Twenty years ago in 1992-93, the city of Atlanta was primarily known in the music industry for R&B. Local legends LA Reid & Babyface (who’d helped put the city on the map in the first place) had formed LaFace records, which began to attempt a crossover from traditional urban contemporary music – into hip-hop. There were only 2 geographic points of interest at that time in hip-hop, and if you weren’t from NY or LA – good luck. LaFace had just dipped their toes with a group of women called TLC… once they exploded, and all of a sudden the search for the next big thing was underway.
One of the production groups behind TLC was called Organized Noize, who produced in a studio they liked to call “The Dungeon.” Their signature sound was deep fried, silky southern soul over hip hop drums – and revolutionized the game with live instrumentation. But instead of replaying and interpolating existing samples to get the sound perfect – like Dr. Dre did – they were creating original compositions. They also had a pair of talented MC’s who could rhyme for days, and were soon signed to LaFace as well. A group called Outkast… and all of a sudden the south was on the map in the world of hip-hop. Their debut album featured only “Dungeon Family Crew.”
Side note: Outkast was tapped to record a song for LaFace’s first Christmas album – and “Player’s Ball” was released. Llisten for the jingle bells in the background and Big Boi saying “It’s beginning to look a lot like ‘Wha?’/Follow my every step”.
Back in the in the day before you had to have an established star like Jay-Z or Rick Ross spit a 16 on your single in order to get buzz, the strength of your crew was what gave you credibility – not your ability to afford or engage a star to cosign you on Twitter. And Organized Noize is one talented crew.
The brightest of the “hidden-gems” who performed on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was another 18 year old kid from the ATL – who shocked everyone when they found out that he both sang the hook on one record AND spit the hottest verse on the 7 minute-long-critically-acclaimed-opus “Git Up, Git Out.” Nobody was surprised that the youngest member of the Goodie M.O.B (aka the “Good Die Mostly Over Bull$hit”) was the child of 2 ordained ministers – he rapped like a damn preacher!
“Shorty with that silky southern drawl” is known worldwide today as the singing sensation from Gnarls Barkley, the funky falsetto heir to Frankie Valli (I’d say Phillip Bailey but EWF is criminally under appreciated) who told his ex: “F&*K YOU” so eloquently. However, he was not always known for his flamboyant attire and prop-pets (or is it pet-props?). His creative genius was evident to anyone that bothered to look since day one – but some New York dudes didn’t like his “preachy” tone, and a lot of the LA rap fans couldn’t get behind all that “positive” mess. But everybody since day one agreed he had that VOICE.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times – before the white-hot stardom of NBC prime-time – when he was touring to support a couple solo albums that struggled to find an audience (in the purgatory of critically-acclaimed-but-impossible-to-categorize artists). I gotta tell you: he is one of the most humble, down to earth dudes in the universe. When my girl started turning “The Voice” on every Monday night, the only reason I gave it a shot was because I saw Cee-Lo up there. I knew he could give these wanna-be pop stars real advice, about what the road to success was truly paved with.
As his tenure in the red chair comes to a close tonight (well, probably over the next 3 nights if NBC stays true to form), and he is replaced by just another Black R&B singer next season (anyone know what label launched Usher’s career?) I thought it germane to remind those in the know – and initiate the folk who only know the cuddly Black guy from TV who dresses to impress and pets the pu$$y(cat) like Dr. Evil – to the true genius of Mr. Cee-Lo Green. He is also an absolutely ideal subject for this treatment for “5 Reasons”:
1) he is a father – and a stepfather as well
2) I actually have met him and know something about him personally – he performed onstage with my best friend when they shut down CBGB’s a few years back.
3) The Voice ends this week so I hope I can #hashtag the hell out of this, and shamelessly self promote to step up my Twitter game like this @Zaibatsu cat
4) he has always had the literal lyrical style of a preacher – so I don’t even have to break down his lyrics (particularly since my baby girl was up screaming from 9pm to 2am with tummy troubles)
5) he has a BANGIN’ Christmas album – if you haven’t given it a listen, go now
Git Up, Git Out Southerplayalisticadillacmuzic (Outkast, 1994)
“I know you know but I’m gon say this to you I/Get high but I don’t get too high/So what’s the limit ‘posed to be?/That must be why you can’t get your a$$ up out the bed before three/You need to git up, git out, cut that bull$hit out/Ain’t you sick and tired of having to do without?”
Thought Process Soul Food (Goodie MOB, 1995)
“You might see a ni??a on tv/But hell it’s almost like I’m rappin’ for free/That little money be gone… got dammit, I’m grown/Gotta help keep the heat and the lights on/It would be nice to have mo’/but I kinda like being po’/At least I know what my friends here fo’!”
Cell Therapy Soul Food (Goodie MOB, 1995)
“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?”
Fighting Soul Food (Goodie MOB, 1995)
“I guess that’s what I’m writing for to try to shed some light/But we been in the darkness for so long/don’t know right from wrong/Y’all scared to come near it/you ignore the voice in your head when you hear it…”
The World I Know (ft. Esthero) SLAM Motion Picture Soundtrack (Goodie MOB, Various Artists, 1996)
“This is how we’ve overcome the obstacles of oppression/overpowering where we from/You, suckers prepared the dream for me/And others tell like it is, while I/tell it how I would like it to be/And we don’t ration compassion, we give our own for y’all…”
Still Standing Still Standing (Goodie MOB, 1998)
“To dig deeper than the surface/whether I learn from your upcomings/or your downfalls we all have individual purpose…”
I Am Selling Soul Cee-Lo Green is… The Soul Machine (2004)
“Everything must go/for a small price you can have the heart of me/There is no part of me that can’t be calculated into a commodity/My musings amount to a milestone a million miles above monotony/And it’ll make you feel so good, it got to be God, it got to be/I paint prophecy, you know airbrush atrocity with philosophy/And people ask me am I gon’ preach one of these days/and I just tell ‘em ‘possibly’”
Sometimes Cee-Lo Green is… The Soul Machine (2004)
“Sometimes you fail trying/And sometimes happiness hurts worse/Sometimes people live dying/Sometimes it’s the last person that makes you first/Sometimes you’ll keep what you don’t want/And other times you’ll give away what you really need/Sometimes a rich man won’t have a dollar/And all a poor man has is greed…”
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a SOULFUL night. I’m rooting for the Michael McDonald sound-alike with the long hair & glasses!