CEE LO GREEN: A LITTLE BIT OF FUCK YOU DOESN’T FAZE HIM AT ALL

FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS

From juveniles to geriatrics, it seems virtually everyone has now heard CEE LO GREEN’S proudly profane smash single.

The catchy kiss off — it goes by the sanitized title FORGET YOU but in its original form begins with an entirely different F word — has been viewed over 25 million times on YouTube and was even performed by GWYNETH PALTROW in a recent episode of GLEE.

So of course, CEE LO’S youngest child — his 10 year old son KINGSTON — has heard the song too. The Atlanta crooner is absolutely fine with that.

“Everyone’s kind of in on the joke,” CEE LO said in an interview in Toronto this week.

“He knows that it’s tongue in cheek. I don’t think that’s the version that he listens to more often than the alternative, but I did let them hear the original song initially. And we all laughed about it.”

“I’ve got a very bright young man for a son. He’s going to be just fine. But I would like to be the one that’s honest with him before this harsh reality is going to become so unapologetic. So I want to be the one he learns the ropes from.”

On this day, CEE LO began a spate of interviews at 9 a.m., pretty much an ungodly hour by rock star standards.

Still, after he gobbled down a plate of turkey sausages and pancakes (“the most blueberriest pancakes I ever had,” he raved), CEE LO didn’t betray a hint of lethargy as he peered through a pair of sunglasses during an interview conducted on a glassed in rooftop patio at a posh Toronto hotel.

“Well, I’m a professional rock star,” noted CEE LO, conservatively clad in a sweater and jeans instead of the technicolour trappings he usually favours.

In fact, professional was, in some ways, the word of the day for him.

It’s also how he described his new album THE LADY KILLER, a genre
mashing melange of smooth soul, electric pomp, MOTOWN swagger, disco grooves and 50s rock & roll.

“For once in my life, I didn’t want people to take it so personal. I just kind of wanted to present a shiny, brand new piece of product – for once in my career. So it’s not like: ‘Yo, why are you pouring your guts out again? Oh my God.'”

Instead, CEE LO created a character: THE LADY KILLER is a suave slickster whose casual cool is borne from one too many heartbreaks.

Aside from the album’s headline grabbing lead single — which came out a few months back — the sparkling BRIGHT LIGHTS BIGGER CITY is a night
on the town showstopper while wrenching soul ballad OLD FASHIONED appropriately conjures sepia toned images of a bygone era.

“The (album’s) title kind of suggests what I wanted it to sound like sonically – and that’s a little elegance and edge all at the same time. It sounded like a Bond movie to me. I wanted to do this grand string orchestral approach, but still (with) these urban undertones. And make sure that it’s grooving.”

The singer first gained notoriety as one quarter of the influential dirty South hip hop group GOODIE MOB, his raspy singing and irregular flow arguably standing as the group’s signature.

The common wisdom then was that CEE LO probably wouldn’t ever achieve widespread popularity. He went solo with 2002’s CEE LO GREEN & HIS PERFECT IMPERFECTIONS. The record was as enthusiastically eccentric as one might have expected.

While the follow up, CEE LO GREEN…IS THE SOUL MACHINE, dialled down the willful iconoclasm by a couple notches, it still didn’t resonate with a wide audience.

So that made what happened next even stranger. Teaming up with producer Danger Mouse as GNARLS BARKLEY, CEE LO wrapped his elastic rasp around the infectious CRAZY, an instant neosoul classic — part crossover singalong, part minor key vamp — that quickly climbed the charts around the world.

The group went on to win a pair of GRAMMY AWARDS, doing so both in urban and alternative categories.

Suddenly, CEE LO didn’t seem so out of step with the mainstream.

“I’ve been considered ahead of my time on many occasions,” remarked the singer, who kept a grab bag of mini chocolate bars and other sugary treats nearby, occasionally offering the candy to the assembled music press.

“These last couple times, I’ve been able to be right on time. I think we’re all changing for the better,” he continued, referring to the pop music landscape.

“I don’t know if we have a choice any more.”

And he relishes the diversity of his core audience.

As a British born photographer snaps his photo, CEE LO tells him how he was influenced by the NEW ROMANTIC movement, adding that the first record he ever owned — bought for him by his sister — was the seven inch THE LOOK OF LOVE by the English new wave band ABC.

“I read a review of a show that we did as Gnarls Barkley and the journalist began by saying that the line at a Gnarls Barkley show resembles the line at the DMV,” he stated, clearly amused.

“It made a lot of sense because there were old people, young people, whole families — even with the dog sitting out there on the lawn. It’s weird. And I’m really thinking that, ‘OK, they’ve come to hear me sing some pretty psychedelic stuff.’ I had no idea that Gnarls Barkley would be as commercially celebrated as it was either.”

He points out that his latest smash single was even less likely to be a success, given its gleeful profanity.

“I thought it could get banned possibly or something. But no, it’s like: ‘Come one, come all!’ I love it because I love people. Like I was saying earlier, most of my music is, in my opinion, music for the people, by the people. There’s a very humane quality that I write about: the underdog, the working class hero.”

“I did not get into this business to show how different I was. I had felt different most of my adolescent life, so I got into it to show what we had in common.”

As a result, he feels his music is important — though he’s quick to deflate a moment of self seriousness with a deep belly laugh.

“There’s a part of me that feels like this is missionary work and that it must be done. And it feels more like duty than entertainment. And that’s probably the rock & roll that people hear from me.”

“I have to do it. I have kids.”

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