CeeLo Green deserves all his flowers because of his endless accomplishments that do not go unnoticed in the music game. Born and raised in Atlanta, the rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and entrepreneur is best known for his standout soul music, with timeless hits such as “Crazy” and “Fuck You” still hitting the spot ‘til this day.
Additionally, CeeLo is a proud member of legendary rap group Goodie Mob, whom recently celebrated the 25-year anniversary of their debut album Soul Food (released back in 1995), a body of work that would make a long-lasting impact on hip hop for generations to come. With their close relationship with Organized Noize, which includes working with Outkast on their most classic albums, CeeLo states, “Inside of the Dungeon Family and Organized Noize, it’s like a bomb shelter. We can’t be touched together.”
Fast forward to today, CeeLo displays his newfound love for D.C.’s go-go music scene, as evidenced in his newest single titled “Baby Don’t You Go-Go.” The record holds fans over until the release of his forthcoming solo album titled DCeelo — just one of his three projects he’s working on currently.
REVOLT caught up with CeeLo Green to discuss his new single, how he landed on D.C.’s go-go music scene, celebrating 25 years of Goodie Mob’s Soul Food, Black excellence, collaborating with Nipsey Hussle, and more! Read below.
You’ve got “Baby Don’t You Go-Go” out now. It’s such a vibe.
It is a vibe! It’s definitely a vibe. Thank you for giving me the platform to promote the product, I’m glad you’re feeling the vibe. I was impressed by go-go culture about a decade ago. It was about ‘04 when I put out a record for my second solo album, Cee-Lo Green... Is the Soul Machine produced by Timbaland, “I’ll Be Around.” D.C. embraced that record like a go-go record, but then again it makes sense because Timbaland’s from Virginia. Around that time, I was back and forth every other weekend throughout that year rocking with different go-go bands, backyard bands, junkyard bands. I got a chance to really get immersed by the culture and be embraced by it.
Do you think it’s interesting you’re from Atlanta — you’ve done all this legendary stuff with Goodie Mob, OutKast — and now you’re stepping into this new territory?
Yeah, it’s cool. I don’t think anybody would expect anything less from me. Not to say I did all that I could do, but I’ve got so much to prove in Atlanta meaning the sound is so influential. Atlanta influences everything, especially at the moment. We’re talking about 20-plus years at the top of the food chain, but I believe in groups and culture. I believe in community. D.C. is one of those communities where they’re committed to culture, to their sound, and to themselves. I want to root for the underdogs if you will. I like it. It’s like hood shit, go-go is backyard barbecue boogie-oogie-oogie. It feels really good. It feels really familiar. It feels like home, so I adopted D.C. as a second home. For the next few projects I’m doing, I want to adopt different alter egos and do certain other stuff.
Talk about your forthcoming project titled DCeeLo.
Isn’t that clever? That’s so clever. That came to me. This one’s going to come first, but I had already started working on two separate projects too, so three in total. I have one where I was doing Latin and reggaeton vibe for Miami because I live in Miami. I was calling that Lopa-Locka, which is a play on Opa-Locka, an area in Miami. So CeeLopa-Locka, but then I want to get on some old-school, 80s golden era hip hop, east coast, New York, Bronx shit. I’ve got a project I was calling Lodega, like a bodega. I’m open all night, I’ve got whatever you want. I might as well shamelessly plug everything I’m going to be doing for the next few months, all over until the new year.
The vibe of “Baby Don’t You Go-Go” is so genuine. What was the studio session like when you made it?
It went through a metamorphosis, that song’s about several years old. The original concept was brought to me by Ray Murray, he’s one-third of Organized Noize. ONP, our original elder statesmen production crew/troop that produced all of the earlier Goodie Mob, the recent Goodie Mob album Survival Kit, and all the first classic OutKast stuff. We were messing around and he was going through some beats, I said, “I like that for some other occasion, just give it to me.” That sounds unique. That sounds odd and peculiar.”
That stuff speaks to me, so I took it and I gave it context. Before it reminded me of go-go, to me it reminded me of what I call boogie woogie, Black Renaissance music. Early 60s, like Little Richard. I don’t mind giving away what I reference from so people can be educated and updated, referencing iconic names like Little Richard. It’s really a play off of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.”
Are you excited to perform these records?
I’ve been performing it live the last couple of months. I did it twice, once in Virginia and once in D.C., and some real live go-gos with Rare Essence who’s featured on the record. Y’all check out Rare Essence. I’ve been working it into the set, to get people familiar with it. Now we need platforms like you and yours to support the record, direct traffic, shine some light on it so people can hear it. I definitely want people to know that’s the tip of the iceberg, there’s definitely more where that comes from. The entire project DCeelo is a complete thought. It’s a whole vibe, I swear to God.
You guys are celebrating 25 years of releasing Goodie Mob’s Soul Food. How pivotal was that album for hip hop?
It’s definitely an honor to have endured all these years — to still be relevant, to still be respected, to still be ready, willing, and able. We struck a chord. Last year’s pandemic was a call to arms. It created that tension that makes great music. Especially at a time like that, that’s when you really truly realize what your purpose is. Yo, I’m an essential worker. People need music to get through, then you want to be invaluable. You want to be immortal in that moment. When you think of survival, you think of how can I be a part of somebody’s life? How can I be a part of someone’s sustainability? That’s what it was about.
