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The Gospel According to Gnarls

Cee-Lo breaks down the genius behind St. Elsewhere

The greatest strength of St. Elsewhere lies in its inversion of one of hip-hop's greatest strengths: The album barely recognizes the world of popular culture and draws little political or aesthetic power from it. Instead, Gnarls Barkley's songs tunnel inside private experience via a scrambled dystopia of funk and brittle rock. There's a glimmer of spiritual salvation at the end of the journey, but only after facing your own truths first -- even if that means confessing, as Cee-Lo does on "Just a Thought," that he'd just as soon check out once and for all.

"'Just a Thought' is exactly what it is," he says. "You cannot be held in contempt for something that crosses your mind. I'm alive and well and here to testify that I myself have been that person, have been up against that wall. But obviously, I'm here. I have endured and overcome.

"I don't want people to misconstrue it as present day for me. The album is very introspective; I've experienced it here and there. There's a lifetime of experience there. But we're still trying to entertain you. I was surprised that my most personal writing was as entertaining as it was.

The duo behind "Crazy" took home two Grammy awards for their trouble.
The duo behind "Crazy" took home two Grammy awards for their trouble.

"So the record is triumphant," he concludes. "There's a silver lining to all of it. Even the last line of that song is 'I'm fine.'"

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