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Cee-Lo

Thursday, September 30; the Ambassador

Cee-Lo Green's freakadelic solo debut may have established him as a latter-day George Clinton, but he still has the common sense he was born with. A line from Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine summarizes his new philosophy: "You're most likely to go broke if you can't bend." That's why fellow Southerners Timbaland and Jazze Pha showed up to streamline the former Goodie Mobster's swampy, meandering grooves; channeling Clinton may send critics into ecstasy, but no successful urban artist these days can thumb his nose at the singles charts indefinitely.

But while they successfully shoehorned Cee-Lo's gravelly gospel wail and rapid-fire raps into templates like "I'll Be Around" and "The One," even hip-hop's finest producers can't stop Cee-Lo -- they can contain him in the clubs only for a while. And when he breaks out of the commercial dungeon, the real party resumes. In fact, his alternating R&B homages and boundary-stretching rarely miss, whether he's crooning a Muscle Shoals ballad about having a "Blockbuster Night" and a morning cuddle or screaming the scarifying chorus of "Scrap Metal" -- "Almost instantly/I could say fuck it all!" -- atop stabbing, heavy-metal horns. He's got the goods -- just ask him. "Sometimes I don't think people know I'm as good as I really am," he growls.

 
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