What’s your favorite feature you’ve done with OutKast?
It’s gotta be by default, the way I came in. I was introduced with OutKast on “Git Up, Git Out” off their 1994 debut, breakout, classic, five-mic-deserving album, southernplaylisticadillacmuzik. I was featured on that, then I’ve got “Liberation” with OutKast. I’ve got “In Due Time.” Everything you do with family is a good thing.
Do you have a fond memory from a studio session that you haven’t told before?
For all you old heads out there, you’ll remember a movie called Krush Groove. It was depicting Russell Simmons’ and Rick Rubins’ rise, how they started an indie record label that turned into Def Jam Records out of a dorm room. It featured all the greats at that time: Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC, New Edition was in that movie. Rest in peace to Prince Markie Dee, he was a friend of mine. There’s a scene in the beginning of the movie where they quit their job at the carwash and snatch off their little carwash suits. They all got on adidas suits with big ropes under there. I love that scene.
How that song was done: Me and my cousin were working at the airport and we heard “Player’s Ball” on the radio, over the intercom system while we’re having lunch. I said, “Oh shit!” So we quit the job, we left and went out to the studio. Rico Wade, one-third of Organized Noize was working on a beat. It ended up being the beat to “Git Up, Git Out.” My cousin’s a pretty outspoken guy, he asked him, “Yo, when you gonna let cuz get on a song?” He said, “I’m trying to find the right song for everybody.” When he’s making the beat, something told me to get into his ear and I started to rap the hook and verse to “Git Up, Git Out.” I don’t know what made me do it, I just did it.
Every time I recall it, wow what made me do that song? It’s like magic, fate. I ended up recording that song later that night. Now it’s Stankonia Studios, but at that time it was owned by Bobby Brown called Bosstown Studio. I remember asking Big Gipp in the lounge, “Yo man, this song belongs to me and my dude.” Shout out to Popeye wherever he is, my bro Tyrus McCoy, we were in a group called Atlantis at the time. “Git Up, Git Out” was one of our song ideas, but I lent it to the situation because it’s only right. I said, “Yo man, what am I going to do? This song belongs elsewhere.” He said, “Do your best, this isn’t going to be your last song.” I said, “Alright.” I went in there and got in the booth, did an entirely different verse. I remember them saying, “Oh yeah, we like that verse too, but what’s up with the verse from earlier today?” Click. Everybody does stuff in one take because we were recording to two-inch reels at that time. You couldn’t punch in, there was nothing you could do. You had to rewind the tape all the way back, so I did “Git Up, Git Out” in one take. What you hear is what you get.
I know you have these endless hits, but the “Fuck You” record, did you anticipate that to become what it was?
No, you don’t really anticipate that. Sometimes, it’s the songs you least expect [that] are the ones that end up working. A song called “Fuck You” you wouldn’t expect it to be a commercial radio record because of the profane nature of the title and everything the song suggests. I had no idea, but at the time, I was at odds with my label. I only made that record because I thought that it was ridiculous enough for them to drop me. I wrote that record with Bruno Mars.
What is Black excellence to you?
Black excellence is becoming brighter than Black, bigger than Black. Excellence is iridescent, it’s a harmony of different hues. Black can encompass all things, it can be everything and nothing at all. To be able to define Black in that context, it’s as vast as outer space. The idea of being able to embody something Black, to embody the universe inside yourself — not only to retain it for yourself but to reiterate it to others — is Black excellence.
You reached every corner of the game. How does that make you feel?
That’s dope because sometimes it’s very easy to put yourself into a corner. For me to make quantum leaps and land on my feet, to be able to float and levitate as I create, think and speak colorfully and inspire others to be individuals — not inspire them to be followers of me, but inspire them to lead their own charge — that’s what I wanted. That’s what I was intentional about, that’s what I was deliberate about. I’m not lucky. I’m very, very cognizant of what I’ve been able to do.
How was it collaborating with Nipsey on “Loaded Bases”?
Man, rest in peace to Neighborhood Nip. He’s immortal in real time, but also in retrospect because a lot of the work he’s shown and proven, he had already planted the seeds unbeknownst to the average listener or consumer. We weren’t necessarily aware of Nipsey, not everyone was. Not even me. I didn’t know he was so articulate, so supremely intelligent and well-spoken. And consistent and committed, he’s such a great person. A great human being, but no man is insoluble.
He represented the best balance he could possibly acquire in his lifetime, we should all be inspired by that. None of us are going to be saints. Who the fuck wants to be a saint? I don’t. Working with him was amazing, and even more so as I reflect. In the moment you’re doing what you do, you’re doing something casual. We knew each other, I was invited on board to aid and assist. That’s what writing a hook for somebody is. You’re supposed to be summarizing what the verses are saying. This is the bottomline, this is the ultimatum. This is the paraphrasing of the song. I heard him mention me in an interview saying he liked my perspective on marrying the analogy of baseball to what he was saying.
What can we expect next?
Expect the unexpected. Look to be surprised. Live dangerously. Have an adventure.