Cee-Lo Green has traveled a long, soulful road of Southern funk, rapping, singing, metamorphosis, marriage, and self-discovery. Originally in Goodie Mob, Cee-Lo was mainly known as the soulful bald-headed rapper who contributed incredible verses to songs like “Cell Therapy”, “They Don’t Dance No Mo”, and “Soul Food”. Even from the early days of Goodie Mob, Cee-Lo did do some singing. He sang the sad bluesy intro for the “Soul Food” album and sung many hooks for the group including “Beautiful Skin”, “Rebuilding”, “The Dip”, and more. His collaborations with Common were also loved. His sung hooks on “G.O.D. (Gaining Ones Definition)” and “A Song For Assata” were considered classics. A main member of The Dungeon Family (consisting of Goodie Mob, Outkast, Cool Breeze, Witchdoctor, Sleepy Brown, and more), Cee-Lo always stood out similar to the way Andre 3000 (of Outkast) did. Both of them sing and rhyme. Both of them are not scared to express themselves through flamboyant fashions. Both of them have romantic hearts. Cee-Lo became a happily married man and father and eventually left Goodie Mob after the disappointing “World Party” album. His debut album, “Cee-Lo Green & His Perfect Imperfections” was a classic LP with soulful Southern funk roots and the same wild, flamboyance of Parliament and Funkadellic. Songs like “Closet Freak”, “Getting Grown”, and “Bad Mutha” had thick, funky beats, deep lyrics, a strong dance-friendly quality, and soulful singing. Cee-Lo was being called the male version of Lauryn Hill. In 2004, Cee-Lo returns with his sophomore album, “Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine”. With production by Thomas Callaway (aka Cee-Lo?), Timbaland, Jazze Pha, Organized Noise, DJ Premier, and The Neptunes, “Soul Machine” is much more commercially accessible than his debut LP. Even though this album is much more radio friendly, Cee-Lo has lost none of his potency or his credibility. Guests include T.I., Pharrell Williams, Menta Malone, Big Rube, and a bunch of relative unknowns. Without a doubt, Cee-Lo is bringing soul back into hip-hop. He has found the balance between eccentric music and accessible music. While both singing and rhyming, Cee-Lo Green has made yet another amazing LP.
Many of the best songs on the album have a timeless quality that turns them into classic tracks. “Evening News” (produced by DJ Premier) is an atmospheric track that makes you feel the smoke rising up from the city streets and the waves of lights in the city skyline. Cee-Lo has created a theme for both the beauty and danger of the nighttime. For a track produced by DJ Premier (of Gangstarr fame), this is unlike any of his past production work. There aren’t any scratched hooks or hard-hitting boom-bap beats. Instead, there are finger snaps, a laid-back beat, and a well-executed sample of “Return From The Ashes (Theme)” by John Dankworth. Cee-Lo’s rhymes in the beginning fit the atmosphere of the track perfectly. In the hook, Cee-Lo whispers: “Give me the night!” Chazzle and Sir Cognac The Conversation add vocals too but this is Cee-Lo’s track. The first single, “The One” (produced by Jazze Pha) features Jazze Pha and T.I. on vocals. Although very commercial sounding compared to the songs on his last album, “The One” still satisfies. Cee-Lo rides the smooth, dance beat with grace and ease. In the hook, he sings: “…You the one girl/ You the one girl / Put your finger in the air if you the one, girl / Put your finger in the air if you the one…” T.I. contributes an interesting and energetic verse too. “Sometimes” is a much more of poetic track than an actual structured song. The smooth flute glides along and Cee-Lo recites his deep poetry with confidence: “…Sometimes a stranger can be your best friend / Sometimes being angry is the best mood / Sometimes seeing you feel good makes me feel even better / Sometimes hunger is the best food / Sometimes good just ain't good enough / And other times evil will get you even / Sometimes faith is not knowing any better / Sometimes nothing is what you believe in…” Cee-Lo even surprises himself and says “Woah!” after the verse. “Sometimes” is a track that shows Cee-Lo’s creativity and willingness to experiment. “Glockapella” is one Cee-Lo’s angriest tracks ever made. At first, it starts out as an a cappella track where he sings a male version of “Miss Celie’s Blues” from the film “The Color Purple”. The beat comes in and Cee-Lo rides it like a professional battle rapper. Cee-Lo rocks the mic: “…N*ggaz slow down around me, I make them superstitious / And one of my vices used to be wanting to look visually vicious /But instead I use my head and I fed n*ggaz something nutritious / But you will appreciate what a sacrifice this is / And I know you ambitious young men, you have my best wishes / Have a piece of this pain on a platter, it's one of my best dishes…” Cee-Lo ends the track with singing an interpolation of “We Want The Funk”. This aggressive aspect of Cee-Lo has not been heard since the first two Goodie Mob albums. This track reaffirms the idea that he is not a man to be messed with on the mic. The opening track, “Soul Machine” is a very short (under 2 minutes) and funky party-sarter. The female backing singers set the album up as Cee-Lo contributes one scorching verse:
“…Now I came here for you to love / It's computer love / I make them cut through the rug when I do the club / I can take some mental electric sex / Refuting love / But Gunplay will be graphic if I do the thug / The day to day experience / Is the data that I download /
And then re-master onto a rapture / Abracadabra before and after /
Over and over / Losing account of all the dreams that I sold ya /
