The Lady Killer (released Nov. 9. 2010)
These rappers ought to be shame of they d*** selves, I'm talkin bout the mc' s rappin over this pop techno. I believe in pimpin the system but got D*MN! not like this
Erykah Badu, on her Twitter last month, disgusted with pop/techno's infiltration of rap.
Amen, lady. Go ahead and add R&B to the mix too. When R&B's last remaining stalwarts like Usher have to sing over techno beats to remain on the charts, you know the genre is in trouble.
Who would have ever thought that Cee-Lo Green would be the saviour of soul music?
Cee-Lo may be better known these days for his stint in the genre-bending group Gnarls Barkley but us ol' timers remember him as part of the Goodie Mob collective from way back in the mid 90s, trading raps with Outkast. The wifey is a pretty big Gnarls Barkley fan and I've heard both their albums, but my mind always tended to separate crazy singing Gnarls Barkley Cee-Lo from Southern rap slangin' Cee-Lo. I longed for his return to rap. Until now.
The hook? Cee-Lo's infectious, foul-mouthed single "F*** You" - or, "Forget You," for the squeamish, only-buy-CDs-from-Walmart types. Cee-Lo's tale of losing his heartless lady to a richer man really isn't as mean-spirited as it seems. The writing is absolutely hilarious (especially when he breaks down and cries during the bridge) and the uptempo, retro beat infuses the song with more fun than fury. Heartbreak never sounded so good.
That's just an appetizer. Cee-Lo's new album, The Lady Killer, is pure soul food.
Cee-Lo has dabbled in funk since way back in 2001 with his single "Closet Freak." But somewhere along the way, he has been possessed by the ghost of Curits Mayfield. "It's OK" plays out like a sequel to "F*** You" - Cee-Lo is still a bit smitten with his evil ex, but not as down in the dumps as before. And how can he be on a cut this catchy? "Bright Lights Bigger City" is just as infectious -the "Billie Jean"-sounding baseline will even get your mama's toe tapping.
That's the great thing about this album - Cee-Lo has managed to reach back into time, yet remain fresh and current. "Satisfied" is full of that old soul sound from the glory days of Motown - a sound you'll only hear these days while watching movies like Ray and Dreamgirls. "Fool For You" sees Cee-Lo in tune with the elements, so to speak - he teams with Philip Bailey and stays true to the Earth Wind and Fire sound.
Many of his lyrics even boast the sincerity of an era long past. On "I Want You," Cee-Lo offers to run away with his new love, sounding way more sincere that his peers. "I'll even quit my job/Loving you, I'll even make IT my job" - you don't hear Lloyd and Trey Songz saying stuff like that.
None of this would work if Cee-Lo couldn't back up these tracks with strong vocals. No worries there. And I'm not talking about those Andre 3000/Mos Def "so bad it's good vocals." This guy's voice is absolutely amazing. Sure, he can hold a note on a Gnarls Barkley track like "Crazy" but listen to him blow on "Wildflower," "No One's Gonna Love You" and "Bodies" - he nails it every time, sounding equally unhinged and fully in control every time.
Fans of today's urban R&B likely will not be very impressed with The Lady Killer. No auto-tune, no guest rappers, no one yelling AYE! in the choruses. Even 90s-era R&B fans might scratch their heads. This collection is purely old-school, funky 70s soul with a 21st century twist. For old-school R&B fans turned off by the crassness of"F*** You," don't be distracted by that anomaly. This album is for you.
I often questioned Cee-Lo's decision to leave rap behind. And while I still miss Goodie Mob's glory days, it's a fair trade to witness the resurrection of R&B.
Best tracks: "F*** You," "Bodies," "I Want You"
4 stars out of 5