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SXSW Interview: CeeLo Green

Freedom fighter, dungeon master, ‘Voice’
Thomas Fawcett, 8:15pm, Sat. Mar. 15
photo by Thomas Fawcett

“It’s been more than a job,” CeeLo said of his music career in conversation with NPR Music’s Frannie Kelley on Saturday morning. “It’s been such a civil service and a matter of of missionary work. It’s been an adventure.”

CeeLo has a way of drawing out certain syllables to make the mundane sound revelatory.

“It’s hard to write a song about reality because reality doesn’t rhyme.”

Fans that know the eccentric soul man from The Voice and Gnarls Barkley got a history lesson on the Dungeon Family, the early-Nineties collective of CeeLo’s Goodie Mob, Outkast, and other like-minded ATLiens. In an age when an Outkast reunion is international news, it’s easy to forget how marginalized Southern hip-hop was at the time.

“Us coming from Atlanta, it’s a city so rooted in those natural resources of social conscience and civil rights and the struggle for equality. I didn’t realize that on another front, we would be fighting for the civil rights of Southern hip-hop. So I considered us to be more activists than artists at that time.”

The crew recorded in “The Dungeon,” a grimy basement studio in the two-bedroom house of Organized Noize producer Rico Wade.

“It was a bomb shelter from the war outside. We were all escaping career crime by the skin of our teeth. Everybody was trying to make a legitimate break.”

The rotund Lady Killer has certainly done that, and he’ll continue the journey with forthcoming LP Girl Power.

“Women are our most miraculous muse, an enchanted intangibility that encourages all art. I’ve only taken a shower this morning because of a woman, I promise you.”

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