But then I gave ya / At the speed of light trying to save ya / Then I go and now come back a row / Whoa / And oh I'm technique to God in a fashion but you can just call me Lo Go...” The 2nd single (with a video) is “I’ll Be Around” produced by Timbaland. Cee-Lo and Timbaland also have a strong natural chemistry. The thick, funky beat actually feels somewhat Neptunes influenced. As an emcee, Timbaland sounds completely different than usual on this track. Cee-Lo raps with confidence and ease as he starts the track out, “…How could I possibly be inconspicuous / When my flow is f*cking ridiculous / It’s quite an accent – see I’m from the south / and some of the most beautiful things come out my mouth…” even though the over-used word “Holla!” is also repeated in the background, it fits. On the hook, Timbaland and Cee-Lo sing, “When you want me to come / When you want me to come / I’ll be around…” Like “The One”, the track is radio friendly and somewhat simpler than past Cee-Lo tracks but his credibility is not tarnished. Another timeless track is “My Kind Of People” (produced by Thomas Callaway). The song sounds like it is perfect for family barbeques. It has that summertime deep south family get-together vibe mixed in romance. Cee-Lo is a family loving man and the love of his people is especially evident in this song. Other incredible tracks include “Die Trying”, “The Art Of Noise” produced by Neptunes and featuring Pharrell and the sad and poignant “When We Were Friends”, which could be interpreted to be about his fall out with Goodie Mob. (At this time of writing, Cee-Lo states that he is on good terms with him).
Romance plays a major part in Cee-Lo’s music and there are some beautifully romantic tracks that also have this timeless, classic quality. “Let’s Stay Together” (produced by Neptunes and featuring Pharrell on vocals) has the same vibe as the Al Green song but is not the same song at all. The smooth beat coasts along with the same 70’s soulful feel. Cee-Lo sings his heart out. Neptunes and Cee-Lo make a perfect combination. “All Day Love Affair” (produced by Traxx) is basically a tale about a romantic day where Cee-Lo sings to his lover. Starting out in the morning and ending in the evening, the track is a theme song for a day filled with precious moments.
While there are many party cuts on the album, there are some strong, deep cuts that are reminiscent of his last LP. “Living Again” asks the intense question: “Are you sure you are really living?” The hard-hitting “Scrap Metal” (produced by Organized Noise and featuring Big Rube and G-Rock) is another aggressive anthem in the same vein as “Glockapella”. The heavy guitar shows Cee-Lo’s love of rock music without abandoning hip-hop. Once again, Cee-Lo’s anger comes shining through like a juggernaut. The Organized Noise produced “Childz Play” (featuring Ludacris) has a child-like melody that fits both emcees well. The fun double-time Southern rhyme styles make both emcees flex their lyrical muscles but Cee-Lo (as usual) steals the show.
Cee-Lo is a magnificent entity in the music world. His creativity is limitless along with his love of soulful expression. Even though his debut album was a success and had some radio friendly tracks, “Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine” is his most commercially accessible product to date. Goodie Mob’s “World Party” tried to gain a bigger audience with sung hooks and a TLC collaboration but the LP failed. On his own, Cee-Lo succeeded in making an LP filled with radio friendly hits from popular top-notch producers (Timbaland & The Neptunes) while maintaining his credibility. Cee-Lo has not sold his soul. In fact, he is nurturing it. Though it was tight and timeless, his debut LP was much more schizophrenic. There were odd songs like “Super Chicken” and “Bass Head Jazz”, funked out tracks like “Bad Mutha” and “Closet Freak”, along with philosophic tales like “Young Man” and “Getting Grown”. In “Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine”, Cee-Lo has deep, philosophical tracks but they are mixed in with romantic songs, party songs, and 2 hardcore aggressive tracks. Both albums have similarities but strong differences too. They are truly separate entities which both need to be appreciated. Like Andre 3000, Cee-Lo experiments with themes and creating musical atmospheres and soundscapes. Unlike Andre 3000, Cee-Lo’s new album has different styles due to the different producers. Andre mainly produced “The Love Below” by himself. While it was diverse, “The Love Below” was generally all about relationships and different aspects and forms of love. “Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine” is overflowing with love too but there’s anger, fun, and need to live a full life. All of the collaborations work extremely well. “Evening News” (produced by DJ Premier) is a perfect example of how beautiful Cee-Lo’s creativity and how interesting a collaboration can be. “Evening News” is unlike anything Cee-Lo or DJ Premier has ever done. As collaborators, Cee-Lo and Premier bring new and different things out of each other. Even people who do not like emcees like Ludacris or T.I. can still truly enjoy the songs they are on. Without a doubt, “Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine” is his most commercial album to date but hardcore fans will not be disappointed at all. As an album, the replay value is extremely high there is not one song where you will reach for the skip button. There truly is something for everybody. Like his debut, Cee-Lo has truly put his heart soul into this LP. Each song has his intense emotion, well thought-out lyrics, and wild deliveries and flows. Like Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory”, Cee-Lo will not experience a sophomore slump. Cee-Lo Green is truly a soulful musical force and his second album is extremely close to being a timeless classic.