"I can be a pretty good thug but it wouldn't compare to a great me"Cee-Lo -- Die Tryin'
I first heard Goodie Mob in '98; "They Don't Dance No Mo'" was on the charts, a friend had the disc, and I got my sister hooked on "Beautiful Skin." From Goodie Mob we caught up with OutKast--they guested on each other's albums and there wasn't any mistaking Cee-Lo's voice: high, rough, sometimes nasal. His voice is an acquired taste, like Bob Dylan's, like Devendra Banhart's, but the man can rhyme and he can sing.
Since then, OutKast stormed the charts but Goodie Mob hasn't had the same success. Here's Cee-Lo on "Die Tryin'" talking about how it's suddenly okay to be from the South, but fans still want him to make the kind of music he used to, and other rappers are getting rich talking shit. That might be a comment about Goodie Mob, or it might be about commercial pressure. There are other tracks on the album about the same themes. On "Glockapella" he says "You're forcing me to walk this way / Maybe my album will get bought this way"; and "My Kind of People" is about image and expectations, referencing Lawrence Otis Graham's book and/or the rich blacks covered in it. (It's a great track, but Time Wastin' posted it a few months ago and I don't want to post it too.)
"Die Tryin'" is about choosing a path and sticking to it; the tune is catchy and the lyrics pretend resignation, but it's still a bit wistful (is he really "just playing"? Why bring it up?) The album mixes soul, funk, hip hop, rock, jazz; others have done it before; others will do it again, but it's so effortless here that it deserves attention. It's smooth, it's got hooks, it's fun.