Fast-forward to 2013, and Cee-Lo Green is a certified celebrity and household name, thanks to his universally popular hit "Crazy" as half of Gnarls Barkley, his equally successful single "F*ck You", and his role as a judge on the televised music competition The Voice. Cee-Lo allegedly started off as an original member of OutKast along with Andre 3000 and Big Boi, before being placed in a four-man rap outfit and being instantly recognized as a standout talent among fellow GM members Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp. His hyper-conscious street sense, inimitable voice, gospelicious singing ability, and bulky, bald-headed, "Trill"-tattooed appearance made him unique to say the very least.
LaFace Records released Goodie Mob's first album, Soul Food, in 1995, and the critical response was immediately and overwhelmingly positive, along with the reception from an adoring public very curious of what these crazy sonic southerners were doing. The album sold over 500k units and was certified gold within a year, which back then was unequivocally considered a success. Next came Still Standing, which almost everyone considered to be artistically separate yet equally as good as their debut. Although the album was also certified gold, it was considered a commercial disappointment to many that expected heftier sales now that they were established and adored. Full disclosure: I'm a former employee of LaFace Records, and as someone that worked for the company before and after Still Standing was released, I recall plenty of blame and speculation as to why it didn't reach platinum (over a million sold) status, from L.A. Reid's absence during the album's rollout -- he was taking a summer course at Harvard as part of the process of being groomed to replace Clive Davis at Arista Records -- to the absence of a commercially viable crossover hit, and even a possible issue with the song "Fly Away", in which member Khujo wholeheartedly rejected homosexuality and invited gays to invite themselves elsewhere than near himself.
What came next was World Party, which one might have assumed before hearing it was a reference to global politics, since Goodie was always very vocal about the inequality, poverty, and the lack of proud and positive influences available in the slums of America. Yeah, but no. World Party was quite simply a reference to the decision from the group, or at least certain members, that it was time to abandon the more hard-core elements of their message and to take a break for the sake of good times. You know, don't worry -- be happy. Ironically, no one was with their third album, and it marked the beginning of Cee-Lo's distanced relationship with the rest of the Mob. Coincidentally, it was not long after the release of World Party that LaFace Records closed and L.A. ascended to the presidency of the record company that funded and distributed his own label's music.
Several projects followed, including two Arista album releases from Cee-Lo, Big Gipp's Mutant Mindframe, One Monkey Don't Stop No Show (essentially a Goodie-minus-Cee-Lo album), 'Lo's "Crazy"-spawning album with Danger Mouse, Khujo and T-Mo releasing an album under the moniker The Lumberjacks (Goodie's original name before the inclusion of Gipp and Cee-Lo), and Cee-Lo's most recent LP, The Lady Killer, which set him up for renewed popularity via "F*ck You" and made him legitimately and unarguably famous.
Now, here we are in the first week of the release of Age Against The Machine, a new album that clearly recognizes Cee-Lo's status but marks an assumed return to where he began, including the rest of the Mob. And the result is a somewhat-unfamiliar voyage into territory where growth is apparent, chemistry is evident but sometimes strained, and the core message still in existence albeit in a friendlier package for those unfamiliar with their revolutionary and rebellious origins.
But is it good? Read more and find out after the jump, and feel free to listen along to the streaming album at Amazon.