CeeLo may have played us with a publicity stunt faking a fatal explosion (amongst other things), but there's something about humanity that he just gets. We love watching fucked up things happen online. The question is, how far are we actually willing to go in real life?
Last night I was smoking with my girlfriend having high thoughts when randomly, I start mentally replaying the recent antics of an artist that I’ve admired for years. CeeLo Green, the artist originally known as a cold MC from the 90’s hip-hop group Goodie Mob, is a musical genius, in my opinion at least. And outside of that, he knows just how to get our attention. As someone who won a Billboard Award for Viral Innovator in 2011, he just knows people. Recently, we've followed him making a number of questionable choices, but no one has really called him out on it. And its my opinion that, collectively, we won't. There's something about the American mind that thoroughly enjoys watching fucked up shit. And CeeLo gets it. That really has me thinking.
He’s always been able to comfortably go left-field of his contemporaries but has never strayed too far away from being groovy. When you think about it, he’s always been ahead of the curve, especially within hip-hop.
It’s to the point that if you randomly hear music from one of his solo projects after Goodie Mob, such as 2002’s CeeLo Green and His Perfect Imperfections and 2004’s follow up CeeLo Green...Is The Soul Machine, you may wonder if some of the music is new, like now, new. Somehow it still meshes well with today’s shit. Thing is though, those first few albums ﬂopped. Then blam. In 2006, CeeLo would release the chart-topping, genre crossing single “Crazy” with DJ/producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse to form Gnarls Barkley. This surely pushed him into the forefront of mainstream pop culture and his career hasn’t really been the same since. At this point, you know CeeLo. He started cussing women out through break up songs, he started coaching upcoming singer’s on TV and what not, he’s a solo artist now and he’s winning awards, the nigga was on a roll. And as a considerably left-field artist myself, I was proud to see it.
Then a rape accusation came along in 2012 that led to him allegedly saying some really insensitive sh*t.
The whole situation allegedly caused him to lose his seat as a judge on The Voice. It also, subsequently, led to another album ﬂop in 2015’s Heart Blanche, something he hadn’t experienced since 2004. Commercially, at least, it kind of seemed like he was struggling to regain his footing. Then in 2016, our hearts just kind of dropped. On December 17, 2016, CeeLo might’ve done some considerably twisted shit...and depending on what he was going for, it may have been genius.
And that’s what scares me about the whole thing. He pretty much played on one thing, the curiosity of the human mind. If you watched the video that came out that day, you’ll see a cell phone exploding by his ear, he drops to his knees and collapses. Most people were probably thinking, “Oh my God, CeeLo just died!! What kind of phone was that?” So many thoughts were going on through our heads at once. We’re worried about CeeLo, but we're also looking up which cellphone had the most recent recall to make sure it wasn’t ours. We didn’t get any report on his state of health for another 24 hours. He just sort of left the world hanging for a day. When there was no immediate word from CeeLo or his camp, it began to make us question whether the stunt was real or not. Lo and behold the next day, CeeLo took to Facebook Live to tell the world that he was in fact okay. He also stated that the footage was a “clip from a smaller video...for a new project that I’m doing called Gnarly Davidson.” Apparently, the clip was meant to be an introduction for this new persona that the "F*ck You" crooner is supposed to be taking on.
Here’s where it gets weird to me though. On December 19, 2016,(two days later) CeeLo introduced the world to Gnarly Davidson with another funk-groove single entitled “F*ck Me, I’m Famous.” It’s an undeniably catching song, but could easily act as a douchebag anthem for the overly materialistic, status hungry man of today. While I found the song hot, can’t lie man I think it's dope, I'm still a bit baffled at the fact that this was apart of the rollout. Maybe the full clip isn’t done, but the visual supposedly attached to the phone explosion video should’ve been released first. But it wasn’t. While CeeLo has stated that he’s “truthfully sorry that anyone had to be emotionally disturbed” and has also stated that “he doesn’t know how the leak happened,” it made me question CeeLo’s overall motive with this Gnarly Davidson idea where the whole theme lies around one simple word, fame.
It’s possible CeeLo might’ve been hacked somehow, causing the video to be leaked. But as someone who won a Billboard Award for Viral Innovator in 2011, he knows people. The thing that freaks me out the most is the thought that maybe CeeLo Green may have been sitting around one day thinking to himself, how can I get back into the good graces of hearts without causing too much turmoil? I’ve watched his Facebook Live video seven times now. And don’t get me wrong, I do feel like he was a bit upset, but he also seemed a bit intrigued by people’s initial reaction. He had been having it rough, maybe he wanted to feel that outpour of concern, though I don’t think that’s the case. Personally, I think he knew that it would be a smooth way to have his name buzzing around the world for a bit, opening a window for him to release new material with attachment to some social relevance. Did he think people would find the footage horrifying...probably not. The fact that CeeLo received little to no backlash for his act is a bit appalling to me. But at the same time, nobody talks about how desensitized we are to traumatic images whether it be through television, Facebook, or simply living in your common Southside ghetto neighborhood.
The American public has undoubtedly become numb. The relief here is that Lo is okay. The concern comes from how he brieﬂy became a widespread conversation again...as well as how nobody was talking about it after three days or so. And after three weeks of being released, the video only had a little over 20,000 views on YouTube. That’s a startling low number considering Cee-Lo’s status and seemingly shocked-value rollout. Maybe death defying shock-value stunts don’t transfer well into music unless it’s in a music video. But let’s look at some other issues that tie into this problem of the American public’s numbness to disturbing images. If you add history to the current list of gory television shows and websites we have today, then you’ve got a recipe for a country of people having issues with empathy in general.
Fast forward to January 5, 2017, you’ll find that a torture video went viral on Facebook. Apparently, four young adults from Chicago kidnapped a mentally disabled white person and beat the man for 48 hours. All four people involved have been charged, but the fact that the video was live and went viral means that people were spreading the word to tell other people to go watch it. And that means that those people watched and repeated the process. It was entertaining to people; to humans. So where is our humanity going to exactly? Because I now see that people will do anything to be famous, even if it really is for fifteen minutes. In a time where people shoot people for SnapChat views and fake critical injuries for press releases, how are we to define ourselves?
From how I see it at the moment, none of what we’re doing is humane. Thanks to social media, we’ve all turned our lives into mini-reality shows so everything we do is advertised and for most of us, there is no real reason for the advertisement but for attention. That’s what seems to be the real ego stroker of today. We’ve peaked as far as people aiming to become famous.
So if you’re reading this, I’d like to remind you that all across the globe there are terrible things taking place that people of the youngest of ages are exposed to on the regular basis. The issue with America is that we purposely expose ourselves to these horrifying images for pure entertainment at an excessive rate.
What a child in Darfur sees on a Monday night stroll as she gets water for her mother, brother, and dying father, we binge watch on Netﬂix after we see that it’s trending as we eat chips and stare at the life-like, detailed death reenactments and give it five stars. Not for educational reasons, most of us don’t watch for that. And I’m not saying that Cee-Lo is a bad person for what he did, I’ve never met the man and honestly, would still very much love to. But what I am saying is that he deﬁnitely understands the American mind of today. It’s fucked up.