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'You see what you get' with Cee Lo

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Cee Lo Green on being 'The Lady Killer'
  • Cee Lo Green was a member of Goodie Mob and the duo Gnarls Barkley,
  • He says he is pretty low key at home
  • The 36-year-old singer is also a grandfather of one
  • Cee-Lo
  • Music
  • Gnarls Barkley
  • Entertainment

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Los Angeles (CNN) -- Cee Lo Green was in the audience for Sly Stone's bizarre performance at last year's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, when the legendary funkmaster took the stage four hours late, inexplicably decked out in a pageboy wig and cop costume. Stone didn't finish one song during his 30 minute set -- even nodding out at points. Then he abruptly slipped down off the front of the stage and disappeared.

"I had hoped he'd do something like that," Cee Lo chuckled. "I can't wait 'til I can break the rules like that. The incomparable Mr. Sly Stone. Here's to you, sir." He raises his water goblet as a toast. "Don't ever allow me to predict what your next move is going to be, Brother Stone."

Lately, fans have had a hard time figuring out what Cee Lo's next move will be. At 36, he's already had the equivalent of three careers -- first, with the Atlanta-based hip-hop group Goodie Mob, then as one-half of the eclectic duo Gnarls Barkley, and now as a solo artist. His current album, "The Lady Killer," has catapulted him into the pop mainstream, thanks to the Grammy-nominated song, "F**k You" -- better known in it's G-rated incarnation, "Forget You."

"Predictability is the prequel to death," Cee Lo says. "The imagination is out of space, into other worlds and galaxies beyond. I would like to go that far myself, and anyone who would like to join me is welcome to come along for the journey."

For CNN, the journey began in a private dining room at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, where the singer-songwriter elaborated on his thoughts.

CNN: Let's talk about all your different incarnations.

Cee Lo: You don't necessarily get to fit in. You should be getting in to make a difference, and really pushing the art forward, you know.

CNN: When are you going to do a rock record?

Cee Lo: There's always rock in what I'm doing. It may not always sound like it, but my attitude is always rock 'n' roll. It's always take it, ask questions later. I could possibly do a formal rock record later on tonight, if I so pleased to do so.

CNN: So let's talk Goodie Mob reunion, Gnarls Barkley reunion. What's on your plate?

Cee Lo: Goodie Mob reunion and then Gnarls Barkley reunion. You said it, sister. And in that order. I'm very excited about Goodie Mob. Goodie Mob is my heart, it's my home, and I am the prodigal son, if you will. I've returned home with many fish and a few loaves of bread that we will all eat.

And Gnarls Barkley, of course, it's an enigma, if you will. It's a monster. It's a noun. It's a person, place and thing, you know what I'm saying? So when I'm emotionally able to go back in that hole in the wall, I'll go back in there. And Danger Mouse will be waiting for me, afro intact.

CNN: You and Danger Mouse seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, personality-wise.

Cee Lo: Perceivably, yes. Actually, we have an awful lot in common. He's a very funny guy. You wouldn't know it. He's very smart. I've described Danger Mouse on a few occasions as a picket fence around my garden of wildflowers, can you dig it? Makes sense.

CNN: You had a really difficult childhood. Your dad died when you were 2, and your mom passed away when you were 18. How do you think that has played into what you do?

Cee Lo: I am both of those people.

They are alive and well inside of me. I'm acting out their will, and their way for me. Like their lives and death made me this way. Like if I had the power, or the opportunity, or the choice or the chance to change it, I wouldn't, you know. But if someone had the power to allow any of that to happen, I would ask only one favor -- to have them back to say, "Thank you." And that would be closure for me, because I get it now.

CNN: Do you think they're aware of your success?

Cee Lo: Definitely. My mother's in this room.

CNN: What don't we know about Cee Lo Green?

Cee Lo: You don't know that I'm crying behind these shades. No, just kidding. Everything is on a "you see what you get" kind of basis. So there's nothing to know, I don't think.

CNN: What's on your rider?

Cee Lo: We try not to be wasteful. I don't have one of those ridiculous rock 'n' roll riders. I just want all red M&Ms. There's usually some water, and there's some vodka, which I like. And I like tequila. Patron to be exact.

CNN: Are there certain foods you avoid before performing?

Cee Lo: I don't really eat a lot of dairy. A little cheese on a burger, you know. Cheese on a turkey club, that's about it. I used to love Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries, and Apple Jacks and stuff. I drank a lot more milk when I was a kid, but not anymore.

CNN: The best part was the milk at the bottom of the bowl.

Cee Lo: Yes. Ah, it's all cinnamony. It was all good.

CNN: Do you have a favorite restaurant?

Cee Lo: When I'm in L.A., I love a restaurant called Magnolia's. Very, very good food. I love the Jidori chicken from there. I love the chicken from Roscoe's, and the chicken sausage, the Stubby (two pieces of fried chicken, two eggs and a biscuit). Then I like Houston's, you know. I like Ruby Tuesday. I like the cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster.

CNN: If you're throwing a party, what is it you have to serve?

Cee Lo: Shots of tequila. That always gets the party going.

CNN: Do you cook, or do you have a cook?

Cee Lo: I do have a cook on call, but I can cook. My George Foreman Grill comes in handy. I actually have the new pocket-size one right here, in this pocket right here. So if you want, after the interview, I can pull it out and whip up a couple of grilled cheeses, just for me and you.

CNN: Do you live like a rock star?

Cee Lo: No, I actually live like I have a day job. When I'm home, I'm usually tired from rockin' and rollin', you know what I'm saying? And I want nothing more than to sit on my couch and watch "Family Guy." You know, in real life, I'm a lot like Peter Griffin.

I've been around long enough to avoid the entrapments and things of that nature. So I just want to be professional, you know. I want to be proactive and be productive. At the end of the day, I'm working for a living. I want to succeed at being a father, and just be a successful person, you know.

CNN: We hear you're also a grandfather.

Cee Lo: I'm a grandfather. I have a 21-year-old daughter who has a 2-year-old son.

CNN: Are you an indulgent grandpa?

Cee Lo: It's a real tingly feeling to have someone recognize you so young as their own. I'm Papa to him. He knows I belong to him in that way, so that's sweet.

CNN: Does he sing your songs?

Cee Lo: From what I hear, he sung a little bit of "Forget You" in the back seat. It's out of tune, of course, but it's cute.

CNN: Things are great now, but was there ever a point where you weren't quite sure things were working out for you in the music industry?

Cee Lo: I never wanted to give up. Music is my life, you know. If it dies, I die with it, you know what I'm saying? I have nothing to say without music. You have nothing to ask. We have no reason to be here. This music has brought us all together, ladies and gentlemen, and I toast to you.

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