CeeLo Green, Ottie James, Indyah Rashaud
Saturday, March 5, with doors at 7:30 p.m.
Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St.,www.soulkitchenmobile.com
Tickets: $27 advance/$30 day of show/$50 riser, available at Soul Kitchen, its website, Mellow Mushroom (both locations) or by calling 1-866-468-7630
CeeLo Green is coming to the Azalea City with a musical tidal wave that refuses to be labeled. Last week “Jimmy Kimmel Live” gave Mobile (and the rest of the world) the chance to preview the vibe that Green will bring to the Soul Kitchen stage on his “Love Train Tour.”
Known for its live mash-ups, Kimmel’s late-night talk show featured “KCeeLo & the Sunshine Band,” which brought together two musical innovators from different eras. Green and Harry “K.C.” Casey expertly mingled their respective hits “Bright Lights, Bigger City” and “Get Down Tonight” as the crowd moved and grooved to the beat. Green recalled it as a combined musical power of two artists who have created their permanent places in music history. “It was wonderful,” Green said. “It was an honor to perform with such an iconic individual. We all love the music. It was just more history made.”
From his solo work to his Gnarls Barkley project with Danger Mouse, Green’s career has evolved. While he admits the projects many have grown to love have always been within him, Green’s music currently exists in a world that is quite different from his hip-hop beginnings, but those were different times.
His breakout role in Atlanta’s Goodie Mob provided him with an emotional escape from the sorrow and stress coming with the passing of his mother. Along with being a constructive distraction, Goodie Mob also provided Green with a structured life he describes as “a discipline that we all subjected ourselves to and sacrificed ourselves for.”
In a time when “Dirty South” hip-hop was taking shape, Goodie Mob made albums and career moves that brought the spotlight to Southern hip-hop, which had been overshadowed by the seemingly exclusive popularity of East Coast and West Coast rappers.
“The civil rights of Southern hip-hop was more of an issue,” Green recalled. “It was more of a political front that we needed to go forth on behalf of, and we did. We possessed the wisdom and the consistency and the creativity with which to convey it. We possessed those things collectively.”
Eventually Green’s solo efforts begged for release. He longed to create something that “blurred the lines that divided a genre from others.” In 2002 he released “CeeLo Green & His Perfect Imperfections.” Aurally and aesthetically, Green had undergone a creative metamorphosis. The album heralded his artistic rebirth, and the single “Closet Freak” was his “proclamation.”
With its message of sexual liberation, “Closet Freak” was accompanied by a psychedelic music video that presented the track as a revival of a style and look reminiscent of Parliament. Even though it was a departure from Goodie Mob, Green was not aware of how different his new material was. His new compositions had always been there. Only after reflecting on the album some time later did Green realize he had gone “zero to 60.”
“I didn’t realize it, because it was such a second nature for me. Not to mention I just happened to be a dynamic person in terms of the zodiac. I’m a Gemini, so I’m pretty both sides of the brain on a daily basis.”
Four albums later, Green’s latest is “Heart Blanche,” an album celebrating of all aspects his philosophy. With a strong emotional foundation, Green focuses on his affinity for music as well as his need to be musically innovative, which is definitely seen throughout the album. As “Heart Blanche” progresses, the vibe is constantly changing.
Listeners are given a disco-fueled intro to the album before plunging into hit after hit of pop, soul, funk, dance or a combination of all. For some of the album’s composition, Green brought in a team of songwriters with whom he combined his musical skills. According to Green, this is a system he has used for his past two albums.
“We had different writing sessions,” Green said. “I did writing retreats. We went to the Bahamas and Palm Springs and Vegas. We would get into a house of creative people and brainstorm ideas around.”
“Mother May I” is one of the album’s standout tracks. This song is a mesmerizing conglomeration of electric beats, soulful vocals and poignant lyrics. For this track, Green matched wits with producer Mark Ronson, who is still enjoying his successful collaboration with Bruno Mars. Green and Ronson met and bonded over the producer’s work with Jimmy Fallon on his comic song “Idiot Boyfriend,” which is a favorite of Green’s. This bond led to thier work together on “Heart Blanche.”
“We did about four or five songs,” Green explained. ‘Mother May I’ ended up being the stand-out of the ones that we did. We also did a song called ‘Casual Sex’ and some other cool little songs that may still end up seeing the light of day.”
Green’s Love Train Tour promises to bring samples from his entire career. This run of live performances has been scheduled exclusively in the South. Green considers this tour a homecoming of sorts, “an up-close, personal opportunity to have that be translated in the most immediate way.”
As the Love Train travels, Green is also busy making future plans, which include the next effort from his Gnarls Barkley project. Green revealed to Lagniappe that he and Danger Mouse had “talked recently” about their next album. While Gnarls Barkley has unreleased tracks in the can that may become part of their next effort, Green admits entering the studio with Danger Mouse is always a surprise, musically speaking.
“When people acknowledge me as a pacemaker and an innovator, I take it as a call of duty, and I wear it as a badge of honor,” Green said. “It’s what I want to do. I feel like I’m contributing not only for myself but for the sake of everyone. It should be something for people to springboard off of and take them higher. I thought that’s what we’re all supposed to be doing as a community … encouraging each other and challenging each other to give the best product and best examples that we can give.”