You might know Cee-Lo as the raspy-voiced singer/rapper from Atlanta hip-hop act Goodie Mob. You might know Danger Mouse from his Internet mash-up sensation The Grey Album (Jay-Z’s Black Album + the Beatles’ White Album) and his production for animated supergroup Gorillaz. Together they are Gnarls Barkley, a freaky, electro/hip-hop/soul duo whose first album, St. Elsewhere, is one of the coolest of 2006. The duo talked with EW.com about how a one-off side project became a buzzed-about success.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Cee-Lo, how did you and Danger Mouse originally meet up?
CEE-LO: I was doing a remix with him a few years ago. After the session he asked if he could play some stuff for me. I said to him, ”I wanna feel out one of those tracks.” And he said back to me, ”I don’t do tracks. I do albums!” That was it. Later Danger told me that he was bluffing…
Danger, you really said that?
DANGER MOUSE: That has been my attitude. I don’t really like to do single tracks. I meet people, and if I get along with them I want to do a project… I am a producer, but I’m definitely an artist first. Producer is the role I take to work with people I want to work with. It’s not a traditional producer role.
How did you come up with the name Gnarls Barkley?
DANGER MOUSE: We didn’t want to be just ”Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse.” I was with some friends at a restaurant brainstorming ideas, and the name came up. It just had a familiarity about it. Something about it… I just liked it. I’m not a big 76’ers fan or anything.
CEE-LO: We almost called the album Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo: Who Cares?
You scored a No. 1 single in the U.K., ”Crazy,” with online sales alone. Can you explain how that happened?
CEE-LO: I can’t, man. To answer this would insinuate that we had a great deal to do with it. I’m in as much awe as anyone else. I think that people reacted to the album because it’s so wild and fun. We took an underground indie approach to it; we were just doing what we wanted to do. We paid for it all ourselves. It was really just for fun!
Why do you think people responded so strongly to ”Crazy”?
CEE-LO: Maybe it’s because ”Crazy” is completely sincere. There’s a lot of humanity and a lot of humility in the song. I think it helps describe and makes sense of a living condition that we are all subjected to from time to time.
I have a theory about the success of that single: I think that there’s an awful lot of hit club songs — Beyoncé’s ”Crazy in Love,” for instance — with the word crazy in them. What’s up with that?
CEE-LO: [Laughs] I don’t know, man. It is fairly true. I’m not sure what it is.
It’s definitely a trend, right?
CEE-LO: Yeah. Maybe it’s because to be out of control, to be trusting, to be committed and devoted could be considered crazy. Like, ”I’m crazy for you. I wouldn’t do this, but it’s you that’s causing me to be out of control. Are you gonna handle me with care? Are you gonna steer me in the right direction? I would hope so. I want you to be in control. I want to be out of control. I want to be crazy about you.” Maybe that’s it?