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Cee-lo is in a world of his own

Kenyatta Storin | Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Cee-lo’s solo debut, Cee-lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, was unlike anything Cee-lo had ever done as a member of popular Southern rap group, Goodie Mob. A free spirit of sorts, he attempted to branch out and create his own definitive form of neo-soul and hip-hop. But despite his creativity and the success of the single, “Closet Freak,” the album was regarded as too weird and eccentric, and failed to garner much commercial success. This time around in Cee-lo Green is the Soul Machine, Cee-lo makes several noticeable changes. By garnering the support of big name producers and including catchy pop hooks, he makes his sophomore album much more radio-friendly and accessible. But this is not to say that Cee-lo has sold out. He maintains his free-spirited style of neo-soul and hip-hop, and does not let these changes curb his creative and charismatic sound. After all, trying to stick Cee-lo Green is the Soul Machine in one specific genre is next to impossible. He dabbles in soul, R&B and hip-hop, and even throws some spoken word, funk and jazz into the melting pot. One of the biggest strengths of the album is its excellent production, and despite having a number of different guest producers on board, the songs flow together well. Cee-lo has an all-star cast of producers, most notably The Neptunes, Timbaland, Organized Noise and DJ Premier. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the production is that Cee-lo himself produced about half the album, and managed to match the caliber of his veteran guests.Virtually every song is worth listening to on the album, as there is thankfully no filler or skits (aside from the intro and outro) that disrupt its flow. Cee-lo likes to play the role of the lover man, like on the highlights “All Day Love Affair” and “My Kind of People.” On other tracks, like “The Art of Noise” and the singles “I’ll Be Around,” featuring Timbaland, and “The One,” featuring Jazze Pha and T.I., Cee-lo has a general feel-good sound and gives a good taste of his charismatic personality. These tracks are particularly radio-friendly, but without being too mundane and pop-sounding. Other highlights include “Childz Play,” a fun rap with Ludacris backed by a circus-esque beat by Organized Noise, and “Evening News,” which uses a mellow beat by DJ Premier. The only real missteps on the album are Cee-lo’s spoken word tracks (“Sometimes” and “I Am Selling Soul”) and his diss track “Glockapella.” Cee-lo’s spoken word cuts are introspective, but simply lack replay value despite the backing of quality beats. They sound more like long interludes than full-fledged songs. “Glockapella” consists of a flurry of insults that are probably directed at Cee-lo’s ex-Goodie Mob partners (the break up did not go well), but it simply falls flat with Cee-lo’s carefree, easy-going style and exposes some of the weaknesses of his flow.There are better rappers out there than Cee-lo, but his musical vision and soulful singing are what make him unique. Cee-lo Green is the Soul Machine is as original an album as they come. In many ways, Cee-lo is like fellow southern rappers Outkast, in that each of them have taken the Dirty South and twisted and warped it into whatever musical montages their creative minds can think of. The year is still young, but even so, Cee-lo Green is the Soul Machine is the best hip-hop album to come out this year next to Kanye West’s The College Dropout. Get it and hear what the soul machine can do.

Contact Kenyatta Storin at kstorin@nd.edu