There isn’t another voice in music quite like Goodie Mob icon Cee Lo Green. From his outspoken hilarity to iconic tracks such as “F**k You,” his illustrious character has garnered him a career on the TV screen and in the studio. He was born Thomas Burton in Atlanta, the son of two Baptist ministers. Growing up in a church environment, he utilized the setting to display his vocal and performance talents on Sundays. However, his parents died when Cee Lo was still very young. By the age of 16, he was without the guidance of his family.
Cee Lo struggled in adolescence, engaging in gang activity and dropping out of school in ninth grade. Spending a period of time in military activity, he began to pour his frustration into an aspired career in music. Those aspirations would morph into a career in the hip-hop act Goodie Mob. Along with three friends, the group began honing their craft in 1991. However, Goodie Mob wasn’t anywhere the mainstream success it would morph into at this point. Cee Lo Green worked at an airport in the early 1990s to pay the rent. However, as he told REVOLT, “Me and my cousin were working at the airport and we heard ‘Player’s Ball’ on the radio, over the intercom system while we’re having lunch,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Oh sh*t!’ So, we quit the job, we left and went out to the studio.”
OutKast Helped Cee Lo’s Goodie Mob Blow Up
With Goodie Mob already being associated with OutKast, hearing “Player’s Ball” over the radio was a game-changer. It made their dreams feel real. In fact, Cee Lo met Andre 3000 back in high school. A few years later, Goodie Mob popped up through their collaboration with OutKast on “Git Up, Git Out,” their first concrete exposure on the mainstream charts. Soon after that, their debut album, in the form of 1995’s Soul Food, followed. Outside of Green, the world was introduced to Big Gipp, Khujo, and T-Mo. Most notably, their single “Cell Therapy” peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 while topping the Billboard Rap Singles chart.
Goodie Mob’s sound blended the worlds of The Roots and Southern hip-hop in a manner that hadn’t been done before. However, the beginnings of Cee Lo’s next step as an artist were beginning to form. During Goodie Mob’s rise to fame, Cee Lo became the standout member of the group amidst his high-octave vocals. On the sophomore album Still Standing, fans were clambering to hear more and more of Cee Lo. By the time the 1999’s World Party far missed the mark on the commercial success of Goodie Mob’s previous albums and collaborations with OutKast, Cee Lo knew it was time to move on. While the group would eventually release 2013’s Age Against the Machine and 2020’s Survival Kit, he began focusing on his solo career for the time being.
Cee Lo Green Was Pursuing A Solo Career By The 2000s
Diving even deeper into his bag as an astute vocalist, Cee Lo Green’s solo career blended R&B with the blues. He was throwing it back to the 1970s while containing hints of modern-day production tropes, carving out a sound that blended Al Green with Andre 3000. However, his solo career wouldn’t hit a newfound level of chart-topping fame until he collaborated with iconic producer Danger Mouse as Gnarls Barkley. The two released the single “Crazy” under St. Elsewhere, warranting two Grammy Awards. However, Gnarls Barkley’s vulnerable commentary surrounding suicidal thoughts and industry-induced anxiety made the overall project’s influence timeless.
Green’s first solo hit finally arrived in the form of 2010’s “F**k You.” The track’s hilarious contrast between smooth production chops and reviled lyricism made it an instant favorite, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. He would go on to release a PG version of the song in the form of “Forget You,” which also garnered significant numbers. Amid his commercial success, Cee Lo leveraged his musical notoriety into a newfound career in television. He became a coach on the first three seasons of The Voice and the host of the 2011 show Talking to Strangers. Since 2010’s The Lady Killer, the recently turned 48-year-old has struggled to re-create the project’s magic on the charts. However, he’s continued to release albums and make occasional film appearances over the past decade.