With his third solo album, Lady Killer, set for a December release, Cee Lo already has an expletive-laced anthem burning up the Web. The hip-hop oddity elaborates on his reinvention, talks Outkast and the status of Goodie Mob. —Clover Hope
VIBE: Talk about what the past couple weeks have been like having this song that’s blowing up while you’re still putting the album together.
Cee-Lo: It’s definitely a pleasant surprise but you can’t predict those things. I’m just very thankful and very fortunate for it to have happened to me and for it to be a first impression. But it is to signify an album coming, not to sum up an album.
So that’s not the sound of the album entirely.
Was there anything in particular that was inspiring you creatively while you were recording?
Well, yet another opportunity is an inspiration. Very immediately it is. It’s so cool to know that I’ve had a career spanning over 17 years and I’m still alive and well and succeeding at it. Sort of reinvention is what I do. It’s been an evolution, a change. It’s still been an extension and an improvement on what I’ve been consistent with all this time.
How are you reinventing yourself this time?
I think that this particular album is a side of myself I have yet to showcase. It’s really very subtle and sensual and sexual and it’s a softer side of me, to what people were convinced with Gnarls Barkley. It’s so different from that when in actuality Gnarls is something I can be; it’s not who I am.
Is there a chick that inspired “Fuck You”? I know Bruno Mars co-wrote it.
When they say co-wrote it, that means he produced it. Production isn’t writing credit.
Was there somebody that you were thinking about while singing this? An ex?
No, in all honesty not to spoil it for people... If people wanna believe that it’s biographical to whatever degree then go ahead, have some fun with the song, but no, it’s a fictitious account on the trial and error that we’ve all gone through a time or two. You can’t win them all for whatever particular reason so we were just having fun. It started off as a joke. Who would’ve known a song called “Fuck You” would be so commercially celebrated. Or get to a place to where radio tries to make amends, tries to find an alternative to where they can play it. They’re asking us, "Help us play this record." I couldn’t have predicted that. That’s great. I hope the song shows optimism amongst artists and executives alike, like ultimately it is anti-establishment to let you know: what has my career been but a big fuck you to the industry time and time again.
The radio edit is “Forget You.” Do you mind that it loses some of its edge that way?
Yes, I do mind. [Laughs] I don’t like it nowhere near as much as the original but it has to be done. It’s politically correct and that’s cool but I’ll be listening to the original and so will most people unless they’re the type of people that listen to the radio. I don’t. [Laughs]
This seems like the perfect song for a rapper to jump on—50 Cent did a remix. Is there any other rapper you would like on it?
I guess it depends. I haven’t really thought about it but it wouldn’t be completely shocking. I guess depending on who it was.
You’ve mentioned that there’s no rapping on the album. Why have you stuck with that choice as far as your solo work and what’s the feeling that you get out of singing versus rapping?
Well, with rap you can become confined to the cadence and with melody and harmony you can kind of bend it and twist it and stretch it and pull it into so many different shapes and sizes. It’s much more infinite possibilities with melody so I get a chance to be more artful. And rap has become just that. I don’t know if it’s hip-hop anymore, and so rap has become quite a contact sport and not to say I’m not up for a challenge but then again what I get a chance to do with melody is incomparable.
Everybody’s singing now. Drake...
Well, you know, more power to them 'cause I believe that we should all be trying to evolve over into a larger body of work. Diversify your portfolio, become a professional. And of course just simply do what you can. In the very simple sense, do what you can. I’m an advocate of that. If you can sing, then sing.
Are there any current artists that have inspired you recently as far as their work ethic or the music they’re putting out?