The Atlanta hip-hop crew eventually turned a too-cool crowd crazy.
Right after midnight on Friday (Feb. 2), Cee Lo Green took the stage at the ESPN the Magazine party, and the crowd of athletes, famous faces, and behind-the-scenes moneymakers rushed the stage.
The Cee Lo Green they wanted to see is the guy they were introduced to a few years ago via mainstream radio; they wanted to hear ubiquitous tracks like 2010’s “Forget You” and 2006’s “Crazy,” with Gnarls Barkley.
And that happened. Albeit later in the show, but it happened.
For the first thirty minutes or so, the Atlanta artist turned crooner turned modern day pop culture marvel, mixed a selection of his own music – like his recent hit “Fool For You” with Melanie Fiona – and his closer track, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
But the meat of his show, was an incredible musical moment: he reunited with his rap collection Goodie Mobb – Bigg Gipp, T-Mo and Khujo -- and for a good chunk of time on stage they took it back to the mid-‘90s.
Much of this moment appeared to be lost on the crowd and, in turn, the lack of enthusiasm was lost on Cee Lo. “I love all of y’all,” Cee Lo drawled from the stage, wearing a black tank top and stop-traffic bling around his neck. “Thank you for supporting me.”
Then, looking down into the crowd, and back at his crew, he shrugged “See, they’re not music fans; they’re sports fans.”
One of his group members got on a microphone and said “Are y’all ready to hear some hip-hop? Say hip-hop! Say ‘Goodie Mob!’” in an effort to rile up the crowd gathered in front of the staging area.
A sprinkling of folks in the crowd seemed to understand the cultural significance of what was happening here: a coming together of a group that for years has been teasing hip-hop fans with a full-fledged reunion.
Then Cee Lo, clearly a bit disappointed, decided to attempt a quick musical history lesson that actually was kind of neat. “I've been around for the last 20 years. I've been here with my brothers since 1994, back when we started out of Atlanta, Georgia,” he said, lightly touching on their contribution to OutKast’s classic debut “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik,” released in 1994. “We're going to take you down memory lane. Give me some of that good music, man!”
They then rolled through much of the group’s bigger hits, starting with their 1995 album, “Soul Food.” They went through singles like “Cell Therapy” and the title track, before moving on to a more recent track, “Fight to Win.”
Next, Cee Lo went solo, performing hip covers of David Bowie songs (like “Let’s Dance”) and original Cee Lo songs like “Bright Lights, Bigger City,” from his third solo album, “The Lady Killer.”That move got the crowd where he always wanted them to be: happy, engaged and dancing deliriously.
Engaging, he was. And before he brought it back to the ‘80s with that closing Journey track, he thanked the crowd for their support – even if they’d only discovered who Cee Lo was because of his newer gig as talent scout on NBC TV show, “The Voice” or his newfound mainstream hits.