Never one to comfortably draw inside the lines of genre-friendly convention, a staggering 12-some-odd years later, fusion-aficionado, Citizen Cope’s sophomore release: The Clarence Greenwood Recordings still strikes an effervescent chord in the ears of listeners seeking a sonic-flavor a little less……….predictable.
Born Clarence Greenwood of Memphis Tennessee, this burgeoning-rapscallion spent a sizable portion of his formative years bouncing around the fonder parts of Mississippi and Texas before settling-in the patriotic, swampy-laurels of Washington, D.C. to flesh-out the remainder of his youth. Washington, D.C. bears the fruits of Citizen Cope’s burden as it hails the catalyst for his soulful machinations.
Opening with nothing short of a worthy contribution to the Cope canon, “Nite Becomes Day” is a seamless unveiling of sorts sprung from the minimalistic vocal-flourish: “Bum-Bah” and growing from layer-after-layer into the east-coast hip-hop beat-infused manifesto that relay the sheer essence of an artist beloved for his eclectic nuance.
Exorcising his formidable right to the throes of reggae-tempered social awareness, Citizen Cope follows his funky-fueled opener with the likes of: “Pablo Picasso.” Lifted to new highs amid the guile of an infamous femme fatale thematic-dissonance, the track is grounded in gritty-urban fervor detailing, “a woman so compelling she stands at forty-feet tall.” Once the emotional overtone of moving-synths set-sail, the sincerity of Cope’s own romantic obsession becomes invariably relatable.
Having been produced by Citizen Cope himself, the earnest transition from “Pablo Picasso” into the upbeat psychedelic-subterfuge of “My Way Home” marks an abundant album climax as the narrative is cleverly shifted into not only the tent-pole single the crowd recognizes as: “Son’s Gonna Rise,” but a career-defining anthem of which makes an artist like Citizen Cope so strikingly-indelible. “Son’s Gonna Rise” chugs forth bellowing the trippy-terrain Cope has laid before you complete crisp-and-clad in hot-fuzz guitar majesty. The cut’s hook remains true and dwells far among the ranks of perseverance in the face of adversity. Carlos Santana’s signature guest-appearance on this delightful-little-ditty is just as surprising as it is fulfilling.
While much of the second-half of this record relinquishes its strengths and better judgement to the trappings of repetition and unfocused songwriting, Citizen Cope’s monotonic-crooning notwithstanding, “Sideways” is plain-and-simple the genuine-article when measuring the craftsmanship of an artist pouring blood, sweat, and tears from his very own lips into the pages of folk-music history. Eerily quaint, but inexorably-vulnerable, the song is a slow-burn building as it strips away layers of pain at the helms of innocence.
By: Nathan Porter