Musiq, Cee-Lo

And so the formal coagulation of Atlanta crunk-hop and Philadelphia neo-soul continues, propelling two of the scenes' new stars westward to Dallas for a night of full-throated singing and the tactile musicality this movement toward precious organicity is quickly formulating. Goodie Mob boss/Dungeon Family member Cee-Lo makes no attempt to avoid the challenge implicit in that impending genrefication on Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, his just-released debut solo album--he just charges headlong into the waters parted in 2000 by OutKast and asks us to notice that they're deeper than we thought. He's right to do it, too: Stankonia had a whole lot of shakin' going on, so much that two years later there's definitely enough left for a close associate to dig into, especially an individual like Cee-Lo who a) helped engineer the shakin' in the first place and b) has plenty of his own issues with God and himself and the space between the two. So Perfect Imperfections feels familiar where maybe Stankonia startled you, the organ vamp in "El Dorado Sunrise (Super Chicken)" oozing from your speakers instead of exploding, the muted drum 'n' bass pitter-patter in "Closet Freak" returning to "freak your mind," "Gettin' Grown"'s amiable backyard aura opening up like a welcome-home embrace.

Even sampling Primus on "Bad Mutha" is something you can kind of picture Andre 3000 getting a kick out of. But the appeal of Imperfections, and really of Cee-Lo as a guy, isn't the shock of the new but the ease with which he wears it, how casually he tosses off a "sham a lama ding dong" in "Awful Thing" or how matter-of-factly he beseeches a son/brother/neighbor kid to aspire to more than "just keeping it real"--it's how Andre might wear six neon-green mink stoles for a night out on the town, but Cee-Lo'll only wear five. That's fighting formula on the front lines of the future-funk free-for-all, when reeling us in isn't as important as keeping us there. Oh yeah, and Musiq's new record's nice, too.