CeeLo Green shares NYC memories, from Biggie to Outkast, ahead of Apollo Theater gala

Southern hip-hop pioneer CeeLo Green is among a handful of musical guests slated to take the stage at the Apollo Theater June 12 for its 12th annual benefit.

The event, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, raises funds for the nonprofit organization’s year-round programming for music education, dance and festivals, along with its iconic Amateur Night which, since 1934, has launched the careers of American music icons ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Jimi Hendrix to D’Angelo.

Ahead of his visit, we caught up with Green to chat all things NYC.


What does the Apollo Theater mean to you?

Of course, the Apollo is home to an illustrious history of black music and black musicianship. It is the center of the universe as far as that’s concerned. To be a star in that constellation is a bright shining achievement for anyone privileged enough to take the stage at the Apollo. That’s what it means to me.


Where do you like to hang out when you visit New York City?

Typically I’m there for business . . . [If I’m staying in] Meatpacking or Chelsea, that general vicinity is always really lively toward the Dream Hotel or the Gansevoort or The Standard. That little area right there — it’s always jumping and full of life and energy. It’s electric and the people are just out and about. It’s a really happening, swinging part of town, so there is really much to do, and typically, if I want to go to New York, that’s more where I would stay.


Tell us about a favorite NYC memory.

Coming to New York [in the ’90s] for an Outkast listening party, where you have the likes of Puffy — Sean Puffy Combs, Biggie Smalls. There’s no telling who was there. . . . We had a relationship with Puff because he had directed Outkast’s [“Player’s Ball” video]. Biggie Smalls was there and he was singing along to a song called “Git Up, Git Out,” which was my debut on the Outkast breakout album “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.” So, you know, that’s a really fond memory of New York.


You last performed in the Big Apple at the 2016 Afropunk Fest. What was that like?

It was awesome. It’s really great to see such a large population of colorful and eccentric African-Americans expressing themselves through the arts, through music, through sculpting, body painting, style, fashion statement. You know what I’m saying? I felt right at home, and I felt immediately a part of that community of people.

IF YOU GO: The Apollo Spring Gala 2017 is at 7 p.m. June 12, $125+, Apollo Theater, 253 W. 125th St., apollotheater.org