Thursday, March 22, 2012

Will Cee Lo help Goodie Mob's mainstream appeal or hurt street cred?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 1:26 PM

There's been a lot going on with Cee Lo and the Mob as of late. One-half of Goodie (Cee Lo and Big Gipp) recently dropped by Sway's Shade 45 morning show to discuss the crew's progress with the forthcoming reunion album (video above). According to Lo, they've recorded about 10-15 tracks so far, but it's too early in the recording process to tell how many will be keepers. One new song, however, is on the fast track: The Mob has licensed the unreleased "Fight to Win" for use in a new NBA campaign. It's probably safe to assume Cee Lo's manager Michael "Blue" Williams and talent agency Primary Wave played major roles in hooking that up. Both have been pivotal in his mainstream takeover, recently securing his headlining Las Vegas residency, "CeeLo Green Presents LOBERACE," due to begin in August at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino's 1,400-seat showroom.

More of a spectacle than a show, CeeLo, the conductor/ringmaster “LOBERACE,” will take you on a ride through the colorful decades of music, stopping at legendary moments in time, from Prince to Blue Magic to The Rolling Stones, new wave to disco and beyond.

Cee Lo's commercial currency caused Jet magazine to question his status on the latest cover. "Crosssover or Sellout" read the headline next to a photo of him cheesing hard. ("Either way, he's paid," read the subhed. And he is, indeed. Last year, he took home a cool $20 mil.) The attention-grabbing headline was just a way to steer readers inside for a solid article that highlighted the details behind his industry come-up — including, but not limited to, 7-Up commercials, his celebrity coaching role on the Mark Burnett-produced TV talent show "The Voice," and his other Burnett vehicle "Cee Lo Takes the U.K." in which Goodie Mob's reunion will be documented under the guise of introducing the group to Cee Lo's otherwise unaware European fanbase.

All of which has me pondering how Goodie Mob will translate to a mainstream audience, and what might potentially be lost in the process.

The Mob's 1995 debut Soul Food remains a classic — the perfect blend of spirituality and street philosophy. But what truly made the album unique was its intense focus on Atlanta politricks, culture, even slang. Just listen to Big Gipp's verse on the album's opening song, "Thought Process." Within eight bars, he makes cryptic references to the Atlanta City Detention Center, former Councilman Buddy Fowlkes Hartsfield scandal, the city-enforced out-of-state busing of downtown's homeless that took place in the months leading up to the ’96 Olympics, them dirty Red Dogs, and former Governor Zell Miller's two-strikes sentencing law. It was locally-sourced rap at its rawest. That's what made Soul Food so essential; but it also may have hindered Goodie Mob from garnering the level of national embrace that OutKast's more accessible debut received when it was released the year before.

One thing I'm not worried about is Cee Lo's transition from soul-singing spectacle back to the streetwise MC we were introduced to in the early ’90s. The first voice heard on Soul Food is Cee Lo crooning a gospel song; and his 2002 solo debut was a wild ride of lyricism, headbanging, and Closet Freak-iness. He's always been three-times dope. Mix that with Khujo's gutter flow on narratives like "Fighting" and T-Mo's plain-spoken realness, and the return of Goodie Mob in the wake of Cee Lo's meteoric rise will be interesting to say the least. Whether hyper-local or international in scope, I'm willing to bet money that the message will be universal.

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