I’ve been listening to a lot of rap/hip-hop, and r&b/soul over the past six months. There are two things I hold responsible for this. Firstly, I credit this in large part to the fact that I’ve been subjected to the radio more often. Secondly, when a relationship I was in ended back in January, I found myself listening to a lot of soul, which reminded me how much I really love soul. Thus, I started reading Soul Sides religiously, which has only made me love soul even more.
I credit the recent soul infusion for part of the reason why it’s no secret to those who know me that I’m pretty much obsessed with Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere. Since it came out months ago and has been getting so much press — and I’m sincerely hoping you’ve heard it by now — I’m not going to bother writing about it. (Though, if you’re wondering, my favorite track is “Who Cares?” (download).) However, I am going to take a little time to write about one of the men behind the musical colalboration that I love so much: Cee-Lo Green.
My in-depth listening to Gnarls Barkley and other projects of his has made me realize that Cee-Lo Green, aka Thomas Callaway, is one of the most talented men in music right now. Not only does he have a voice that lends itself to everything from dirty rap hooks to smooth soul ballads, but he’s got an attitude that shows that he clearly loves what he’s doing, which makes me love what he’s doing, too. What is he doing, exactly? Writing and appearing on some of the best and most exciting rap/hip-hop/r&b/soul (and so much more) tracks that are out there today.

Jazze Pha & Cee-Lo Green: “Happy Hour” (download)
This song is exemplary of one of the most fundamental things I love about Cee-Lo: he’s fun. Now, I love a good, strong, emotional or politically motivated song as much as anything else. But listening to music like that non-stop can really wear a person down, much like working or worrying non-stop can. Sometimes we need to let ourselves loose… and have a few drinks.

Esthero: “Gone (Feat. Cee-Lo Green)” (download)
Another thing I love about Cee-Lo? He’s soulful. How many rappers or hip-hop artists can you think of today that can pull off an appearance on a ballad? His presence on this slow, mournful Esthero track sounds completely natural, and takes what would have otherwise been a rather mediocre song and makes it infinately more interesting.

Trick Daddy: “Sugar (Gimme Some, Feat. Ludacris & Cee-Lo)” (download)
Talking Heads: “Sugar On My Tongue” (download)
In all honesty, I’m not that familiar with Cee-Lo’s rap career. I’ve heard nothing by Goodie Mob, and have only heard a handful of his appearances on tracks by other artists. Considering that this track is built off of the stellar Talking Heads tune, it didn’t really need Cee-Lo to make it better. This probably would’ve been an awesome track even if he wasn’t on it. But he is, and it still benefits from his presence.

The Heart Attack: “Gangsta Boogie” (download)
The Heart Attack: “Right Now” (download)
I’ve heard a limited amount of Cee-Lo’s solo explorations (most of Soul Machine, but not much from Perfect Imperfections), but from all that I’ve heard by this man over the past few months, evidence seems to point towards the fact that his collaborations turn out to be his best work. Various sources say Mr. Green is currently working on a project with Jack Splash called the Heart Attack. I found these tracks courtesy of the always wonderful Gorilla vs. Bear, but they were supposedly realeased as a bonus EP with some of the Gnarls Barkley CDs when it first came out. In some ways, these songs are similar to the Gnarls Barkley endeavor — but they’re a bit more poppy and danceable than most of St. Elsewhere, which means that soon enough, Cee-Lo will most likely have just another hit on his hands. Not bad for a man who’s already got “Crazy” and “Don’t Cha” on the charts. (No, he doesn’t sing on “Don’t Cha,” but check out those writing credits.)