Ever since he was in the Atlanta quartet Goodie Mob, Cee-Lo has considered himself more than just a rapper. He was a crooner, a bandleader, a musician, a veritable factory of musical styles. He lays claim to that sentiment with the title of his second solo album, Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine, due January 16.
On the first single, the Timbaland-produced "I'll Be Around," Cee-Lo raps with a preacher's cadence over brassy horn stabs and dribbling hand drums, rhyming about, well, just being around and living in the South. Like the single, Soul Machine will move away from the falsetto singing style Cee-Lo employed on his 2001 debut, Cee-Lo Green and his Perfect Imperfections, and more toward the fluid raps he first forged with Goodie Mob.
"The first album was just a mark of individualism, to assure people that there's only one Cee-Lo on the face of this earth," the rapper said. "I don't have a point to prove with this album. I just wanted to say, 'Yeah, I'm different, but I can play ball too.' It was more of an attack."
Cee-Lo is throwing a changeup on the musical side too. Previously, he made his own beats or directed local live musicians. On Soul Machine, he works with a bevy of outside producers for the first time. The Neptunes produced two songs, "Passion Fruit" and "Let's Stay Together," the latter of which isn't a cover of the Al Green classic. "I just used the title, but it has an old soul feel," Cee-Lo explained.
He also spent time in the studio with Jazze Pha, DJ Premier and Atlanta's Organized Noize, who helmed all the Goodie Mob records. Ludacris makes a guest appearance on the song "Child's Play."
As for the album's title, Cee-Lo said, "I mean it in the literal sense. What I do, I consider to be soul music. If you hear a little gospel, a little jazz, a little rock, a little rhythm and blues, it's because of my soul. But Soul Machine also means my efficiency to do so. You can't have too much mind without the heart, and vice versa."
Fans hoping for a Goodie Mob reunion shouldn't hold their breath. There still seems to be bad blood amongst the once brotherly crew. "We haven't spoken in a while," Cee-Lo admitted. "I don't understand why some people had to air our dirty laundry and make a spectacle of [the breakup]."
Cee-Lo is, however, compiling songs for a Goodie Mob greatest-hits album that'll look back at their three albums, B-sides and soundtrack songs. One previously unreleased track, "Solitude Sunshine," will also be included in the set, due February 3, according to Arista Records.