CeeLo Green is a singer-songwriter and rapper who began his career as a member of the underrated Atlanta rap band Goodie Mob and guested on several classic OutKast tracks. He went on to much greater success both as a solo artist and as the frontman of the duo Gnarls Barkley — a collaboration with producer Danger Mouse. He later became a coach on several seasons of The Voice. His last album came out in 2015, but since then he has put out several new songs, fuelling rumours of a new solo release in the near future.
From Goodie Mob to Guest Collaboration With OutKast
CeeLo Green was born Thomas DeCarlo Callaway in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 30, 1974. His earliest musical outings were in the church, as both of his parents were ministers. His father passed away when he was just two, while his mother died when he was 18 after being paralyzed in a car crash.
In the early 1990s, CeeLo and three others — Big Gipp, Khujo and T-Mo — started the hip-hop group Goodie Mob, releasing their first album, Soul Food, in 1995. Hip hop fans had been clamouring for more from them since their appearance on OutKast's debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, in 1994 on the tracks "Call of da Wild" and "Git Up, Git Out." CeeLo had also performed backing vocals on the TLC smash "Waterfalls." He both rapped and sang with Goodie Mob, a dual role that was seldom seen in the hip hop world at the time. Rolling Stone singled him out for praise: “The record offered a deeper, heartier hip hop sustenance in the form of soulful singing, particularly the contributions of raspy-voiced standout Cee-Lo.”
Sophomore album Still Standing came out in 1998, still relying heavily on the production of the Atlanta trio Organized Noize, before Goodie Mob switched labels to Arista for 1999’s World Party. At this point, CeeLo left the group to launch a solo career, claiming that there had been “some creative differences — not so much personal — and the creative differences made us lose sight of the things that once bonded us together.”
Solo Career Growing Pains, Gnarls Barkley 'Crazy' Hit
Next came Gnarls Barkley, a collaboration with Danger Mouse. The duo released their first album, St. Elsewhere, in 2006. Its first single, "Crazy," quickly became an international smash, debuting at No. 1 on the UK download chart, where it remained for 11 weeks. "Crazy" was also named Rolling Stone's No. 1 song of the decade, as well as the magazine's No. 100 song of all time.
'F*** You' Goes Viral
CeeLo has described the music of Gnarls Barkley as "electric industrial Euro soul." In 2008, Gnarls Barkley released a second album, The Odd Couple, which had a mixed reception — reviews were generally positive, but the album received far less commercial attention than its predecessor. Returning to solo mode, CeeLo released the single "F*** You" online on August 10, 2010. It became an instant hit, receiving more than 2 million hits in less than a week. "F*** You" — renamed "Forget You" for the mainstream — soon made its debut at No. 1 in the UK, and went on to garner five Grammy nominations. The album on which the song appeared, The Lady Killer, was released in November 2010.
Celebrity Judge on NBC's 'The Voice'
CeeLo went on to appear as a judge/coach on the reality television show The Voice, which debuted on NBC on April 26, 2011. He starred alongside Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. After three seasons, CeeLo announced he was taking a break from The Voice in 2012. "I'm going on hiatus," he explained on the Today show in December 2012. "I'm doing a Las Vegas residency next year." He was replaced for season four by the R&B singer-songwriter Usher, but he returned one last time for season five before leaving The Voice permanently.
Around that time, he released a holiday album called CeeLo's Magic Moment. The recording did well on the R&B and holiday-music charts. In 2013, he released a duet with Lauriana Mae called "Only You." CeeLo reunited with Goodie Mob for the album Age Against the Machine that same year. The group had released an album without him, the rather pointedly titled One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, in 2004.
'Heart Blanche' to 'The Good Life'
CeeLo’s 2015 album, Heart Blanche, which yielded average sales and critical indifference. Rolling Stone felt that the magic had gone, berated the album’s “pretentious tendencies” and concluded that “in an era where disco has found a second life all over the pop charts, Green’s throwback barely makes a thud.”
His career wasn’t helped by an accusation of sexual battery in 2012 that led to a drawn-out investigation that ended with him pleading no contest to supplying ecstasy. He sent a series of inflammatory tweets about rape at this time, which led to a fan backlash and may have contributed to the cancellation of his short-lived TBS reality show CeeLo Green’s The Good Life. He later apologized for the comments.
CeeLo has a son, Kingston (born in 2000), and two older stepdaughters, Sierra and Kalah, from his marriage to Christina Johnson, whom he divorced in 2005. He is also a grandfather to Sierra's son, who was born in 2010.
(Profile photo of CeeLo Green by Ben Rose/WireImage for NARAS)
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