BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
CeeLo Green has rapped, sung, voice acted and judged.
Now he’s going to take a spin as a club DJ.
The Atlanta-based soul man and former judge on NBC’s “The Voice” is used to his music blaring in clubs, whether it’s “Forget You” as part of Gnarls Barkley, “Cell Therapy” with Goodie Mob or “Bright Lights Bigger City” from his solo spurts.
But on Saturday, Green, 42, is going to direct the sounds filtering through Opera Nightclub with a DJ set during the club’s 10th anniversary celebration.
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Green, who will also return to Las Vegas in July for a mini residency, chatted recently from his Atlanta home about his music selection plans, the “soulful” DJ performance he experienced and his bizarre “Gnarly Davidson” character.
Q: This is your first DJ gig in Atlanta, which is probably special.
A: I’ve done a number of other cities, but right, never in Atlanta, so this is going to be really cool. I can’t wait to be nostalgic. I like to consider myself an elder statesman and people can expect me to go back into musical history to the current (music). I’m really excited about whether or not that audience or appreciation will be in attendance on Saturday night. But this isn’t about me. It’s a celebration of 10 years of Opera, which is a landmark in the city. I want to make sure people are having a damn good time. The whole vibration of morale and energy in the room depends on the DJ. It’s a really important job. I’ve had some learning experiences, too. You can play something obscure and see the energy drop. I have a vast listening palette of music, but the customer is always right.
Q: I know how much you love pop culture. Do you ever throw in some one-hit wonders from the ‘70s or ‘80s for fun?
A: You know that I want to! And with things being digital, you can pull down just about anything. I like to try to be a bridge connecting and showing one lifeline of music, how it’s all relative. The difference between old and antique is appreciation, ya feel me? It might be because I’m a little older, but that’s my logic. I’m a fan of the music of yesteryear, it’s just better.
Q: What is your approach to DJing? Is there someone you want to emulate?
A: I think the one time it was a really soulful experience and I could sit and watch someone be impactful, that was Girl Talk, because his set was more of a production. I wonder why he isn’t the biggest guy (DJing). He’s the best, his show was just the best. That’s always been the secret to what success I’ve had — I’ve always acknowledged those who are great.
Q: How are you feeling about the state of Atlanta music right now?
A: This is me really expounding on my individualism, but let me acknowledge the almighty Dungeon Family. We were christened by George Clinton himself as that generation’s Parliament Funkadelic. (Artists such as) Future, Lil Yachty, Migos, Young Thug, those are our children. They definitely want to do things a little differently, and they have the same unorthodox approach to getting the job done. What can I say? They’re putting numbers on the boards and you cannot dispute that. Atlanta has been immensely successful. As an elder in the Dungeon Family, we blew the hinges off the thing and gave them the license to do what they wish. Just think forward, guys.
Q: What’s up with Gnarly Davidson (the gold-painted alter ego Green debuted on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards)?
A: I’ve been in talks with Mr. Davidson, as he likes to be called. I find him very interesting and outgoing. I like the guy. I haven’t seen something so phenomenal in a long time. Art, adventure-ism, artists like Alice Cooper, Arthur Brown, David Bowie, all of the great frontmen, and Kiss … nobody does that anymore. I can appreciate Gnarly Davidson for the audacity. I think art should be fun and color splashed and thrown against the canvas. As Andy Warhol said, “Art is what you can get away with.”
Q: What did you think of the reaction Gnarly Davidson received at the Grammys?
A: I thought that it was awesome. Don’t you, as an observer, miss that kind of stuff? This acknowledgment of greatness, I miss that camaraderie. Prince was like a big brother to me because a lot of his fundamentals are what gave me my core. How can you be anybody if you aren’t a fan first? You have to go back to, who did Prince like? You can see Little Richard and Sly Stone and that’s great. That’s who I want to be — I want someone to say, “I can see CeeLo Green in that guy.” I want to just help modern art be more comfortable.