When we mention the great southern emcees/rappers of all-time there are a hand full of names that come up. Mostly you hear Scarface, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Ludacris, T.I., Bun B, 8Ball, MJG, ect. As lyrical as Outkast has proven to be over the years it’s amazing that Cee-Lo seems to be overlooked in this category. Let’s start from the very beginning “Git Up, Git Out” an unknown emcee from Mays High School (who was yet to be a member of Goodie Mob at the time) came through with the best verse on the song “Git Up, Git Out”. Yes I said the best verse on the song. Even better than Andre 3000’s epic verse (although Big Gipp’s verse was vicious as well). In the way that Andre’s verse seemed to be the theme of “International Player’s Anthem” Cee-lo’s verse seemed to be the theme verse on “Git Up, Git Out”. It sounded as if everyone wrote their verses around his verse. This was introspective before Outkast really knew how to be introspective.
Git Up, Git Out:
“Ain’t you sick and tired of having to do without
Damn, what up with all these questions?
You act as though you know something I don’t
Do you have any suggestions?
Cause every job I get is cruel and demeaning
Sick of taking trash out and toilet bowl cleaning
But I’m also sick and tired of struggling
I never ever thought I’d to have resort to drug smuggling
Naw, that ain’t what I’m about
Cee-Lo will just continue traveling his route without any doubt
Or fear, I know the Lord ain’t brought me this far so he could drop me off here
Did I make myself clear?”
Let’s move to Goodie Mob’s critically acclaimed debut album “Soul Food”. Khujo Goodie really flexed his lyrical muscles on this album but Cee-lo was a force both lyrically and vocally. He was doing double duty in Goodie Mob like Lauryn was in The Fugees. Cee-lo gave us epic bars on “Thought Process”, “Cell Therapy”, “Sesame Street”, “Guess Who”, and who can forget that last verse on “Goodie Bag”?
“Sometimes I don’t even know how I’m gon’ eat
‘Bout twenty dollars away from being on the street
Shit, you might see a nigga on TV
But hell it’s almost like I’m rappin’ for free, that little money be gone
God dammit I’m grown
Gotta help keep the heat and lights on
It would be nice to have more but I kinda like bein’ poor
At least I know what my friends here for
I wanna lie to you sometimes, but I can’t
I wanna tell you that it’s all good, but it ain’t
It’s niggas hurtin’ and uncertain about
If they gon’ make it or not”
Cee-lo blessed us on “Guess Who” as well.
“My Moma, destination unknown, went out on her own
She was barely even grown and became my Moma
I never knew my dad, so even when the times got bad
I was glad cause I had my Moma
For so long she had to be strong
I know at certain times she was wrong
But she still my Moma, it still amazes me
The Lord had to help her raise me judging from the way I used to be”
The fact that Cee-lo didn’t spit a verse on Outkast’s sophomore album “ATLiens” was always puzzling to me. Could he have not gotten on “Mainstream”? Could he have not actually had a verse on “Wailin”. “Wailin” seemed like it was just waiting for a third verse. But to be fair that’s the only Kast album that Cee-lo didn’t give us an epic appearance. On Aquemini he gave us “Liberation”, on Stankonia he gave us “Slum Beautiful”, and on Speakerboxxx he gave us “Reset”.
“I awaken to sunlight that’s beyond bright
This day will be done right
There is a war, just waiting on the other side of the door
But I’ll be bringing God to the gunfight
Can’t live forever, so have some fun, right
Life’s a bowl of candy, you can have one, right
You can handle if tomorrow never come, right
You’ll get used to singin if only for one night”
Back to the Goodie Mob, the Mob comes with their sophomore effort “Still Standing” and Cee-lo with the rest of the Mob came with it. “Beautiful Skin” not only shows Cee-lo maturing as a vocalist but as an emcee as well. Cee-lo is a writer and bar for bar based on his content, lyrical ability, and vocabulary we would all be hard pressed to legit say that there are 5 southern emcees that are flatout word for word better than Cee-lo on the mic. On “Gutta Butta” from “Still Standing” Cee-lo showed off his storytelling ability telling the tale of an attempted car jacking that he was on the victim side of. Around that time Cee-lo gave DJ Muggs one of his strongest verses ever via the Goodie Mob song “Decisions Decisions” that appeared on DJ Muggs’ “Soul Assassins” album. This story Cee-lo told in this verse documented the rise and fall of a rapper signing to a record deal and is done so perfectly.
“Let your eyes close to what your contract shows
And fine print, they gotta get back every cent you spent
You content cuz, you do what everybody does
The industry that change you from the person you was
Knee-deep in the struggle
Two part-time jobs to juggle
Got a lady and a seed that you can’t hardly feed
Any day your life could end so you depend
On the reciting and the writing when you got the spare time to spend
To keep you stable, hopin one day you’ll be able
To be a commodity on somebody’s record label”
Lets skip to Cee-lo’s solo work from which he is known to be eccentric both sonically and visually. It’s impressive enough that he put in heavy work on The Dungeon Family group album “Even In Darkness” while simultaneously recording his debut album “Cee-lo Green And His Perfect Imperfections” but he was able to be a soul machine while dropping some heavy rap bars. Perfect Imperfections was a Funk/Soul piece that was critically acclaimed and well written and produced but Cee-lo gave us moments on that album that let us know that he was nicer as an emcee than he has ever been. “Big Ole Words (Damn)” is that moment.
Big Ole Words:
“I get off on an extension or compare comprehension
I’m in a classroom of my own, I’m too far gone for competition
Yet I’m never obnoxious with my obvious ambition
Perfectly imperfect is my dimension’s definition
I engage my pen pierces the page so that it bleeds my intention
With honorable mention of God’s divine intervention
I’m incredible I’m inevitable and there’s no possible prevention
I’ll hardly (have to) scream my dream and I’ll have your undivided attention”
And there is also that time Cee-lo dropped by Sway In The Morning to lyrically give us a history lesson with straight up BARS. As a result Cee-lo dropped one of the greatest verses ever in the history of Sway’s show history.
Is Cee-lo slept on as an emcee because of how talented he is in other forms of music? Is that fair to limit our Hip-Hop artist in that fashion? Truthfully speaking can you honestly say that there are 5 southern emcees that have better verses and better songs than ones we have presented here? Andre 3000 does not have one single song with three rap verses in his career and he is ranked high on many people’s all-time list so we can’t use the “Cee-lo doesn’t have solo rap work” excuse. Cee-lo has a song like “Big Ole Word (Damn)’ Andre does not. Cee-lo out rhymed Andre on “Git Up, Git Out” and came very close on “Thought Process”. As a fan of both I wish that we could have heard a song with just Cee-lo and Andre rapping straight up with no singing. But then again maybe I am limiting these two great artist as well.