the lineage.
What I would give to have been a fly on the wall at that tapas dinner. I love all of them so much.
I also really like tapas.