Part MC, capable of hanging with hip-hop�s elite rhyme-spitters without missing a beat, part Baptist minister, delivering the good news from the microphone that serves as his electronic pulpit, and part soul singer in the grand tradition of soul greats such as Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield, Cee-Lo is the epitome of a renaissance man as musician. At a time when most rap artists were content with �keeping it real,� Cee-Lo was one of the few brave artists who, in the immortal words of De La Soul�s Posdnuos, �kept it right.� According to the Atlanta native, using his music to help inspire and uplift humanity is something that he takes very seriously.
�I am compelled to be an addition to, and a part of the solution, and not part of the problem. You are just as much a part of the problem if you have an opinion about something and do not address issues, because it may not sell your records. It is more or less a moral obligation for me.�
Part of Cee-Lo�s moral obligation has a lot to do with his background. Born the son of ministers and reared in Atlanta�s Southwest (SWATS) area, he shared a home with his extended family of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and a great grandmother. Shawty low, as he is affectionately called by his family and friends, was exposed at an early age to the traditional ways of the family elders, who were devout Christians. Not only did he soak up their ways and their wisdom, but he was also exposed to their music, which at the time consisted of gospel. Like Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield and Sam Cooke, Cee-Lo spent a great deal of his formative years listening to the gospel Greats of his parents� day, (i.e. James Cleveland, the Clark Sisters, the Winans and Leon Patillo).
Later on, Cee-Lo came in contact with secular music and soon he was listening to a wide variety ranging from soul to rock. Cee-Lo says he listened to the likes of Parliament/Funkadelic, ConFunkShun, Billy Idol, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and Curtis Mayfield. Eventually his love of music brought him in contact with hip-hop during its early stages.
�My contact with hip-hop was somewhat inevitable because of my love of the arts. I initially wanted to be a [break] dancer and then I got into DJing. Naw, the first thing I wanted to do was art. I was a graffiti artist first. Then I moved into dance and then DJing and later on I got into MCing.�
Like most young MCs, Cee-Lo spent time honing his craft rhyming with various MCs around his neighborhood. Soon he had developed a reputation. It was Cee-Lo�s love for the art of rhyme that brought him in contact with future Dungeon Family members Andre Benjamin AKA Andre 3000 and Big Boi of OutKast. �We all went to school together,� recalls the Cee-Lo. �But I hadn�t seen Dre from OutKast since the third grade. We crossed each other�s paths in like the eleventh grade because we all had been removed from the public school system and placed in alternative school together. It turned out that he was rapping and MCing and I was doing the same thing so that was a bond for us.� His rhyming skills would also cause him to cross paths with T-Mo, Big Gipp and Khudjo, who were all in different groups prior to coming together under the Dungeon Family roof as the Goodie MOb.
In 1993 Cee-Lo joined the Dungeon Family and a little less than a year later, he exploded on the scene with a hot verse on OutKast�s hit single �Git Up, Git Out� from the group�s platinum debut LP, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. In addition to earning him The Source�s �Rhyme of the Month,� it sparked a fierce bidding war for the young MC that culminated in Rico Wade of Organized Noize and Dungeon Family fame putting him in the Goodie MOb.
When the Goodie MOb released their gold-selling debut album Soul Food in the spring of �96, it created a sensation in the hip-hop world. Cee-Lo�s dynamic lyrics along with silky smooth gospel tinged singing made him stand out and only hinted at the musical possibilities that lie ahead. Their subsequent albums, Still Standing and World Party also went gold and placed Cee-Lo in high demand for guest appearances. This demand led to high profile collaborations with Common, Lauryn Hill and Carlos Santana. All of this work with various artists eventually gave Cee-Lo the inspiration to step out on his own and record his solo debut entitled Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections.
�I wanted to establish a medium of artistic expression separate from Goodie MOb so that I may embark upon the complete thought of what I have been stabbing at for so long. I�m a full and complete artist. I produced this album in its entirety plus I�ve written, arranged and envisioned this album. It�s all me. I just want to be recognized as that caliber of artist who is a full and complete artist. I�m not just a rapper and I�m not just a singer. I am an artist and I do music.�
One listen to Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections will testify to that. Filled with production that is, to say the very least, exceptional, Cee-Lo breaths new life into the hip-hop genre by completely obliterating the lines between hip-hop, gospel, jazz, soul, rock, funk and R&B. Take for example the lead single �Closet Freak,� an earthy song with funky horns and a bubbling beat augmented by gospel chords that celebrates the liberating joy of human sensuality while, at the same time, encourages people to challenge conventional norms and express themselves. ��Closet Freak� is really about the feelings and emotions that are associated with sexuality. It�s about coloring outside the lines and not letting society tie you down with conventions. It�s about being free both physically and spiritually.�
On �Big Ole Words� and �MicroHard,� Cee-Lo drops what has to be some of his hottest verses. Filled with enough poetic devices to oblige even Rakim or KRS to take notice, the Southern-bred MC�s lyrics literally fly in the face of all those who wish to think that nobody can rhyme below the Mason-Dixon line. This is one hell of a record. Songs like �Live,� �Under Tha Influence� and �Awful Thing� expertly blend elements of rock, gospel and hip-hop into an aural funk stew that will rock the world of fans of all of these genres.
�Gettin� Grown� is an introspective record about coming of age and the responsibility that growing older entails. Taking a nod from the funky R&B of Sly Stone and Parliament, Cee-Lo�s production creates the perfect musical groove for his raspy tenor voices. Yet another standout track is the hauntingly smooth �Country Love,� which takes a banjo rift and symphonic strings and spins them into a wonderful ballad.
Filled with songs that celebrate, enlighten, inspire and just plain old sound good, Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections makes a clear and bold statement about the future of contemporary music. But, moreover, it makes a profound statement about the nature of humanity. Cee-Lo explains:
�Perfect imperfection is a somewhat sophisticated way of considering human nature. I believe that our physical make up is 180 degrees of positive energy and 180 degrees of negative energy, making it 360 degrees of human nature. And I believe that as much as they conflict they coincide. They coexist. It�s the supreme balance of our existence�the yin and the yang. It�s a fine line between the two, but one without the other is off balance.